On Sunday, September 24, 2017 the world (really the United States because the world doesn't care about American football) watched as teams across the National Football League (NFL) - players, coaches, and owners - knelt and locked arms during the national anthem in a sign of both protest and unity. Some teams didn't come out of the locker room (most notably the Pittsburgh Steelers under the direction of head coach Mike Tomlin) until after the national anthem was complete. This was all in response to the deplorable and pathetic comments by the current president of the United States, trump.
The comments made by the president (not my president) came at a rally in Alabama on Friday, September 22nd. He was campaigning for a senator, who will remain nameless (as they will not be given a platform here), who is up for reelection in the state. He took a moment during this campaign rally to go off script and talk about NFL players, specifically Colin Kaepernick.
His specific comment as it relates to what NFL owners should do with players protesting was, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say ‘get that son of a bitch off the field?’” He probably also felt emboldened to say this considering seven of the NFL Ventures, a business unit of the league, and NFL owners contributed to his campaign and inaugural fund: The Kraft Group, the business of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Robert McNair, owner of the Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, Shahid Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Stan Kroenke, owner of the Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers co-chairman Joel Glazer, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (through a corporation), and Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder.
He referred to the NFL owner who would hypothetically do this would go on to be, “the most popular person in the country. Because that is a total disrespect of our heritage.” He also called for fans to walk out when they saw players kneeling, indicating that it would change quickly if they did.
This president even targeted the rules and safety precautions implemented by the NFL to protect players, especially in light of the heightened awareness and information concerning concussions and CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). He stated that this focus is, “ruining the game,” and the players, “want to hit.”
It was these comments by the sitting president of United States, no matter how unfortunate that fact is, that caused the demonstrations across the league that were witnessed! Even players like LeSean McCoy and former greats like Ray Lewis, who have both expressed discomfort with Kaepernick and other players kneeling and who also (in Lewis' case) vowed never to kneel, knelt and (in McCoy's case) stretched during the anthem.
The owners were insulted by this. The players were insulted by this. They felt that their league had been attacked. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell even issued a statement that lightly condemned the remarks.
It is because the demonstrations were a response to this president's ridiculous remarks at a campaign rally in Alabama, that I say, "thanks, but. . ."
While I definitely appreciate the teams across the NFL kneeling and locking arms in protest to trump's ridiculous and racist "dog whistle" comments about Colin Kaepernick and those protesting during the national anthem, Kaepernick is still not on an NFL roster, and more importantly the focus has once again shifted away from what he was protesting in the beginning - police brutality, inequality, and injustice specifically affecting Black African Americans in the United States of America.
We shouldn't be surprised by this high-jacking and, more aptly, appropriation of the national anthem protest in which Kaepernick and other players such as Michael Bennett were/are engaged with. There has been an intentional misdirection or misinformation campaign by those who do not want the country to face the tragic truth that the protests sought (and successfully) to bring attention, greater conversation, and greater socio-cultural/political systematic restructuring to. Immediately after Kaepernick began the protest movement, which began with him sitting before he decided to do the more deferential kneel, the narrative began that he was disrespecting the flag, the national anthem (which has a racist stanza that no one recites), and veterans and all military service members. This was and is a lie. It is an intentional way to mislead the public.
Common synonyms for misdirect/misdirection are "distract" and "destruction."And this is exactly what has happened and what continues to happen when national anthem protests are brought up. The counter narrative that it is disrespectful to the flag, military, and country is a distraction from the real issues - police brutality, inequality, and injustice against African Americans and all people of color. This distraction also leads to a destruction of what the true purpose was.
In the words of Colin Kaeprnick, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color."
We can not allow this narrative to be highjacked by those who want to avoid the issues, which includes the current president of the United States! We must stand with those who are kneeling for the purpose of seeing authentic change in our society! And not the false peace and unity that even Rev. Dr. King spoke about, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”
The NFL wide protests and demonstrations were not about justice, it was about a deranged (in my opinion) man's disrespectful and out of touch comments.
We have to get to get back to fundamental core of the protests - Justice!