This week the Miami Dolphins made public that any player who participate in a protest during the national anthem would be subject to a four game suspension, although they also said they don’t plan on enforcing it. As an African American I have conflicted emotions regarding this subject. No one can deny that racial injustice and social inequity is a very real thing. Colin Kapernick began this protest movement to bring light to these issues through his celebrity and it cost him his career. As other joined in the protest President Trump saw that this was the perfect opportunity to appeal to his base by hijacking the issue and essentially changing the narrative to one of a protest against the national anthem and called those who protest unpatriotic. Owners worried that fans would turn away from their game thus hurting their bottom line, and in the NFL nothing is more important than the bottom line, felt the need to draw a line in the sand. Through it all the original intent of Kapernick message started to get lost. It began to seem as players were protesting simply because they were told they couldn’t and fans had brought into the President narrative that the protest were unpatriotic. After much thought I have concluded that since the NFL is a business and the players are in essence employees of that business, highly paid and famous employees but employees nevertheless less, they should play by the same rules as everyone else. To that end when most of us in society are told we are prohibited from doing or saying something while on duty that the company feels would hurt their bottom line or be perceived as a negative, whether in reality it is or isn’t, we do it. Failure to follow the rules often leads to termination of one’s employment. As NFL players are “on duty” representing their teams during the national anthem it is not outrageous to say they have an obligation to follow the rules set by the team’s owners.
This however does not mute the player’s voices, they need look no further than their NBA brothers as an example. In a league overwhelmingly African American NBA players stand as required for the national anthem. Are we to believe NBA players are oblivious to the injustices of society around them or that they simply don’t care about issues such as social inequality because they stand instead of protesting. The answer is of course no. But NBA players use their celebrity during their “own” time to draw attention to these issues. Who can forget when LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade teamed up to deliver a powerful speech during the 2016 ESPY in which they called for fellow athletes to use their fame to heal a country divided by racism, injustice and gun violence. They referenced fatal police shooting of African American young men they called on fellow athletes call to educate themselves and to speak up and use their influence. They urged fellow athletes to go back to their communities, invest their time, their resources to help rebuild them, help strengthen them, help change them. Their message could not be hijack the narrative not changed. No one could question if they were giving the speech because they were told not to and most importantly they showed the power of their voices away from their jobs on the hardwood.
NFL players can follow suit. Hold workshops in the community mentoring young people of color while at the same time calling attention to the injustices those same young people face on a daily basis. Work as a group with local police to meet with and come to a better understanding of the community they are policing. Use public events such as the ESPY awards to speak out and condemn the issues that the protest during the national anthem were intended to bring light to.
This issue is bigger than if players do or don’t have the right to protest during the national anthem. It is bigger than NFL players versus NFL owners and the President. Rather than get bogged down in that fight, rather than provide even the smallest of opportunity for others to change the narrative NFL players should use the multiple avenues available to them on their “own” time to help build and strengthen their communities and to call attention to the issues of social injustice and racial inequality.
Sports isn’t the real world and the Eli Manning saga proved it once again. In the real world if you don’t produce no matter what you may have done in the past you might be cut loose. When you don’t make the playoffs consistently, take delay of game penalties every week, throw the untimely interception more than the game winning TD lately, fumble whenever a defender breaths on you you’re playing with fire. I love Eli, he was great and put two trophies in the case but you don’t get the job for life. We correctly admire his streak but the reality is he just came to work everyday and was highly paid for it. He isn’t the single mother struggling to find child care so she can get to work. He isn’t the father who works 18 hours a day everyday just to put a roof over his family’s head. He’s a football player who played on Sunday and made 20 million plus every year to do it and by the way will still earn his money even while sitting on the bench. He won’t have the worries of the average joe who gives his life to a company and is let go after a few lean years and needs to worry how he’s going to care for his family. Let’s keep things in perspective Eli was great but let’s not weep for him he’ll be alright.
Cam Newton’s recent comments to a female reporter at a news conference has brought the predictable outrage. Many taking to the airwaves to call him sexist, belittling, disrespectful all the predictable adjectives. While Newton was wrong and deserving of all the arrows being slung at him many of those criticizing him now both publicly and privately can spare me their righteous outrage. Last November many of them went into the voting both and pulled the level for a man who routinely demeans women to be the next President of this country. Have we evolved as a country when it comes to gender equality when that same man can say as a star you can grab a woman by the pussy and millions of Americans just shrugs it off? When Great Britain, Germany, France, Israel, Australia and a host of other developed countries throughout the world have had a woman lead them and we still have people wondering can a woman be President? Newton was wrong but don’t condemn him because it is the politically correct thing to do while simultaneously holding the same beliefs and doing nothing to change the gender inequality gap that plaques this country.
Ok NFL players you showed your unity this past weekend with varying displays of so called anthem protest but now is the time to bring the narrative back to its original intent. Yes you should continue to kneel, continue to lock arms or whatever form of protest you feel is appropriate. No you should not allow this President to deter you. But when a microphone is placed in front of you and you are asked about disrespecting the flag and the servicemen and women. Do not allow the narrative to be changed. Tell them emphatically NO I will not play that game. Tell them I kneel to protest social injustice. Tell them I kneel to protest police brutality. Tell them I kneel to bring to light the way people of color are treated in many aspects of society today. Tell them you love America as much as anyone and as such you demand it lives up to its promise. Tell them you respect this country’s servicemen and women and as such I kneel because the 40% of the military made up of ethnic minorities should not have to return to a country where they or their family may be subject to police brutality or discrimination based on the color of their skin. Tell them I kneel not as a sign of disrespect to this country but as a sign of respect for the values that it was founded on, the concept that all men are created equal. Tell them I kneel to force those who would choose to turn a blind eye to these injustices to feel uncomfortable to the point that they will finally open their minds and begin a dialogue on how to truly make this country great. Tell that this is why I kneel.
Sports is a business I know that but today the NFL in voting to approve the Raiders move to Las Vegas showed us once again that not only is sports a business but it’s owners think of the fans as nothing more than suckers.
Let’s be clear here the Raiders, one of the league’s most storied franchises, have one of the most loyal rabid fan bases in the NFL. There is no questioning that. Even after the Raiders left them for 12 years in the 80s and 90s they welcomed them home as if they had never left. They dress up for games and root like hell for a team that gave them a decade of putrid football. But that didn’t matter because win lose or draw they were their Oakland Raiders. Simply put if you never been to a Raiders home game you have missed out on one of the best spectacles in all of sport. But because the city of Oakland wouldn’t bow to the pressure of 32 billionaire owners and provide them with a corporate welfare check to finance a stadium, at a time when the City has far more pressing economic concerns, the Raiders told one of the NFL’s best fan bases to kiss its ass and you know why? Because they can. They can because the NFL knows the fan is a sucker.
Between 1982 and 96 iconic NFL franchises moved all over the map. the Raiders moved twice, the Colts moved, The Browns moved, the Rams moved, the Oilers moved. The league awarded Cleveland and Houston new franchises to help ease the pain and put the expansion buy-in fee into their pockets. Through it all the cash kept on pouring in. Baseball once cancelled a World Series in 1994 and while it isn’t what was it used to be nationally it is doing just fine regionally as owners are flush with more money than ever before. The NBA markets its stars more than any other league. Come out and see Lebron James and the Cavs they yell and then teams casually and with no regard to its paying fan will rests whole lineups, on the road, the only time they’ll play in that city all year. Even hockey who decided to cancel an entire SEASON once and makes no attempt to grow their game to new fans like baseball sees its owners sitting on more money than ever before. How is this possible? Because the league knows the fans are suckers. No matter how bad they treat us, no matter how many teams up and leave, no matter how high the prices go or bad the product gets we’ll still scream and cheer for our team. We’ll still open up our wallets and feed the beast.
Today 32 NFL owners had a great day as they pondered the revenue from their shiny new toy in Vegas and likely expansion fee revenue for the new team in Oakland, you know that’s going to happen. But it was a sad day for the NFL fan especially Oakland and as the billionaire owners smile for the cameras and count the cash they whisper to each – Fans? Who cares what the fans think? Fans are suckers
I love the Yankees but I’ve always been disgusted by the hypocrites who call sports talk radio to voice their displeasure with A-Rod, he’s a disgrace to pinstripes, he’s a cheat, he’s a bum, get him out of here. These same hypocrites however proudly boast of all the Yankees championships including the most recent one in 2009. A championship the Yankees don’t win if it wasn’t for A-Rod.
A-Rod is no doubt a flawed figure and almost all of his troubles were self inflicted. But by all accounts his teammates love him and he goes out of his way to help and support the young kids on the Yankees. I think it speaks volumes that after everything the Yankees still want him to be a part of the organization and work with the next generation of Bronx Bombers. I don’t think any of us will ever know and even if we did understand what fueled a man blessed with his physical abilities to make some of the bad decisions A-Rod has made. He forever tarnished what should have been a career for the ages. Yet In a sports world where we cheer for known domestic violence abusers because they can still help our team win or turn a blind eye to other crimes against women and society because the accused can sack the quarterback I’m not going to burn A-Rod at home plate because of his PED sins. Rather I’ll accept them as part of he was and judge him as a whole. Because despite 696 home runs he is still only a man and men make mistakes.
I interrupt the start of this baseball season for an important message.
Ok Mets fan we get it your team is good, real good. But stop with the narrative that Yankees fans are bandwagon fans, that we won’t support them in a rebuild. I mean come on until midway through last summer Citi wasn’t exactly rocking. Not like Mets fans were packing the joint. Not like the line at Shake Shack wasn’t longer than people actually watching the game. So enjoy your team it should be a real fun summer out in Flushing but please stop talking about my Yankees and their fans.
That is all I now return to your season already in progress.