by Davey D
Hope people are paying attention to what’s been going on with NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the ostracizing that is happening to him via NFL owners. We are bearing witness to owners going all out to send a message that they hope will resonate not just with fellow NFL owners but to other CEOs who oversee increasingly “woke” people who are standing up and speaking out.
Seems like not a day has gone by that we have not read or heard a news story about some owner stating publicly how disgusted they are with Kaepernick for sitting down or taking a knee during the National Anthem.
It’s important to juxtapose that expressed anger by NFL owners and executives who are either silent or perfectly willing to be forgiving and extend a helping hand to players accused of domestic violence, sexual assault, drug usage, overt racism and alcoholism, to name a few.
What’s going on here cuts deeper. It’s not about Kap taking a knee. It’s about Kap moving the crowd and inspiring so many others to take a knee and take a stance against injustice.
It’s about Kap setting a bar for athletes today to be more political and use their fame and resources to help uplift. Even more troublesome for owners is that Kap has been doing a lot of stuff like getting a plane to send supplies to Somalia to doing Know Your Rights workshops all over the country to giving 50k to help out the folks in Standing Rock.
Those are the things that we know about that made it into the news. Kap has done lots more where he’s been very clear about staying off the radar. It may range from him showing up at schools to him privately helping folks out financially and personally.
What more can we ask for? Perfection and 100 percent political alignment to our personal agendas? Some are angry because Kap didn’t vote. Others are mad because they feel like he should still be taking a knee.
Others are mad because they feel he should be more radical or give voice to their particular cause. Others are mad because they feel he’s gone too far.
That’s the nature of politics and par for the course when you are visible and speak out. Folks will be mad because you ain’t on the same page as them. But it becomes disturbing when the goal is to flex and shut down political thought.
What the NFL and other CEOs don’t want is political mutiny. They don’t want players speaking out and possibly changing the political tide, so all the stops are being pulled to send a clear message: You speak out too much, you run the risk of getting ousted like Kaepernick.
The message is clear, you speak out and run the risk of losing endorsements. You run the risk of being threatened by police unions. And you run the risk of watching thirsty, opportunistic people – ranging from former player turned analyst Boomer Esiason to lapdog writer Jason Whitlock – coming after him with guns blazing.
Thus far Kap seems to have been able to endure the storm, but what about everyone else? And that’s what’s at stake. Shut down Kap and perhaps you shut down high school and college athletes from speaking out who may not be built to take the ensuing pressure.
Shut down Kap and you embolden owners and coaches to take hard line stances about protesting, similar to the one we recently saw with the U.S. Soccer Federation, which bans any sort of protest during games. What we are essentially talking about is owners being a frontline force in maintaining white supremacy by policing and attempting to control the movements and political expressions of Black and Brown people.
What we are essentially talking about is owners being a frontline force in maintaining white supremacy by policing and attempting to control the movements and political expressions of Black and Brown people.
The challenge before us is what role do we play as the public? Do we boycott sports? After all, many of us demanded athletes and entertainers speak out and be more involved. We pushed them to take a stand.
So what do we do when the institutions they are a part of smash back? Do we shrug our shoulders, say to ourselves they have a few million in the bank, hence they’ll be all right, and keep it moving? Do we step to the institutions who are trying to shut down the politics? Do we boycott? Sounds good, but that’s very unlikely to happen.
Do we take time to reflect not just on what’s happening with Kaepernick, but what might be happening to local organizers who may not have the platform and financial resources of a Kaepernick but are running into similar fates?
Some local organizers find themselves under the gun in a number of arenas, from personal to financial, when they speak out. Sadly, far too many of us either ignore them, take for granted their activities or in some cases undermine their work sometimes unknowingly or intentionally in an attempt to curry favor.
We should all be aware, whether we are teachers in a classroom, workers inside a big corporation or athletes on the field, fast and hard lines in the sand are being drawn and the name of the game is make those who speak up pay dearly. It may come in the form of rules being drawn up to ban political activity, or it may mean some being asked to sign a contract that lays out “codes of conduct” that include no protests. It may show up with those in power keeping tabs and making a list of outspoken folks who should be barred from their profession.
Fast and hard lines in the sand are being drawn and the name of the game is make those who speak up pay dearly.
Hopefully, we don’t allow the weight and consequences to fall on the shoulders of a few and we all step up and speak out loudly, clearly and with deep love for our people and unshakeable knowledge. What is happening to Kaepernick is a microcosm to what’s been happening to local organizers and freedom fighters and now the heat is being turned up.
We can’t return to the days where folks are comfortable and expect athletes and entertainers to simply shut up and play, sing or dance.
Davey D can be reached at email@example.com or on Facebook. Visit his website, Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner, and his blog, Hip Hop and Politics, and listen to him weekdays at 4 p.m. on KPFA’s Hard Knock Radio.