Another fall weekend of our national spectator sport, football, is ahead of us. Another slew of games where statistics, yardage, and the politics of players right to peaceful protest and the president’s, team owner’s and coaching staff’s right to dictate their behavior to them will be analyzed.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
Last year during the NFL football season, after a series of incidences of social injustices to black and brown people that included being brutalized and killed by police, an NFL player, Colin Kaepernick, a black player, stood in formation with his teammates and took a knee during the national anthem.
Kaepernick made a statement following the game making it very clear this was about the injustice happening.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
The outrage across America was swift and vicious. The focal point and message of Kaepernick’s kneeling were driven from social injustice and police brutality to one of disrespect of the flag and nationalism.
The NFL issued a statement at that time, “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem.”
As the NFL season went on, more NFL players across the league joined Kaepernick’s kneeling action as a peaceful demonstration against racial and social injustice.
Two things I discovered while researching for this blog that I want to briefly address; the history of kneeling and the National Anthem and the NFL.
The history of kneeling is not new to the fight of social injustice. Martin Luther King, Jr. went down on one knee to prayer during the Civil Rights movement. Numerous pictures show people in silent, peaceful protest taking a knee. Several articles I read related kneeling back to slavery when slaves knelt in oppression and in prayer for freedom.
It is important to note, it was optional for NFL players to be on the sidelines during the playing of the National Anthem before 2009. Despite counter-claims by the NFL, at one time, it was proven in a congressional investigation, that the United States Department of Defense (DoD) began paying the NFL, initially with 5.4 million dollars as part of a military recruitment budget-line item.
It was called “paid patriotism.” By having the players on the field for the national anthem was an excellent marketing strategy to make the athletes look more patriotic. This marketing strategy was to get more to join the military — meaning those vulnerable young people watching the NFL.
Enter the perfect storm. The government paying the NFL money to look patriotic and the players begin to not do what the government considers patriotic.
It began with a president during a stump speech riling up a predominantly all-white base in Alabama, who made a statement about the desired wish that someone would tell that NFL player who knelt, “Get that son-of-a-bitch of the field, right now!” People immediately connected the name calling with Kaepernick.
The comment elevated to athletes across all professional sports. Escalating comments between the president and several other black star athletes. It united and bonded those in the NFL. The following Sunday more than two-hundred players and coaches took a knee. Many others showed unity by linking arms.
The dysfunction in this was it turned the message to an anti-president, anti-nationalism protest. That was never the intent of this peaceful protest.
The message of social and racial injustice and police brutality was efficiently changed by manipulation of the administration and media.
This war of words and strategic maneuver of the president to cause division and domination of the NFL players kneeling began on Friday, September 22nd.
Here are some numbers to give you some context to the dissent and priority this is being presented by the White House. As of Monday — 18 tweets about NFL, 6 tweets about Las Vegas tragedy, 25 about the hurricane in Puerto Rico | 4 of those were negative comments directed at the Mayor of San Juan.
I titled this blog plantation politics. That is what this looks like and feels like. It has a master and slave mentality to it. Do what we want you to do. No, not that way. No, not that way, either. Do what I say or I will manipulate consequences against you.
Do what I say or I will manipulate and encourage consequences against you. I will suggest people walk out of stadiums. I will look into getting rid of tax breaks. I will specifically target brown and black players, media announcers.
There is a quote, “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” It was once believed Harriet Tubman said it, that is not true. But the words are just as powerful for all people.
The NFL has passively and quietly begun changing their ruling on the national anthem. They have succumbed to the edict being directed from a power they must perceive as either a threat or more powerful than them.
It requires them to stand for the national anthem of penalties will be issued to include being benched, suspension, financial, and forfeiture of draft choices.
70% of the NFL players are black males. The NFL is expected to reach 14 billion dollars in revenue for 2017 season. ESPN alone pays 1.9 billion a year to broadcast its games. This is despite the drop in ratings and with viewership being down.
This agenda is driven by a grandstanding president to the right-wing base support. An unspoken, yet clearly communicated “Very fine people.” versus “Son-of-a-bitches” and continued attacks on black athletes and commentaries is reminiscent of another time in history.
The news I want to hear Sunday afternoon is that over 70% of the NFL teams dropped to their knee during the anthem. Despite the fact, their “owners” told them not to. I want to hear there were not enough players to play the damn game.
That whole teams were benched for being defiant and kneeling for their self-respect, their beliefs, and for the improved treatment of their people.
At what point do you realize you are a slave? A slave to the game, media, money, fear, power — what are you a slave to? What keeps you off your knee?
The power in numbers is there. But the power of plantation politics is still stronger. #takeaknee