When word first got out about Colin Kapernick’s national anthem protest in August of last year, I was pleased. To see an athlete using their platform in a peaceful, and significant, yet (seemingly) unoffensive, manner made me hopeful for this country. The deadly injustices perpetrated by the police against people of color in this country have been business as usual for far too long and to me it was long overdue that it was being opposed in such a public forum. The majority of America is repulsed by the idea that their everyday life might be inconvenienced in the slightest way by people assembling to affect change. In this country, business is the bottom line and if the machine breaks down, we break down. That’s why we see so much negative reaction to mass social demonstrations like Black Lives Matter or Occupy Wall Street.
This is precisely why Kaepernick’s protest seemed so good. In no way did it harm the everyday flow of society. No traffic jams, no vandalism, just a man who feels strongly about an issue that is important to millions of people using his stage to bring attention to that issue, and urge our society to finally address it in a meaningful way. I thought to myself “now this is a movement that everyone should be able to get behind.” Surely even middle America can support this action and agree that black people are dying at the hands of police an alarming rate and that must change.
Man, was I wrong.
It’s been more than a year since Colin Kaepernick first took that fateful knee and he has since been run out of the league. We at SBS have been over this ad naseum but with the number of bad quarterbacks in the league, it’s increasingly evident that he is being black balled because of his protest. In his absence other NFL players (and players in other sports) have taken on the mantle and taken a knee during the national anthem. And it has become one of the most ridiculously divisive issues I can recall. To the point that man-child sitting in the Oval Office found it necessary to share his opinion, basically assuring, due to his ability to ruin every-fucking-thing he touches, that people on both sides of the issue will never be able find any middle ground.
The week after President Trump decided to weigh in on the issue and call for the firing of the “sons of bitches” who made a completely reasonable and unoffensive protest against injustice, players and teams around the league made a stand. Teams decided to stay in the locker room for the anthem (Steelers) or make team statements of unity by locking arms or kneeling prior to the anthem (Cowboys). It was a rebuke of Trump’s attack on player’s freedom of speech and on the idea that the league would silence its own players. Even Jerry Jones joined his players on the field and the hope was that ownership and players, even if they didn’t agree with each other in regards to the protest, were united in the idea that players had the right to use this platform.
Things have become less clear as to how the league and ownership feel about the statement that some players are making. Two weeks after kneeling with his players prior to the national anthem, Jerry Jones, said that any players on his team who decided to kneel or sit for the anthem wouldn’t even be allowed to take the field. The same mandate was said to have been placed on Miami Dolphins players by ownership, and around the same time it was rumored that the league was working on some sort of policy change to force the players to stand for the anthem. The league has since come out and said that there has been no policy change. That said, the owners and players will meet today to discuss the protest and work on a way forward.
The NFL may have been the catalyst for this anthem protest movement, but it has sparked a nationwide debate that reaches far beyond pro football. My beloved Lions revoked the season tickets of some piece of shit who posted racist remarks about two African American fans who sat during the anthem. Larry McCullough and Cedric Ingram Lewis, Two high school football players at a private school in Texas were kicked off the team and forced to strip their uniforms off on the field in front of the crowd. Guyree Durante, a division III football player at Albright College was also kicked off the team for kneeling. Jemele Hill has been suspended from ESPN for tweeting that fans in Dallas who are angry with the team for silencing the protest of its players should boycott the team’s advertisers. This thing has become bigger than the NFL.
Some people are so upset over the protest that they’ve decided to stop watching the NFL all together. Many of them are the same ones bashing protestors in Minneapolis or St Louis. It seems that to some people no type of protest by people of color is okay and that even in the face of grave injustice citizens should go about their business and keep quiet. These are the same type of people who got Trump elected because they either genuinely believe he is fit for the the job, or are able to rationalize such a reckless decision by saying that he is better than that “nasty woman.” Either way they are resisting the inevitable, and painfully slow, change in our society that has been ongoing for centuries. The change towards equality.
The opposing sides in this debate, as ridiculous of a debate as it is, are not likely to agree on much anytime soon. There will always be people who somehow see the anthem protest as an affront to the troops and the nation as a whole. Never mind that these soldiers fight for the idea of protest and free speech to begin with. People like Trump will use the protest to arouse the emotions of their base and create an even bigger divide amongst citizens of this country. And while more and more people wake up to the idea everyone must be equal, there will be those shouting down the movement and trying to keep people asleep.
As Eminem said in his video for BET, there is a line being drawn in the sand. Maybe now that Marshall has stepped into the ring, those who appropriate black culture on a daily basis and claim to support equality, but support racism through their actions will come to realize the err of their ways. The criminalization of race is very real thing and there is an entire criminal industrial complex built upon it. That’s what the national anthem protest is about.
It’s not acceptable that our highly militarized police departments routinely kill black people without consequence. They also kill brown people, and poor people in general at an alarming rate, and it goes unaddressed and unpunished but no other group is murdered at such a high rate. Why doesn’t the president tweet about that? In the absence of those in the highest seats of power taking on this issue, NFL players and citizens around the country and the world have decided to to make themselves heard. And as the movement grows, and the outcry against these police killings become even more pronounced, more and more people will speak out.
There will always be repercussions against people who wish to change the status quo, but it’s those who continue in the face of that backlash who will affect change for the better. Colin Kaepernick is an example of this and even if he never plays in the NFL again he will have done something important. He started a movement that has people talking. With a little luck, the talking will lead to action.