Editor’s Note: Roxanne Jones, a founding editor of ESPN Magazine and former vice president at ESPN, has been a producer, reporter and editor at the New York Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Jones is co-author of “Say it Loud: An Illustrated History of the Black Athlete.” She talks politics, sports and culture weekly on Philadelphia’s 900AM WURD. The views expressed here are solely hers. Read more opinion on CNN.
President Trump is a racist who encourages white supremacy – that’s the battle cry for many 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, including Beto O’Rourke, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.
And for many Americans, myself included, it’s satisfying to finally hear out loud what we’ve felt all along. But will it really matter in 2020? Politics is not black and white. And Trump is fighting back by denying he’s a racist divider.
Despite the rise of hate crimes and a number of mass shootings that have targeted specific groups including Latinos, black and brown communities, Jews and Muslims, it seems too simple to make Trump the poster boy for white supremacy. It’s been too easy to label his supporters redneck, rural Americans. Because in focusing solely on our racial and religious divisions, we ignore the vast power and influence of big-money backers such as billionaire real estate mogul Stephen Ross, who have quietly supported Trump from the very beginning.
Ross’ role in the terrorizing of our democracy should not be ignored. Monied men like Ross have enabled President Trump to divide and conquer America with his toxic rhetoric, fear-mongering and biased policies. I hold them all accountable for the daily terror that so many communities feel every day.
Ross, who owns the Miami Dolphins and serves as the chairman and majority owner of the Related Companies, which oversees Equinox Fitness, SoulCycle and BlinkFitness, held a Trump reelection fundraiser at his Southampton, New York, home Friday. The price of admission? Guests will pay up to $100,000 for a picture with the President, or $250,000 to listen in on a roundtable discussion.
Clearly, the color green – not black or white – holds the most clout when it comes to holding court with Trump.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills, an outspoken figure on social justice issues, was quick to criticize his boss. Ross is also founder of a non-profit that works to “eliminate racial discrimination, champion social justice and improve race relations,” at least according to its mission statement. Stills took to Twitter to blast Ross, tweeting, “You can’t have a non profit with this mission statement then open your doors to Trump.”
Ross responded to critics Wednesday and defended his role in being an “active participant in the democratic process.” The statement read, “I have been, and will continue to be, an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education and environmental sustainability, and I have and will continue to support leaders on both sides of the aisle to address these challenges.”
Stills had it right. It’s hard to imagine how you can support both sides of white supremacy and racism, neither of which are political issues to be voted up or down. And yet, repeatedly we hear this sorry defense from Trump and his followers.
Unlike Ross, Stills has been consistent in his message of racial and social justice. For years now, Stills has taken a knee during the National Anthem before football games, joining the protests begun by former NFL player Colin Kaepernick that sparked national outcry and ugly criticism from President Trump.
Stills isn’t the only one feeling duped – news of Ross’ support for Trump prompted a widespread call to boycott Equinox and SoulCycle.
Please count me in. I want a refund.
Who knew when I signed up for my first SoulCycle class years ago after hearing then-first lady Michelle Obama rave about the soulful, fun spin classes that my dollars would be associated with Trump in any way. At least I was in good company – even Oprah and Chelsea Clinton have promoted the trendy exercise class. Had Ross’ support for Donald Trump been public knowledge, I would have kept my money and gone elsewhere.
Shannon Coulter, who manages the protest group Grab Your Wallet, urged her followers to contact the businesses under The Related Companies and speak out. But it remains to be seen whether his companies will suffer any financial repercussions.
I’m hoping the power of social media will win out here and that Ross will lose business for his blatant, two-faced politics.
Listening to the constant calls for impeachment and the claim by some Democrats who say Trump is unfit for office, one might imagine a 2020 win might be a stretch for Donald Trump.
Don’t be fooled. The money tells a different story.
To date, Trump’s 2020 campaign, including groups connected to the campaign, has raised $237 million, according to a Washington Post report. The President’s re-election campaign is set to outpace his fundraising in 2016. And with a little help from friends like Ross, the financial forecast for Trump’s 2020 run looks great.
Ross, who cited his 40-year relationship with Trump on Wednesday, had high praise for Trump when he appeared on Bloomberg in 2016. While he had some hesitation about Trump as president, Ross said, “He’s great. He makes people feel good about themselves. If you’re spending time with Donald alone, you cannot not like Donald.”
I’m not sure many Americans have met the feel-good Donald. No matter. For now, at least, Ross is standing by his man.
That’s the problem with big-money influence in politics. It allows privileged, powerful men like Stephen Ross to be blind to the fears, hopes and dreams of everyday Americans.