Silence the athlete, awaken the people

Written by :
Published on : October 17, 2017

 

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.

 

                        The cheerleaders at Howard University take a knee during the national anthem.

 

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.

 

 


Kaepernick is starting, and still protesting. Deal with it.

Written by :
Published on : October 14, 2016

 

 

This NFL season has been as much about protest as it has been about football. San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, brought the NFL to the forefront of a major civil rights discussion when he decided to sit for the national anthem in the preseason. Kaepernick claimed he was not going to “stand up and show pride for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Kaepernick specifically brought attention to the police brutality against black people and people of color. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

 

Immediately after Kaepernick’s protest, there was a waive of negative reactions accusing him of disrespecting the military. But Kaepernick quickly debunked this, saying “I have great respect for the men and women that fought for this country,” making it clear that his protest has nothing to do with the military. After all, it is the U.S. national anthem, not the U.S. military anthem. He’s been clear from the beginning that he is protesting one specific issue he has with the country he lives in. A country that’s best attribute is that it gives its citizens the freedom to speak their minds and stand up for important causes. Kaepernick even decided to change his approach and take a knee instead of sitting for the national anthem to continue supporting his cause while showing respect to the military.

 

 

Many NFL players have joined Kaepernick in his protest, and many others have said they respect his cause and right to protest, but they still choose to stand in respect for their country. All of the above are very reasonable reactions. But there have been many other unreasonable reactions, mostly from people who don’t want to think about the idea that racism and police brutality against black people are real problems, and would rather redirect the discussion by arguing that his protest is offensive or troublesome for reasons completely unrelated to race.

 

Exhibit A: Trent Dilfer.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, Trent Dilfer is the worst quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl, riding the heels of a Ravens defense that was one of the best in NFL history. Now he makes a living screaming into the camera at ESPN while veins pop out of his perfectly round bald head, as he harshly criticizes players that are much better than he ever was. Dilfer’s issue was not that Kaepernick was anti-American, or anti-military, but that Kaepernick is a “backup quarterback.” Dilfer claims a backup quarterback’s job is to “be quiet, and sit in the shadows, and get the starter ready to play week one.” Funny coming from a guy who left football to talk for a living when he was no longer wanted as a starter or backup quarterback by any team in the NFL. Kaepernick quickly fired back at Dilfer, appropriately labeling his comments as “ridiculous.” Kaepernick explained, “You are telling me that my position as a backup QB and being quiet is more important than people’s lives.” This is just a small sample of Kaepernick’s verbal beatdown of Dilfer.

 

Dilfer’s off-base concept was echoed by Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press – Democrat. Cohn is a longtime whiney curmudgeon, and terrible sportswriter, who has been attempting to smear Kaepernick since he began his protest, with weekly factless articles overselling the idea that Kaepernick has somehow had a negative impact on his team. In a press conference in September, Cohn tried to force 49ers coach Chip Kelly into belittling Kaepernick’s cause. Kelly firmly denied Cohn’s efforts, while somehow managing to keep his cool during Cohn’s extreme dickishness. The exchange, as well as Lowell Cohn’s impressive level of unprofessionalism, can be seen here:

 

 

Yes Chip, that is the great thing about this country. But like Trent Dilfer, Cohn tried to hide behind the safety net of claiming he respects Kaepernick’s cause, but… he should be more focused on football instead. Yes, if only Martin Luther King had focused more on sports the world would be a better place… No, I’m not saying Colin Kaepernick is MLK, but he has made it clear throughout this process that he is dedicated to an important cause. But people like Trent Dilfer and Lowell Cohn continue to argue that his fight for human rights is overshadowed by his lack of devotion to football, despite the fact that Chip Kelly and 49ers CEO Jed York have praised Kaepernick for bringing attention to an important issue, and for his football work ethic.

 

In fact, Chip Kelly announced this week that Kaepernick will take over as the 49ers starting quarterback on Sunday. So obviously his devotion to football has been strong enough to win back the starting job for one of the most iconic franchises in the NFL. It looks like Trent Dilfer and Lowell Cohn will have to come up with new reasons to disrespect Kaepernick’s protest.

 

If disrespect is what you’re looking for, look no further than Donald Trump. After Kaepernick called Trump “openly racist,” which is hard to argue, since blatant racism has pretty much been his entire political platform, Trump responded by saying, “maybe he should find a country that works better for him.” The great thing about America is, he doesn’t have to. He can stay right here, love his country, but still exercise his right to protest. It’s kind of ironic that a man who is running for president with the slogan “Make America Great Again,” suggesting that our country isn’t great, and constantly bashing our current president, is telling someone peacefully protesting a very important issue that he should leave this country if he doesn’t like it.

 

 

So if that’s how Trump feels, maybe he should take his own advice. If America is really in such a terrible state, and the president is really such a disgrace, do what you just told Kaepernick to do, and get the hell out! Otherwise, deal with the fact that people in this country are allowed to voice their issues with the government, the police, or any other problems they have, even if those people aren’t old white racist billionaires.

 

The most recent angry old white person with harsh words for Colin Kaepernick was Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Ginsberg, who has spent much of her life on the forefront of women’s rights issues in America, called Kaepernick’s form of protest “dumb and disrespectful,” in an interview with Katie Couric for Yahoo Global News. “I would have the same answer if you asked me about flag burning. I think it’s a terrible thing to do.” Ginsberg continued to condemn Kaepernick and other NFL players who have exercised their right to protest by sitting or kneeling for the national anthem, but refused to address the race issues they are actually protesting.

 

Colin Kaepernick had a strong response to Ginsberg, as he has to all of his detractors, saying, “it is disappointing to hear a Supreme Court Justice call a protest against injustices and oppression ‘stupid’… the flag is just a piece of cloth and I am not going to value a piece of cloth over people’s lives.” I never thought we would see the day that an NFL player would be schooling a Supreme Court Justice and a presidential candidate on human rights issues, but here we are.

 

 

It’s time to start respecting the fact that Colin Kaepernick has a great reason to be protesting. He has made it clear that the only part of America he is protesting is police brutality against black people and people of color. His message is not that all police are bad, but that police who use unnecessary violence need to be held accountable. It’s possible to admit this is a problem and still support the police, just like it’s possible to want your head coach fired but still be a fan of your team.

 

And it’s important that we acknowledge that white privilege exists and that people of color deal with much more difficulties in America than white people do. That doesn’t mean white people never have to struggle in America, it doesn’t mean that your accomplishments are less significant if you’re white, and it doesn’t mean you have to spend your entire life apologizing for your race. No one is asking for that. Just try keep it in perspective and be respectful of what Colin Kaepernick and many others are standing for. Can you honestly say he doesn’t have a point? Can you truly tell yourself that America doesn’t have a problem with police brutality against black people?

 

 

If you have an intelligent comment on this discussion, I think you should feel free to express it no matter what your race or background is, which is exactly what I’m trying to do now. But if you really want to join the discussion that Colin Kaepernick is trying to encourage, then join that discussion. The discussion about police brutality against black people in America. Don’t hide behind the anti-military argument, or the anti-flag argument, or the devotion to football argument, or anything else that detracts from his cause.

 

This Sunday, when Kaepernick takes back his job as the 49ers starting quarterback, he’ll be the focal point of the NFL. Unfortunately many people will try to tie the relevance of his protest to his success on the football field, where the cards are stacked against him playing for a 1-4 team that’s in rebuilding mode. But Kaepernick’s cause is much more important than football, and win or lose, starter or backup, he’s using his fame to stand up for something he thinks is important. He’s willing to take all the controversy, criticism and anger being thrown his way, and he’s continuing to fight for his cause. I think that’s something everyone should be able to respect.

 

 


Peaceful Protest? You’ve Got It

Written by :
Published on : September 10, 2016

 

When the “news” broke about San Francisco 49er’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick sitting out the National Anthem, I thought, “hmm, it’s definitely the preseason and we need a 24 hour story”. Nope, this sparked a national outrage among those who feel like he has disrespected the flag, the military, and those who were wounded in battle. I try my best not to live in an echo chamber and follow those on Facebook who will post more conservative leaning rants or articles. Naturally, all of them were white and were claiming, “he’s mixed and his adoptive parents are white”, and “he’s never felt oppression, he’s a millionaire”.

 

Shoot, I guess you have to be poor in order to feel oppressed or notice racism. It’s malarkey, and you know what else is malarkey? Tami Lahren’s rant on Colin Kaepernick that seemed to go viral among those who disagreed with Colin Kaepernick. While I support her right to rant, I also support and urge those to watch or read what Kaepernick had to say post-game the other week. Lahren could have probably saved herself the embarrassment by actually listening to what Kaepernick had to say.

 

“So many people see the flag as a symbol of the military. How do you view it and what do you say to those people?

 

Colin Kaepernick: I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. That’s not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody. That’s something that’s not happening. I’ve seen videos, I’ve seen circumstances where men and women that have been in the military have come back and been treated unjustly by the country they have fought for, and have been murdered by the country they fought for, on our land. That’s not right”.

 

I did a bit of surveying on social media and here’s what some people had to say:

 

— “I’ve been saying it all along – what he’s doing is as American as it gets. He’s silently protesting. He has that right, even if I don’t agree with his point of view”.

 

— “I’m a veteran and fully support what he’s doing. As US-ians, we have a first amendment right to free speech. That means ALL speech, whether or not we like it or even whether or not it’s offensive.


–“I also would support the NFL if they choose to sanction him, even though I disagree with that, because the right to free speech means freedom from government restriction. They can work out the dispute (should it be necessary) in civil court. Further, I feel that people have an obligation to speak out against government endorsed injustice, whether the injustice is the result of action or inaction by the government. Elections are not enough in some cases. In this case, he has a very real issue and a really big stage on which to “petition for a governmental redress of grievances. Rock on, man.”

 

— “This is exactly how you should protest. I support this 100%. It’s funny how everyone was all over Kaep’s nuts when he was playing well and he had a couple bad seasons so now they all want to dump on him. Football fans can be gigantic babies”.

 

I think it’s funny because this is literally the exact right that gets you killed for expressing in countries that aren’t free”.

 

These same “heroic patriots” (and I get the tounge-in-cheekiness) are most likely the same ones who also have a problem with the BLM protests. They don’t like the “aggressive” tactics of blocking a freeway, but then they don’t like the peaceful tactic of sitting during the national anthem. So really what it is, is that they don’t like non-white people expressing discontent. I’ll be shocked if we as a country make it to 2050″.

 

That last quote is why I surveyed my social media outlets. The people against protest generally complain about the inconvenience it causes them and the general public. A highway or a major road might get blocked during a protest, but Colin Kaepernick sitting out or kneeling for the anthem is causing a problem? This is exactly what the anti-protest crowd has wanted: a peaceful protest, and yet, the public is still going to complain? Then again, you have the right to complain or to be offended by Kaepernick’s actions, but he also has the right to keep doing what he does that makes you upset.

 

 

Imagine if Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, or Tom Brady took a knee or sat out the anthem? My hunch is that we’d be listening a bit harder to them versus an athlete who’s declining and is black. Take the race out of it, and imagine if Kaepernick was still on top of the world the way Cam Newton, LeBron James, Steph Curry, or any top African American athlete out there. I have my doubts that society would give LeBron James a hard time for this type of protest.

 

Also, that team in Washington D.C. hasn’t changed their nickname yet.

 

 


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