“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he said. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
— Colin Kaepernick
My disgust with the state of this nation knows no bounds.
I do not watch American football. I have not since I was a child. I have no interest in it. Sports absorb resources I think could be better spent making our nation smarter, more physically fit, more capable. What if we spent those same billions we spend on stadiums, beer, sports franchises, and cable networks, on teachers, caregivers and parents struggling to bring opportunity to their kids across a culturally-bereft nation? How much better off would we be as a nation?
I see football, in particular, as brutal, violent, destructive game with no merit in it. Worse, I see it as a form of entertainment which has intrinsically no value the moment the event begins or ends. Once a football game ends, its intrinsic value, promoting gratuitous sex, overpriced, watered-down beer, mass produced, socially-sanctioned, economic and culturally-destructive violence ends.
Players burn out their bodies, tear apart their muscles, their ligaments, their joints, their spines, their skulls and the seat of their intellect, their brains, causing injuries that in no way ever truly heal; said injuries are smoothed over with drugs, with bravado, with chutzpah, with peer pressure, with millions of dollars, until the player, under the toxic use of various painkillers agrees he can no longer force his body to participate.
Left with a wreck of a body, he will stagger through the remainder of his life, often barely able to move, with no surcease from the pain, and more often than not, with a brain permanently left scarred and unresponsive to the world as he once knew it.
A football game has no real value to the world. No one benefits if football is played or not. The world does not stop spinning on its axis. Except to the owners of the teams. For them, football is life. It affords them a degree of luxury held by few Humans who do so little and yet have so much.
Only the overseers and slave-owners of yore lived so well on the labors of so many, while doing so little, for so long.
Players are reminded of their obligation. Their indebtedness to the kindness of their overseers, how lucky they are to destroy their bodies, collapse their minds, erode their humanity, for the opportunity to earn millions they will never truly enjoy.
They are told: “You are lucky you can play a game for a living.” As if they were playing cards or dice, rather than crushing their heads together with the force of a minivan crippling a pedestrian, as if this were some kind of benefit to their existence.
While the players may make millions, they shall never truly enjoy, in the full possession of their faculties, in comparison to what the owners earn from this Faustian deal, the players essentially play for free, their currency for participation is nothing less than their very lives.
A football game cannot improve the world in any way.
When a game ends, there is only loss. Quality of life diminishes for everyone who played, a timid toxin building up until the inevitable collapse of their reason, their mind, their rage, their bodies, their lives crushed under the weight of this inevitable, invisible poison.
A football game’s statistics have no intrinsic value, period. Save to show how much brutality a player endures for his pittance. His slave wages for each broken bone, shattered emotion, and ultimately wasted intellect.
A football game will never cure cancer. Or any ill of this society. Yes, it is play, but a dark form of play, one that promotes the worst in humanity, a thirst for violence, a gladiatorial hold-over from when men battled to the death for the amusement of their fellows.
A football game participants offer no real benefits to society. Yes, I said it. Anything football can teach you, something else could that doesn’t cost you your quality of life in thirty years or less. Sometimes far less.
A football game enriches the owners of the team far more than its players, who will bear the brunt of the scars, injuries, brain damage, reduced quality of life; those players are little more than well-paid, violence machines, allowed to run amok in society, beating their girlfriends, wives and children as long as they can make a profit for the wealthy owners. All sins can be forgiven in the name of socialized violence.
A football game will never create a significant change in society.
Now, the President, sorry state of the office that it has become, has chosen to tell Black men their quiet protest of the national anthem, a signal of shame to those who know its history, and the history of this nation, to tell those men they cannot sit.
They cannot kneel.
They cannot resist supplicating themselves to this standard which does not protect all men in this nation equally.
A statement any sane citizen of this nation knows to be true. The fact so many vehemently oppose this statement shows the sad state of our collective mental health.
That the President of these United States, flawed though they may be, with a history of questionable decisions, murderous intentions, and often reprehensible results, should now feel compelled to stand against the very Constitution for which he should hold most dear, and tell these men: Nay. You MUST stand.
Against your Constitutional rights, which as Black men you did not acquire in a timely fashion and had to fight for every single opportunity to be treated as men, you must now, stand in service of an anthem not written for you, to a nation which left you in bondage for one hundred years after obtaining White freedom, and say to you once more: We own you.
You have no freedom to resist our rules, our demands, our insistence on your subservience. To hell with your protests. If Black men are to die so this nation might live, then it is the price of admission to be in this nation. To live in this nation, to work in this nation and by God’s glory and our national anthem for YOU to die in this nation.
At the hands of the police, if necessary. They are the sanctioned officials designated with your capture or your summary execution in the commission of their duties.
If you should die while this happens, it is the ordained will of this nation. It has always been so.
America is built on the Black mortar holding each and every institution in place. Your lives are the substance by which this nation has always lead the world. Now that machines can replace you, the police have been given sanction to deal with you as they see fit.
And will receive paid vacation after each and every act of summary justice. They will never be prosecuted. They will never be held accountable. They will enjoy their two weeks of paid vacation after every act of judicially-accepted murder.
He will say, likely from his golden throne at three AM, using social media as his mouthpiece and bully pulpit, there is no need for anyone to protest and in a few weeks, such protest will no longer be allowed. His rich friends will see to it.
A policy will be enacted which will make a rule for you to no longer have the choice to sit, kneel or make any form of public protest. Because White Trump, white Jesus, and the White leadership of the NFL have decreed it so.
This is Trump’s America. A place of fear. A place of public retribution. A place where any form of dissent, no matter how quiet, no matter how respectful, no matter how important has a place in this White nation, venerating Whiteness, the power, the authority and the majesty of these United States.
“God Bless America!” which has come to mean in no uncertain terms, particularly if you are a dissident marching on a city, protesting the removal of Confederate statues, murdering and terrorizing counter-protesters, while promoting the idea of your superiority and the social fabric’s inability to “replace” you with the slogan of “White Power!”
But in a good way. Not like when the Nazis say it.
Colin Kaepernick, I learned to spell your name once I understood your message. When I teased it from the lies, the conflation, the misrepresentations so common among American politics. So few seem to be able to make the same effort.
You were speaking to a world which fears us for no apparent reason. You hoped by kneeling in supplication, to show respect for those Brothers and Sisters, murdered by police officers, because of the socialized brutality I have explained above.
Your heart was in the right place. And despite how you have been treated, your brothers in arms, knelt in your place.
They rallied with you and said: “This injustice should not stand. We do not protest the flag, though we could for its history of injustices. We do not protest the anthem, though we could, for its hidden messages of racism.”
“No sir, we protest the injustice of murder without trial. We protest murder with recourse. We protest murder without accountability. We protest murder without remorse of any kind.”
Your brothers knelt with you. Children knelt with you. And in most parts of a nation whose conflicted soul recognized your truth, a nation knelt as well.
Only those people whose shriveled souls, drunk with power, with wealth, with a lack of humanity cannot hear your words. Cannot see the message being sent. Those venal men must have a comeuppance. If this nation is to ever heal, is to ever grow, is to ever recognize what it will take for all of us to be free, stronger measures must be taken.
We must ALL resist. If money can force our compliance, then one day they will skip using money and just use force.
Such a day is coming.
Sooner than you or I could imagine. And as much as it pains me to say, it may come on the tip of a nuclear weapon from a nation who recognizes a despot when they see one. Most likely because they see themselves in the transformation of our nation. The loss of the right to protest, the loss of a responsible media, the rise of the religious right, the promotion of secular racism under the guise of the Alt-Right. Despots recognize a climate change because for them, what is happening here, has already happened there.
I salute you football players who made the effort to protest a principle worth fighting for. Black Americans have said and you have heard them, Colin.
They said: “Please stop murdering us.”
America has responded: “No. Stand up and salute the flag. Shut the fuck up and die as needed.”
What message has ever been delivered more clearly? What bullet has shattered a life with more finality?
What single bullet has ever laid waste to a nation with such force. The force of a President remonstrating the citizens of the nation he leads forcing them to surrender their Constitutionally-protected right to protest, of all things, the very foundation which set this nation on a course to existence in the first place: injustice.
It appears I may have been incorrect. It appears a football game can change the world…
Mike Ditka Just Showed Why the NFL's National Anthem Protests Are Necessary
Mike Ditka is a Hall of Fame football player and coach who made a damn good cameo in Will Ferrell's Kicking and…
“Like many people — including the president — Ditka has conflated the vehicle for their protest with the subject of the protest. (Again, the players are not protesting the anthem or the flag, and their stated intention has nothing to do with disrespecting the armed forces. No player has criticized the troops.) But Ditka also took things to a new level of unreality.”
“There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of.”
— Mike Ditka, Hall of Fame football player and coach
Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning essayist, author and journalist for The Good Men Project, Krypton Radio, various anthologies and websites which fancy themselves having discriminating tastes in speculative fiction, non-fiction journalism and critical thinking.