Athletes of color face a fight which only they can understand, a fight which occurs both on and off the field.

Away from the glare of pro sports, they fight a battle against a different type of opposition, one which uses the color of their skin to defame, insult and degrade when their on-field performance isn't up to par. It's something that, unfairly, comes with being an athlete of color and we all recognize and expect it.

Expect, but not accept, and that's what's been happening particularly in the last year ever since Colin Kaepernick took a knee.

Athletes have joined Kap's movement, taking a knee in the fight against social injustice, especially this weekend after Trump's divisive comments that were geared toward the NFL, Kap and Steph Curry in particular. 

WATCH- Athletes Clap Back At Trump

Athletes vs Trump


The movement is not directed at the National Anthem or the American Flag, as so many wrongfully accuse these peaceful protesters of, but against police brutality and racism that people of color face every day. And guess what; this includes athletes. Regardless of their hard-earned and well-deserved pay checks, which many (including Trump) have inexplicably and lazily alluded to, athletes of color are subjected to racism from all sides, no matter if it's from the police or from fans, the reality of facing ignorance exists for these athletes.

We've seen it in soccer, where fans spew racist venom to the point where games have to literally come to a stop. We witnessed it a month ago when the Seahawks' Michael Bennett was taken to the ground at gunpoint by Vegas police for doing nothing but leaving a Mayweather-McGregor viewing party. 

Then today we learned of another incident in which racist comments were directed at Steelers' coach Mike Tomlin, an ignorant action that was as predictable as it was expected.

Tomlin has had to face adversity many times as Pittsburgh's head coach. He had to prove that he was worthy to take over the reigns from Bill Cowher. He had to prove he had what it takes to be a coach in the NFL when the team took bad losses, and he had to prove that he could lead the team when the team had a slow start to the season last year, even to former Steelers. Proving he's capable and one of the best is nothing new for Coach Tomlin; but because he's Black, the heft of proving his worth weighs a lot more, particularly due to people like Paul Smith.

Paul Smith, the chief of the volunteer fire department in Cecil Township, Pennsylvania, was upset that Tomlin decided to keep his team off of the field on Sunday during the National Anthem because he didn't want the Steelers to be involved in the politics surrounding the anthem. 

NFLonCBS on Twitter

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin reveals to @JamieErdahl that the team will not be participating in today's national anthem. https://t.co/5zihPWQsMv

Smith, as is the norm these days, took to Facebook to vent his anger at Tomlin, and we all know that social media is like alcohol in that it helps reveal the true nature that resides in people. So guess what type of rant was coming - yes, that type.

Tomlin “just added himself to the list of no-good n*ggers” said Smith in his post, unapologetically defending his comment when taken to task about it.

“Yes, I said it,” Smith commented after his original statement.

But then the media got hold of it, and that's when reality punched Smith in the face and the backpedaling began.

“I am embarrassed at this,” he said. “I want to apologize. I was frustrated and angry at the Steelers not standing the anthem. This had nothing to do with my Fire Department. I regret what I said.”

Nope. Too late Paul. You let your true feelings be revealed through the social media gauntlet and you can't take it back now. And don't even try the "I have Black friends" excuse that we all know follows these types of backpedaling moments.

These are the types of unseen, yet always present battles that athletes, coaches, fans and people of color have to face that those not of this demographic can't truly understand. In the back of our minds always sits the notion that we are always one mistake away from being disrespected and degraded with racist and derogatory hatred. And it's nothing new.

But this is exactly why Kap took a knee last year. It wasn't directed towards the flag or the anthem. No. Please stop using that excuse as a way to hide your discomfort with the honest truth that racism and violence against people of color exists at all levels.

This awakening transcends the games these athletes participate in. It is about life well beyond 60 minutes on Sundays. And it's a battle people like Mike Tomlin have to confront every day.