The Speech Everyone Is Talking About: Etan Thomas
Electrifies Anti-War Washington

By Dave Zirin
Edge of Sports September 26, 2005

Every generation the wide world of corporate sports
produces an athlete with the iron resolve and moral
urgency to step off their pedestal and join the fight
for social justice. A century ago, it was boxer Jack
Johnson, flaunting, as WEB DuBois put it, "his
unforgivable blackness." In the 1930s, "the Brown
Bomber" Joe Louis and track star Jesse Owens took turns
spitting in Hitler's eyes, and Mildred Babe Didrikson
continued to show that a woman could be the equal - if
not superior - of any man. In the 1940s and 50s, Jackie
Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, and the Brooklyn Dodgers
advanced the cause of civil rights through the
transgressive act of the multi-racial double play. In
the 1960s, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Bill Russell, David
Meggyesy, Tommie Smith, and John Carlos showed how mass
struggle could ricochet into the world of sports with
electric results. In the 1970s, Billie Jean King used a
wicked forehand, and took to the streets, to demand
equal rights for women, and Curt Flood showed the labor
movement - and the bosses - how to go from crumbs to a
bigger piece of the pie. In the 1980's Martina
Navratilova came out of the closet and onto centre
court, with her girlfriend on her sinewy arm in plain
view of all.

Today we may just have a figure to join their ranks in
the NBA's Etan Thomas. Regular readers of this column
will know that I have interviewed the Washington
Wizards' Power Forward on numerous occasions and
highlighted his views on everything from the death
penalty to the ravages of Hurricane Katrina. He is also
the author of a book of poems called More Than An
Athlete.

But this past weekend, Etan made a play for pantheon
status. Etan took it to that Ali level, by delivering a
blistering poetical speech as part of the weekend's
anti-war demonstrations in Washington DC. His
contribution, which was played in its entirety on
Democracy Now!, is being hailed as 'the best of the
day' in various nooks and crannies of the blogosphere.

Here is the transcript. Read and pass it along - it has
the power to topple tyrants.

'Giving all honor, thanks and praises to God for
courage and wisdom, this is a very important rally. I'd
like to thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts,
feelings and concerns regarding a tremendous problem
that we are currently facing. This problem is
universal, transcending race, economic background,
religion, and culture, and this problem is none other
than the current administration which has set up shop
in the White House.

In fact, I'd like to take some of these cats on a field
trip. I want to get big yellow buses with no air
conditioner and no seatbelts and round up Bill
O'Reilly, Pat Buchanan, Trent Lott, Sean Hannity, Dick
Cheney, Jeb Bush, Bush Jr. and Bush Sr., John Ashcroft,
Giuliani, Ed Gillespie, Katherine Harris, that little
bow-tied Tucker Carlson and any other right-wing
conservative Republicans I can think of, and take them
all on a trip to the hood. Not to do no 30-minute
documentary. I mean, I want to drop them off and leave
them there, let them become one with the other side of
the tracks, get them four mouths to feed and no
welfare, have scare tactics run through them like a
laxative, criticizing them for needing assistance.

I'd show them working families that make too much to
receive welfare but not enough to make ends meet. I'd
employ them with jobs with little security, let them
know how it feels to be an employee at will, able to be
fired at the drop of a hat. I'd take away their
opportunities, then try their children as adults,
sending their 13-year-old babies to life in prison. I'd
sell them dreams of hopelessness while spoon-feeding
their young with a daily dose of inferior education.
I'd tell them no child shall be left behind, then take
more money out of their schools, tell them to show and
prove themselves on standardized exams testing their
knowledge on things that they haven't been taught, and
then I'd call them inferior.

I'd soak into their interior notions of endless
possibilities. I'd paint pictures of assisted
productivity if they only agreed to be all they can be,
dress them up with fatigues and boots with promises of
pots of gold at the end of rainbows, free education to
waste terrain on those who finish their bid. Then I'd
close the lid on that barrel of fool's gold by starting
a war, sending their children into the midst of a
hostile situation, and while they're worried about
their babies being murdered and slain in foreign lands,
I'd grace them with the pain of being sick and unable
to get medicine.

Give them health benefits that barely cover the common
cold. John Q. would become their reality as HMOs
introduce them to the world of inferior care, filling
their lungs with inadequate air, penny pinching at the
expense of patients, doctors practicing medicine in an
intricate web of rationing and regulations. Patients
wander the maze of managed bureaucracy, costs rise and
quality quickly deteriorates, but they say that managed
care is cheaper. They'll say that free choice in
medicine will defeat the overall productivity, and as
co-payments are steadily rising, I'll make their
grandparents have to choose between buying their
medicine and paying their rent.

Then I'd feed them hypocritical lines of being pro-life
as the only Christian way to be. Then very
contradictingly, I'd fight for the spread of the death
penalty, as if thou shall not kill applies to babies
but not to criminals.

Then I'd introduce them to those sworn to protect and
serve, creating a curb in their trust in the law. I'd
show them the nightsticks and plungers, the pepper
spray and stun guns, the mace and magnums that they'd
soon become acquainted with, the shakedowns and illegal
search and seizures, the planted evidence, being
stopped for no reason. Harassment ain't even the half
of it. Forty-one shots to two raised hands, cell phones
and wallets that are confused with illegal contrabands.
I'd introduce them to pigs who love making their guns
click like wine glasses. Everlasting targets surrounded
by bullets, making them a walking bull's eye, a living
pinata, held at the mercy of police brutality, and then
we'll see if they finally weren't aware of the truth,
if their eyes weren't finally open like a box of
Pandora.

I'd show them how the other side of the tracks carries
the weight of the world on our shoulders and how
society seems to be holding us down with the force of a
boulder. The bird of democracy flew the coop back in
Florida. See, for some, and justice comes in packs like
wolves in sheep's clothing. T.K.O.d by the right hooks
of life, many are left staggering under the weight of
the day, leaning against the ropes of hope. When your
dreams have fallen on barren ground, it becomes
difficult to keep pushing yourself forward like a
train, administering pain like a doctor with a needle,
their sequels continue more lethal than injections.

They keep telling us all is equal. I'd tell them that
instead of giving tax breaks to the rich, financing
corporate mergers and leading us into unnecessary wars
and under-table dealings with Enron and Halliburton,
maybe they can work on making society more peaceful.
Instead, they take more and more money out of inner
city schools, give up on the idea of rehabilitation and
build more prisons for poor people. With unemployment
continuing to rise like a deficit, it's no wonder why
so many think that crime pays.

Maybe this trip will make them see the error of their
ways. Or maybe next time, we'll just all get out and
vote. And as far as their stay in the White House, tell
them that numbered are their days.' _________