May 23, 2018, all black players of the NFL were reminded they are the property of white owners. The same NFL commissioner who barely believed chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) was an actual condition which can be caused by football head injuries, held on to the tape of Ray Rice assaulting his fiancee on an elevator camera, announced a new ‘policy’ that will fine players who fail to stand on the field to stand during the “Star Spangled Banner.” The same ‘policy’ stipulates players who choose not to stand may now remain in the locker room until the anthem is finished.
There is no mistake. What began as a protest to bring light and solidarity to those experiencing police brutality, is now an attempt to remind NFL players — black NFL players, who represent a dominating 68% of this organization, –who they belong to. The NFL, at the heart of it, is a business. It is geared towards entertainment and profit. In the age of Black Lives Matter and the protest of Colin Kaepernick, we know the profit of the NFL has diminished due to solidarity of protest with Kaepernick. I, for one, and my family, have not watched an NFL game in well over a year. For those taking notes, this is how systemic racism works: it permeates every aspect of any particular system in order to achieve social control over those deemed less than.
Colin didn’t have the wistful social ignorance Tom Brady professes with a MAGA hat in his locker — and I’m glad Colin is aware of what is going on. I’m glad Colin’s protest began to spread. I’m glad the owners are mad. I’m glad the young men these old white men pay handsomely are aware of the world outside their gated communities, nice cars, and locker rooms. I’m glad these owners are a-fluster. I’m glad social consciousness makes old white men with money nervous.
However, in the throws of this penalty and policy, the fact remains since the start of Kap’s protest, the shift has gone from police brutality to disrespect of the nation and what it represents. This is how racism works–it takes reality and skews it. Racism dehumanizes those seen as the other along with their plight, and elevates things which do not matter.
This protest was never about the flag. It never will be about a flag.
It’s not about the anthem. It will never be about the anthem.
This fight is, and remains to be, the problem of police brutality, police-sanctioned murder and the lack of police accountability. The irony is, this flag is revered as the leverage used by we the people to be heard, to indeed protest, and bring light to what is deemed unfair, unjust or harmful. In Colin Kaepernick doing just this, exercising his rights in the face of the NFL owners and fans, the white owners deemed him a problem because he was a hindrance to profit margins and other sales. Black lives do matter in light of all the green dollars to be gained or lost.
Colin is a pariah of the NFL because he decided to possess consciousness in the face of money, prestige, and power. He will remain a pariah for the same reason the bodies of black men and women swung as strange fruit in Southern trees: a warning. In agreeing unanimously with this policy, we see the owners allegiance to the appeasement of self, organization, and profit. Fifteen-yard penalties are going to be assessed if players kneel, fines will be levied, and why? To comfort white fragility? For those who still want to protest, they can choose to stay in the locker room. This is the racial slap on the wrist, which will be the forerunner to being cut and blackballed.
It is no different than any other type of manipulative extortion. The players are reminded of the work they have done, what promise their career holds, and what is at stake. This is the bridle or muzzle to those with the most power, most influence who can effect change simply by presence and voice. They are bribed with money, comfort and the promise of ease, comfort and that ‘uncomfortableness’ not coming near them or what they hold dear.
Capitalism, oppression and white privilege are the pillars that hold up the ideal being touted as policy. For the Jerry Joneses, and Robert Krafts of the NFL, the concern for their black players, their players of color, revolves around numbers: sales from jerseys, wins, playoff chances, yards gained, yards lost, and INT/TD ratios. Once the jerseys are taken off, the game stats tallied and they go to their homes, they are still black men – -in nicer cars. The money they make, the neighborhoods they move to or contribute to does not negate the fact police officers are far more likely to target, pull over, or accost them for simply being black.
But as of May 23, that is the only color that matters. The NFL wants to stay in the black, no matter how many necks of black men they have to stay on to remain an entertainment juggernaut, and no matter how many black men they have to silence to meet profit, or how racist the practice of penalizing freedom is. The only colors that matter are green and black — anything else, anyone else, is seen as inconsequential.
Black lives are only profitable to the NFL when they are profitable. Black lives do not matter to the NFL, are not protected by the NFL, and the NFL could care less about the outcry, as long as those numbers which keep them in the black are maintained. The next move belongs to the players.
What will matter more — The attention to justice and solidarity or paychecks? Kap was willing to speak truth to power, but will anyone add to his voice or will all he sought just be an echo?