I nominate “We’re continuing to make progress, every day” as the slogan of the year.
This simple but deft response by U.S. soccer team captain Tyler Adams shut down an Iranian reporter’s cynical question before the highly anticipated U.S. v. Iran World Cup matchup.
“We’re continuing to make progress, every day” can unify Americans in the same way that saying “Black Lives Matter” has divided us.
By choosing to respond with grace, Adams has already scored a big win — one that has eluded many in our society, especially over the past two years.
Tyler Adams has a powerful personal story: a biracial young man who was mostly raised by a single mother but ended up in a white blended family. This young man dreamed of playing pro soccer from the fourth grade and his mother lived to see his dreams come true. Only in America.
Beyond his story, Adams’ perspective on America and race in America is a refreshing change from the waves of U.S. athletes who kneel at home and, worse, protest their own nation on the world stage.
After scolding Adams for mispronouncing “Iran,” the agenda-driven Iranian reporter asked, “Are you okay to be representing a country that has so much discrimination against Black people in its own borders?” The reporter added: “And we saw the Black Lives Matter movement over the past few years.”
Adams did not take the bait. His response set him apart from some recent athletes.
A number of American athletes have used the international spotlight to highlight real — and perceived — injustices back at home.
Shot-putter Raven Saunders crossed arms in an x to represent oppression, especially of LGBTQ+ people, and fencer Race Imboden joined in solidarity at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
Hammer thrower Gwen Berry raised her fists during last year’s Olympics, reminiscent of when Tommie Smith and John Carlos famously raised gloved fists in protest during the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.
Jesse Owens took a different approach.
He and his Black teammates won 14 gold medals during the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Their superior performance destroyed Adolf Hitler’s Nazi racist ideology.
Yet, Owens did not protest the brutal Jim Crow laws that awaited him at home, although understandably he could have.
Owens reflected in his autobiography that despite being the first American track-and-field athlete to win four gold medals in a single Olympic Games, “it became increasingly apparent that everyone was going to slap me on the back, want to shake my hand or have me up to their suite. But no one was going to offer me a job.”
Owens even took Smith and Carlos to task for their 1968 protest, telling them “the problem certainly belonged in the continental borders of America. This was the wrong battlefield. Their running performances would have done more to alleviate the problem.”
Unfortunately, racism still exists.
But thankfully, the nation Adams represents looks nothing like the America that Owens lived in. Decades of progress have overturned the overt discrimination in our legal, financial, and educational systems. Covert views of white superiority and black inferiority have been replaced — even if not eradicated — by mutual understanding, advancements by Blacks, and greater integration.
Prejudice is endemic to the human condition and may never disappear from any society. But America is not the racially oppressive society it once was.
Those oppressed for their politics, religion, and sexuality actually find refuge and freedom in America, not in societies such as Iran.
Consider two teens sentenced to death for promoting homosexuality recently.
This is the opposite of the racial reckoning that began in 2020.
Liberal elites and activist groups such as Black Lives Matter whipped up fear to raise funds and secure political power.
So-called anti-racism efforts took root in curricula, corporate training, and entertainment fomenting racial animosity rather than fostering true understanding.
It’s been painful to watch Americans divided and then turned against each other following George Floyd’s murder.
Racial division weakens us and gives foreign adversaries a crack to exploit for their ends.
Tyler Adams is a symbol of America’s progress and of its promise. Progress is not a destination but daily strides to be better than the day before.
As we celebrate Team USA’s win over Iran on the pitch, let’s celebrate Adams’ messaging win on the world stage.