Colin Kaepernick taking a knee to protest police brutality and injustice caused a whole league to take a stand after President Trump called him and others like him “SOBs” and told America not to watch the game.
But what were the NFL owners standing, kneeling and locking arms with players on the sidelines for in reality? Let’s get one thing clear; The owners didn’t protest to support Kaepernick. If they were truly in support of Kaepernick’s protest, he would have a job right now instead of suing the NFL for collusion. The locking of arms was purely a publicity stunt to curry favor from fans and keep them watching. The league can blacklist Kaepernick but God forbid they lose ratings.
Players and owners locking arms to protest Trump’s statements and support “free speech” was purely political. The semblance of the league being unified was just that. It was a carefully orchestrated optical illusion. In fact, the only thing NFL owners were actually unified about is keeping Kaepernick out of the NFL. Even the players were not unified. You may have seen Pittsburgh Steelers player, Alejandro Villanueva, who came out of the tunnel by himself, raised his hand to his chest and stood for the national anthem while the rest of his team stayed in the locker room. Consequently, Villanueva’s was the highest selling jersey in the NFL after the incident.
As you may have seen recently, teams around the NBA, and even in the WNBA, locked arms during the national anthem in protest. The NBA’s commissioner Adam Silver made a statement saying he expected every player to stand during the anthem. And the players didn’t seem to be against that. No one has knelt down so far. The league’s star, Lebron James, said he would rather help the African American community off the court through charity work and civil action than on the court symbolically. As long as he follows through, that would be an admirable response.
Let’s get real, the whole reason these protests started was by Kaepernick taking a knee to protest police brutality after he was shaken by yet another black man being murdered by police with no justice. It’s a scary thought that a police officer could arbitrarily kill me and not see a day in jail. His impulse to speak out is one that I understand. That’s why I do my radio show Pop Culture Revolution and part of why I started this blog. We need to raise awareness of this racist oppressive system in the USA.
After the election of President Barack Obama, some people actually believed we lived in a post racial society, or, at least, stated as such. Anyone with the slightest amount of cultural awareness could see through that. The election of Donald Trump and the subsequent public reaction, including the rise of overt racism across the country, totally disproved that.
To say that Kaepernick disrespected the flag or ruined America’s time honored tradition of football and take his kneeling down out of its cultural context would miss the point entirely. Kaepernick took a knee during a moment of solemnity reserved for celebrating our country to remind the country that it still has some work to do. America has always been racist, literally since its inception. Some say the NFL is modern day slavery, which I believe is a stretch. There are parallels: owners owning players’ bodies, the draft, the practice field as a plantation and the rules limiting freedom of expression, etc. The narrative almost fits, except that NFL players get paid huge salaries and fame and joining the league is a choice.
When referring to modern day slavery in the US, I would point out the Prison Industrial Complex as an example. Through this racist and oppressive system, Black and Brown people are arrested, often on minor offenses, and offered deals with mandatory minimums that have been inflated due to their race. Once in jail, these new slaves are put to work making things like pots, pans, license plates and furniture, etc, for below minimum wage. These prisons are privately owned or sometimes even traded on the stock market. Therefore, “correctional facilities” have an incentive to have more inmates. Prison labor replaced slave labor almost immediately after slavery was abolished. The 13th amendment, ratified in 1789, made slavery legal if it was the punishment for a crime. Further down the line, President Nixon’s “law and order” platform, President Reagan’s “War on Drugs” and President Clinton’s “3 Strikes” law, in addition to other policies, led to the mass incarceration of Black and Brown people working as slaves. Aside from police brutality, the Prison Industrial Complex is another thing we need to bring awareness to.
Add the School to Prison Pipeline, which is related to the deplorable conditions of inner city schools, gentrification, predatory home loans, the fact that it’s harder for Blacks to get business loans, Blacks’ characterization by the media and just the general oppression, unfairness, injustice and mistreatment, etc faced by African Americans in the good old boy US of A and there’s a lot that needs to change.
So, all of you angry people in America, who are upset that Kaepernick ruined your precious minute long national anthem, excuse me if I don’t care because African Americans’ experience in this country has been more than ruined for hundreds of years. Words that come to mind are dehumanized, traumatized, abused, raped, mutilated, murdered, assaulted and robbed when describing the Black experience in America.
We were robbed of the most precious thing of all: the knowledge of who we are, which is kings and queens of the continent with the most natural resources of all, Africa, the Motherland, and as its people we are its greatest resource. Our value could never be quantified on a slave auction block, although they tried. We hail from Africa. Each African is worth more than the most precious Sierra Leone diamond and the purest gold from Ghana. The African soul stretches back to the beginning of time to the depths of the universe. Everything is contained within us and nothing exists without us. The power intrinsic to our being is that of the mighty lion or a deity. The hips, thighs, breasts and womb of our women give life to us all and nurtured civilization. We are the original Hebrews of the Bible, the chosen people, with Bronze skin and hair like wool like the God, Jesus Christ. Perhaps that’s why they hated us. They hated him too. And they hate us still.
So keep kneeling Kaepernick, even if it’s only metaphorically while you’re out of the league. I’m kneeling with you in spirit. I’m boycotting the NFL until you’re back on a roster. And, if anyone catches me at an NBA game, during the national anthem, I’ll be sitting down until America finally stands up for the Africans it stole. They beat us but they did not break us. All will be set right in the end.
And, let us not forget, the reason Kaepernick knelt in the first place: to protest the killing of innocent African Americans in the streets by police. The victims are gone but not forgotten. And, neither is the cause.