By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader
Like many Americans, I spent this past Sunday morning watching the NFL pre-game shows because I was curious to see how the NFL players would respond to Trump’s ignorant tweets about players kneeling during the anthem being S.O.B.’s.
While I wasn’t surprised to see more players joining in the silent protest, I was stunned to see so many billionaire white men “taking a knee;” stunned because these same wealthy white men are the ones intentionally blackballing a Black man, a man who wanted to bring attention to the social injustices facing Black citizens.
The men responsible for the NFL boycott are too oblivious to realize they are the ones who can end it and save themselves from the negative publicity, and Twitter backlash, from a Presidential administration few people respect.
Colin Kaepernick has been without an NFL team for 210 days at the time of this writing. The 32 people who are responsible for this injustice are the NFL owners, who out of fear, ignorance or just pure stupidity have refused to grant Kaepernick a tryout.
There are currently over 100 quarterbacks on NFL rosters. At least half of them are not even close to the caliber of play of Kaepernick. When you take a hard look at some of the people who have gotten NFL quarterback jobs this season over Kaepernick, it’s a complete joke.
Journalist Martenzie Johnson of the website theundefeated.com chronicled 38 quarterbacks who have been signed over Kaepernick. They include career journeymen, people who have never taken an NFL snap and one guy who came out of retirement (Jay Cutler). A remarkable 21 of the 38 quarterbacks have never played a minute of an NFL game. And many of them are not likely to see the field this season.
That’s why I’m not buying Jerry Jones and the other NFL owners’ charade this past Sunday. Jones was one of seven NFL owners who donated to Trump’s inauguration. According to the Federal Elections Commission, Jones along with Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, Los Angeles Rams owner Stanley Kroenke, Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson and Houston Texans owner Bob McNair gave $1 million to the Trump inauguration, which took place in January.
Many of these same owners came out and publicly criticized Trump’s comments, but only did so for the sake of their businesses. The NFL is a multi-billion dollar industry and friends or not, no NFL owner is going to allow anyone to mess with that money train.
I support the NFL boycott for a number of reasons, in addition to the overt blackballing of Brotha Kaepernick.
Over the last few years the NFL product has declined. The lack of legitimate professional quarterbacks is the main reason play on the field is so bad, which is also the reason many people have a problem with Kaepernick not having a spot on an NFL roster. But you can also add the NFL’s own silly rules as having a role.
Instant replay is ruining the flow of the game and extending game times unnecessarily; penalties on passing plays have run amuck; none of us are able to determine what is a catch or a legal tackle anymore. Additionally, the public’s education on concussions and how they can lead to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that was recently found in the specimen brains of 110 of 111 former NFL players, has many people morally questioning what they are supporting.
Add to that the hypocrisy of the NFL in handling players charged with domestic violence and you have a recipe for a boycott on many levels.
Ironically, Trump may have given the NFL boycott the much-needed boost it had been missing the first three weeks. The message, which before was muddled for many, is now streamlined; the players are protesting social injustices that are being committed against Black people.
While I’m not a big fan of the rally around the leader concept in protesting or movements, you still need a face, message or a symbol everyone can relate to. That face should be the current Black NFL players.
If we’re boycotting because a Black man lost his job after he asserted his 1st Amendment right and spoke about Black people being treated unfairly by law enforcement and the justice system in general, then shouldn’t the Black men who are currently playing the game be leading the charge?
Even after one of their own, Seattle Seahawks player Michael Bennett was allegedly thrown to the ground, had a gun pointed at his head and had his civil rights violated by Las Vegas police earlier this month, there was still no mass protest by Black NFL players. But Trump’s S.O.B. comment hit in a place no Black man will ignore.
You can’t talk about a Black man’s momma. It’s inviting an ass whipping. It’s a shame that is what it took for the NFL players who, according to the League’s own numbers, has a racial makeup 70 percent African American, to be inspired to take a stand. Black men have the power in this $12 billion industry, which means they can make their own rules if they so choose.
The NFLPA union could have demanded that Kaepernick receive a fair deal months ago. It is my hope that next week some team will invite Kaepernick to join them on the sidelines as they kneel in solidarity with him. But I have a greater hope that Kaepernick is signed to a contract and will soon be kneeling in uniform with new teammates.
The greatest hope of all is that America truly acknowledges its longstanding history of social injustices that Black American citizens face. However, I am not optimistic any of this will ever happen.
COYDEN PALMER was a journalist in Chicago for 18 years covering the African American community. His work has appeared in The Final Call, Chicago Crusader and Citizen Newspapers, in addition he served as the Chicago correspondent for newsinblack.com. He is an alumnus of Chicago State University where he majored in African American Studies.