tv Tavis Smiley PBS October 16, 2017 6:00am-6:31am PDT
good evening from los angeles. i'm tavis smiley. the recent headlines about nfl players taking a knee or locking arms during the national anthem is not the first time we've seen politics play a role in sports in this country. and so, tonight, first a conversation with james blake. the former professional tennis player joins us to discuss his new book highlighting athletes who have spoken out about social issues. it's called "ways of grace." then a special encore performance from the rans allen group, "like a good neighbor" and a little louder "clap your hands." we're playing it for you one more time. we're glad you've joined us for that coming up in just a moment.
♪ ♪ and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. ♪ so honored to have james blake on this program. the retired professional tennis player was once ranked fourth in the world and has written a new text about activist athletes. it's called "ways of grace: stories of activism, adversity and how sports can bring us together." great to have you on the
program, james blake. >> thanks for having me. >> the question is can sports still bring us together these days? >> i hope so, and i really do believe that. maybe it's my optimistic nature, but i feel like it's something that brings religions together, brings the lgbt community together, brings races together and it can unite. i think we saw that in response to some of donald trump's comments. it united people. i am afraid sometimes that loses the message that this whole protest started with, with colin kaepernick taking a knee. >> before we go to trump and kaepernick, when i saw the book come across my desk, obviously, i thought of the obvious. when i saw "ways of grace," i thought of -- >> arthur ashe. >> "days of grace." >> that was the pressure i put up with myself because i came up with the title before i wrote the book and i said if i'm going name it this, i'd better make it good because i want to make him and his family proud of something i'm doing as an homage to him. >> for those of you who have not read arthur ashe's memoirs, "days of grace," so james is paying homage to his hero,
arthur ashe, a hero to many of us, i might add. so, let me start with this. over the weekend, mike pence, the vice president -- i'm from indiana, so i know this guy fairly well -- goes to a colts game. they're playing, interestingly, the 49ers, who kaepernick played for. they're retiring peyton manning's jersey that day. and it was just too much for me to swallow, too much to bear, because you know this whole thing was set up. >> obviously. >> so, trump eventually comes out and says i told pence to go to the game and told pence, if anybody took a knee, leave the game. >> yeah. >> so you're going to overshadow all that peyton manning has done and all that he stood for and you're going to turn this into a platform for a publicity stunt because you knew somebody was going to take a knee. so he walks out, all of the cameras following him. what do you make of that? i thought that was so bushly, but what did you make of that? >> i completely agree, because you're saying this isn't the time and place to make this statement. the anthem isn't the time and place, when you're at work doing what you're supposed to be doing, which is playing football, you're not supposed to
take a stand or make political statements. well, you came into a sporting event about peyton manning and turning it into a political event. you're politicizing the situation when it should be about peyton manning and then the players on the field. and he's taking exactly what he's saying not to do and doing it. just, it seemed -- like you said, it seemed so staged, so unreasonable. you know the 49ers have done this, they've done it in weeks past and they're going to continue it because they're sticking with the message that colin kaepernick began. >> and speaking of kaepernick, he makes news over the weekend. if i read this correctly, after starting this whole process, he now says that if he gets picked up by a team -- he's in new york working out, still hoping to get picked up, he said he would no longer take a knee. i guess his message is i've made my point. i don't know if it's that or he wants to get a job. what do you make of his comment? >> well, i think he's adjusting as the situation is going, and i think he's making the point and making the case that he is not a distraction, which has been lobbied at him so often is that he's a distraction. he wouldn't be great in the
locker room. he's saying -- he hasn't made a public statement in eight months now is saying i will stand, diw what the owners want me to do, i will do what is expected of me, an he's still not given a job, still is considered a distraction when he hasn't done anything but put his money into communities, done what he can for his campaign, spoken in high schools, given suits to parolees, and he's doing things that are so positive. everyone says why doesn't he put his money where his mouth is, why doesn't he help effect real change? i feel like he's done that and is still considered a distraction. in my opinion, he's showing i'm doing everything i can to not be a distraction and still am not being given a job, given an opportunity, so what else do you expect me to do? >> it would be strange for me to watch an nfl game and see kaepernick on a team playing, and he's standing and other guys are kneeling. that be hard to process. >> that would be interesting. and i think part of it is he has started this conversation. i think it's so important. just the same as kurt flood started free agency. he didn't get paid. everyone else, you know, got to bear the fruit that he labored for. and that's what i feel like
colin kaepernick is doing. he's a bit falling on the sword for all the others that hopefully will get positive reaction from this call for social justice and for racial equality in this country. >> yeah. i'm glad you wrote the text, but tell me why you decided to write this one. >> well, i wrote this because i had been thinking of a positive way to talk about the positive impact of sports, and then what happened to me in 2015, where i was thrown down and attacked by a police officer in new york. i just felt like, okay, this is a story that can be told from my perspective and also let people know that there are other ways that sports can unite us. >> yeah. i think most people know the story of what happened to you in 2015. it's been written about everywhere and talked about everywhere. what's made it news again of late is that the officer, james francesco? >> frascatore.
>> i got the first name right. so he tackles you. we know the story of what happened. i guess a couple days ago he announced that he's going to sue you for defamation. >> yes, yeah. >> because you to his mind went in on him and have defamed his character. i suspect that you can't talk about an ongoing case in detail, but can you say anything about th this? >> the only thing i can say is i've hired a lawyer and we plan on getting it all out in the open and letting people see and make the judgment for what they see and how absurd in my opinion it is to have a case for defamation when everyone's seen the video and knows what happened. and i didn't go -- in my book, i didn't go into any more detail than people saw in the video and my feelings on it, which i don't see how that can be considered defamatory to talk about my experience and what i went through. we'll see. we'll go through the legal process. it is frustrating to be two years later and still working on any sort of justice and any sort of discipline. >> speaking of two years later, let me move away from the case, but two years later, he still has not been fired yet. >> no. >> what do you make of that? >> well, that's a bigger issue.
that's not just about him, that's the system. you saw jason stockley, you know. people -- it seems unfortunate that police officers are able to do -- and some of them -- i don't want to categorize them all, because most police officers are heroes. we saw heroes in las vegas, what they did and how appreciative we should be of the good cops, and i am, but there are a few bad apples and they need to be held accountable. the ones who aren't held accountable feel they can operate above the law and that erodes the trust in all of the police officers and that's really unfair to the ones that are doing their job well. so i would call for the police officers that are doing their job the right way to speak up more so, more vocally to say hey, we don't want to deal with someone that's very nervous, that's frantic because they don't trust the police officers when i'm the one that is doing my job the right way and now i'm in a situation that's dangerous because of what another officer has done because they've done their job the wrong way. and you know, this officer in my opinion did his job the wrong way. and unfortunately, if he doesn't get more than a slap on the wrist, he's going to continue to do that. and most cases that have ended
in fatalities at the hands of a police officer, they have patterns of behavior. they have other excessive force complaints. they have, you know, people that have said they've obstructed justice, they have these patterns, and this case has a pattern. so when do we stop the pattern? we don't want to wait until there's a grieving family to stop the pattern. we want to stop it before that. >> you say something fascinating, actually say it twice. let me see if i can pick up on this. we talked earlier about the protesters taking a knee or locking arms and how convoluted, how inside-out the forces of evil have turned that story. these people are not taking the knee in protest of the flag -- >> no. >> -- of the country. they're talking about specifically the way pleas maltreat people, other actions of unrest and disorderly conduct on behalf of cops, et cetera, et cetera, but it's not about the flag. and maybe they've made it about that. it almost feels willful for them to flip the script in that way. and the same is true now of a
conversation of where if you critique any one officer, they try to flip it and act like you're maligning all officers. what do you make of this, of -- i'm just trying to figure out how we have an authentic conversation in a space, how do we create a democratic space for conversation if people are going to flip the script to suit their own needs and issues? >> yeah, and i just don't think it's fair what's happened, how it's been now just talked about unity. and even the president has said, this isn't about race. well, no, this started about race. let's not pussy foot around that or step around the issue. this started about race. this is talking about racial inequality, police brutality, specifically against people of color. and if that's not the issue, if that's not what we're talking about, then the protest isn't having the effect it's supposed to have, and i think that's what colin kaepernick started, and it's now being -- the waters are being muddied by this general concern for unity. and while i appreciate that, because that's a general concern in my book is talking about uniting players, uniting players
of other religions, of other cultures, of other sexual orientations. that's all a great, positive, general message, but that's not what this specific protest started about, and to sort of hijack the method of the protest, which i think is what initially started. everyone had an issue with the method. taking a knee during the anthem, it's disrespectful to the flag, disrespectful to the country. that's not what it's about. it's making people a little uncomfortable so that they will think about this and so they will have this conversation, just the same as tommy smith and john carlos did in 1968 on the podium wearing usa on their chest and on their back and they're still saying we're not treated equally when we go home to our country. so i think it's okay to make people feel a little uncomfortable if it starts a great conversation. and i think that's where we're at, but the conversation right now is much more difficult to have i think because of the divide of this country, because it's so hard to agree with anyone. if you don't have a common ground to stand on and you don't see eye to eye with someone, it's like you just have to immediately run to your corner. i don't know what the solution is to that in this country right now. >> which raises the question, if
everything else about our existence is divisive, why would we expect sports at this point wouldn't be used to divide us? >> well, i think it's such a great diversion. after 9/11, you saw the coming together. i'm a mets fan, so when mike piazza hit a home run in one of the first games back after 9/11, it just, no matter who you were, you were mugging the person next to you, you were happy. there was a tear coming to your eye. you saw the joy it gave new yorkers. and i think those kind of inspirational moments can have such an impact. they can make people think about where they were at that point in their lives. they can be memories, positive memories for so many people, that i think that can be a great influence on society. and then i also think about the way that certain athletes have taken it upon themselves to be more than athletes -- billie jean king, maria navratilova, some of the ones i wrote about in the book. and i think it's impressive how they took this platform and instead of using it for their personal gain, they'll use it to change the world in a positive manner. >> is that just an opportunity for athletes or duty or obligation for athletes? >> i think it's an opportunity. i wouldn't put it on anyone else
to say what you have to do, especially if you may not be informed just the same as i think if you're out there committed 100% to your sport and you don't have time to think about social justice or activism or anything like that, i am not faulting you for that. but then i just wondz expect you to speak up or to have your opinion on it until you become educated on that topic. so i don't fault them for that because they're out there doing their jobs just the same as i wouldn't fault an accountant or plumber for not having an opinion or not voicing their opinion on whatever activist issue is the one at hand right now. >> as a dodgers fan, my condolences to the mets. >> i appreciate that. >> there's always next season. [ laughter ] >> i hope so. they need to get healthy. >> the book is called "ways of grace: stories of activism, adversity and how sports can bring us together," written by the former number four ranked tennis player in the world, james blake. james, thanks for being on the program. >> thank you so much. >> we had a tremendous response to a performance by the rance allen group, celebrating 50
♪ took all i had and i don't know why ♪ ♪ some started to lose, then they started walking again ♪ ♪ they walked right by on the other side ♪ ♪ and i ducked my head, i began to cry ♪ ♪ like a good neighbor, jesus was right there, lift up your head, so lift up your head ♪ ♪ don't you despair, don't you despair ♪ ♪ no matter what, no matter what, i'll always be there ♪
♪ for you, oh, like a good neighbor, like a good neighbor, yeah ♪ ♪ thank you, lord, for being there, is he always there, fellas ♪ ♪ jesus is there ♪ you know what it is, healed my broken heart, then he put me together ♪ ♪ i was torn apart, gave me a place where i could lie down ♪ ♪ he said, friends, peace is yours right here and right now ♪ ♪ you know what i said, oh,
lord, please don't leave my side ♪ ♪ he said, don't you worry, don't you worry, you are my child, yes, yes ♪ ♪ from then on, whenever i get the breath, y'all know what i do, i look to jesus to give me strength ♪ ♪ like a good neighbor, neighbor, jesus, you're there, always been there ♪ ♪ lift up your head, so lift up your head, don't you despair, don't you despair ♪ ♪ no matter what, i'll always be there, he'll be right there for you, for you ♪
♪ like a good neighbor, like a good neighbor, yeah, jesus is there ♪ >> i need to holler one time. ♪ ahhhhhh ♪ like a good neighbor, good god, jesus, you're there, been right there ♪ ♪ lift up your head, don't you despair ♪ ♪ don't you dare despair, no matter what, no matter what, he says i'll always be there ♪ ♪ for you, for you, for you, ain't nothing you're going through that he can't get you out of ♪ ♪ like a good neighbor, like a good neighbor, jesus is there ♪ ♪ thank you, lord, always
bit harder ♪ ♪ raise your voice and say hallelujah ♪ ♪ ♪ i said clap your hands a little bit louder, stomp your feet a little bit harder, raise your voice and say hallelujah ♪ ♪ look it here, we're stepping on the promises of god so we have every reason to shout ♪ ♪ he is our great and mighty king, so come on everybody praise the lord with me ♪ ♪ let me see you move, ooh, ooh, say ha, ha, ha, le, lu, jah, come on and praise ♪
♪ ♪ clap your hands a little bit louder, stomp your feet just a little bit harder ♪ ♪ raise your voice and say hallelujah ♪ ♪ i said clap your hands a little bit louder, stomp your feet just a little bit harder ♪ ♪ raise your voice and say hallelujah ♪ ♪ we've got a r reason to prais we've got a reason to stomp our feet, what's your reason ♪ ♪ we've got a reason to scream, come on, because he's been good to us ♪ ♪ we've got a reason to praise, ahhhh, we've got a reason to stomp our feet ♪ ♪ we've got a reason to scream,
lord, yes, sir, why, because he's been good to us ♪ >> come here! ♪ the lord's been good to you, and you know that he's been good, yeah, yeah, yeah ♪ ♪ sing ha, ha, le, le, lu,u, jah, jah ♪ ♪ come on, everybody, let your hands go, let the music make your feelings flow ♪ ♪ come on, let me see you move, ah, ah, clap your hands, clap them a little bit louder ♪ ♪ do your dance, do your, ooh, ha-ooh ♪ ♪ yeah, lord, wahhhh ♪ clap your hands, clap your hands a little bit louder, do your dance, do your dance just a
good evening from los angeles. i'm tavis smiley. tonight, a conversation with ashley judd. just weeks before she became part of the "the new york times" report about the sexual -- >> one person you won't be just weeks before she became part of the "the new york times" report about the sexual misconduct of harvey weinstein, we sat down with the talented actress to discuss her role in conversation with ashley judd coming up in just a moment. ♪ ♪