Not Standing for the Anthem
by David Rambeau
Colin Kaepernick, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, started the NFL players' struggle by sitting, and then kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, making his statements symbolically and verbally against police brutality and white racism in this country . He subsequently moved on to community support action raising $2 million, half from his bank account and half from the owner of the SF team he played for, to grant to community projects, and the full-time job required for the management of such a sum of money.
The Struggle, his struggle, has spread to all the NFL teams and enough players to keep the momentum growing. It has also spread to professional basketball and hockey, which means it will be ubiquitous. Historically, the sports Struggle stretches from Jack Johnson to Muhammad Ali to Floyd Mayweather in boxing, to Tommie Smith and Jon Carlos in track and Jackie Robinson and Curt Flood in baseball. The Struggle for a global black voice in sports has history. This history has been recorded by Dr. Harry Edwards in his iconic book, The Revolt of the Black Athlete, in print and the africanamericanathlete.com and Concept East Institute of Sport on FB online.
That historical black voice in sport is being challenged by NFL owners, the NFL football commissioner, Roger Goodell, to Adam Silver, the NBA chieftain and 45, the U.S. president. Collectively, they have added a workers' right component currently being legally contested by Kaepernick. The odds suggest the two league honchos, their billionaire employers and the president will not succeed.
Spurred on by the president and his incendiary comments, and the reaction from the white working class personified by the suburban fans sports addiction fantasy, fueled by Monday, Thursday and Sunday professional football that saturates the media on broadcast television, cable and mobile phones, the societal drama is communicated on a non-stop basis throughout the world.
This white reactionary, conservative position puts a comment and end to the moribund Marxist slogan, "Black and white unite and fight. We shouldn't be hearing that false analysis any more from the black or white Left. In fact, what is the position of the Left on this bundle of issues.
Meanwhile some white sports fans, some white war veterans and some white NFL players and former players, notably Mike Ditka, have criticized the comments and actions of the black players. Indeed, some former black NFL players, including Jim Brown, Ray Lewis, Dan Towler, Herschal Walker and Michael Vick, have also criticized Kap and his cohorts and their actions, fortunately, to no avail. These used-to-be's are simply behind the times; they're yesterday's heroes trying to remain relevant and picking the wrong side of history.
Kap's issues were and are police brutality and racism. His issues are our issues, have been, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Daily and weekly, the police continue to abuse black people across the nation. Fresh video on the Internet relentlessly tells the visual truth to the people.
White politicians and pundits have tried to co-opt and manipulate the focus from police brutality and white racism to freedom of speech, the anthem, the flag and the military.
No problem. These new issues are a help, not a hindrance. We can handle the diversions. In fact, they broaden and deepen the Struggle. While these are early diversions, they won't be the last. We should be prepared for counter-attacks wherever they come from.
Freedom of speech, guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, is the legal basis of this peaceful protest. Who in their right mind would expect black people to stand for an anthem written by a slave-owner and anti-abolitionist. They have a flag, the Stars & Bars of the Confederacy; we have the RBG. We have the Black Power Fist salute; they have the Nazi, Seig Heil salute.
And we are quite right to question a military that is waging war in Niger, Libya, and Somalia in Africa; in Yeman, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan in the Middle East, is spoiling for war against Iran and North Korea, and is underwriting the war-mongering nations of Saudi Arabia and Israel. The U.S. has military bases all over the world and an obscene multi-billion dollar military budget.
The sports struggle has spread, invading educational institutions in their classrooms and on their play-fields. Now college, high-school, middle school and club teams with black and white athletes are kneeling and stating their opposition to police brutality and police murders of black people. This means that the next generation is being actively politicized and insures that the sports Struggle will continue,
Thus Kap's leadership is being role-modeled nation-wide via the media and is not dependent of organizational structure and leader-centric rhetoric, as so many of our previous social struggles (the Black Panthers, UNIA, SNCC, SCLC, etc.) have been.
Shannon Sharpe, a sports commentator and former NFL player, is the black media voice for this Struggle on cable television and the Internet. Eric Reid and Michael Bennett, current star players in the NFL, not yet fired by club-owners, are the active team voices. With so many players kneeling and fist-raising, the NFL Players Union has been forced to come out of hiding and defend its membership and ought place increased emphasis on community service and financial support.
This Struggle is serious for every side: the professional black athletes, the players' union, the club-owners, the major media, the commercial sponsors, the white fans, the politicians and the black community.
The audience ratings are going up. The action continues. The world is watching.