Yes, yes, I know, no one will notice if I don’t attend a National Football League game this season or watch one on television. And the sky won’t fall if I refuse to read about those games in my daily sports section, listen to sports talk radio or discuss the seasonal ups and downs of the 49ers and the Raiders with my cousin or my father-in-law. Also, I know that the wallets of the fat cat NFL owners will not be thinned by my withdrawal, and the advertising revenue will continue to overfill their coffers as well as the sales of caps, jerseys and logo embossed gadgets.
I don’t care. I’m really pissed off. Colin Kaepernick is out of work for daring to speak out against police violence.
I remember when Muhammed Ali made his heroic stand again the draft and the war in Vietnam. The media heaped abuse on him, and the fat cats of the boxing world stripped him of his title. He was out of the ring for three years. Not long after, at the Olympic ceremonies in Mexico City, Tommie Smith and John Carlos had the audacity to raise their fists against racism. They were expelled from the Olympics and vilified at home. A popular magazine called them “petulant.”
Times change; kings do not.
Fifty years later, a Black quarterback decides to kneel during the national anthem in silent protest. The bozos go nuts: the nerve of that guy! Doesn’t he know this is the land of the free and the home of the brave? They burn effigies of Kaepernick outside stadiums where he is playing. They light up the talk show lines and social media, and in an erudite interpretation of the constitutional protection of free speech, their orange haired Bozo-in-Chief says, “maybe he should find a country that works better for him.”
Months pass and Kaepernick remains unemployed as mediocre quarterbacks continue to sign lucrative new contracts with the 32 teams of the NFL for the 2017 season. The team owners in their invisible white sheets and their stooge, Roger Goodell, insist to the media that Kaepernick is not being hired because he “doesn’t have the ability,” not because he dared to protest. Even the legendary quarterback Joe Montana, to his everlasting shame, provides cover for the bosses, stating in July that Kaepernick’s inability to find a job “comes down to his play as much as anything.”
Say it ain’t so, Joe.
Let’s look at some stats. Sports people love stats; we live and die on yards rushing, completions, TDs and interceptions to name a few. So let’s start with the fact that Colin Kaepernick has an 88.9 passer rating and his interception rate in the 2nd best in NFL history. Not too shabby, huh? Now, let’s look at some of the quarterbacks signed while Colin waited by the phone. Remember, boys and girls, it’s all about winning and making money with these guys, unless there’s some other issue like a Black guy stirring up a fuss.
So, here we go: Austin Davis, signed by the Seahawks, hasn’t played a game since 2015; David Olson, now working for the Ravens, was a big “star’ in the Indoor Football League (wow!); Mike Glennon, hired by the Bears, has thrown 11 passes in two years; Josh McCown, now with his eighth team, the Jets, is 2-20 over the past three years; Landry Jones of the Steelers has made two starts in each of the last two seasons, and the 49ers’ own Matt Barkly threw 14 interceptions in seven games last year and has a passer rating of 63.7.
Okay, with all this evidence related to quarterback ability, we’re talking black balling and lockout, familiar tactics by owners for those who understand the history of race and labor relations. The teams of the NFL are not unlike plantations and their owners are absolute rulers. They want to keep this system intact. They shake down cities for tax breaks and free public land. They contribute to Republicans over Democrats at a ratio of 40 to 1. They promoted a Jim Crow system for decades, keeping black athletes out of football’s marquee position, the quarterback.
Is anyone surprised that they would lockout the dissenter, Colin Kaepernick? Kaepernick is a threat to the wellbeing of the National Football League plantation system and the wealth of its fat cat owners.
Aside from the fact that we live in a society where there are still people who can’t accept the notion of a Black man taking a principled stand, there is the fact that 70 per cent of the players in the NFL are Black, as well as 50-70 per cent of college football players. The money made at the top is on the backs of the Black players. Let’s say that again: the money made at the top is on the backs of the Black players. If the Black players on the plantation rebel, the whole financial house of cards–from big buck college programs all the way to the pros–will collapse.
The next Black rebel could be protesting about concussions, that Big-Costly-NFL-Secret, so the present Kaepernick must be shut down to send an intimidating message to any future Kaepernicks who object to the system.
Just like Muhammed Ali. Just like Tommie Smith, John Carlos and other Black athletes like Paul Robeson, Jack Johnson and Bill Russell who decided speak out.
Over fifty years ago, Hollywood outdid itself in the making of “Inherit the Wind,” a film based on the notorious 1927 trial of a teacher who dared to teach Darwinism in a Tennessee school. The teacher was defended by Clarence Darrow who is called Henry Drummond in the movie. At one dramatic point during the trial, Drummond, played by Spencer Tracy, sums up the situation in a statement which I think applies today to that multi-billion dollar cultural behemoth known as the NFL :
“As long as the prerequisite for that shining paradise is ignorance, bigotry and hate, I say the hell with it.”
Don Santina is a long time, if episodic, contributor to Counterpunch. He can be reached at Lindey89@aol.com.