I’m not a sport person. I don’t claim to know the first thing about NCAA basketball, NFL football and my wife who coaches our daughter in softball, has to explain baseball rules whenever we watch. I’m a Trekkie. Want to know what a warp core breech is or how many times the Enterprise has been destroyed? I’m your man! But, I’m also a Blerd (Black Nerd) and as a black man and father of biracial children in America, I keep informed on social justice issues. And one thing recently has made me care about the sport you call Football. Which isn’t soccer and plays like rugby, but I digress.
Recently, there has been a lot in the news about Colin Kaepernick’s silent protest against the oppression faced by black Americans and other people of color in the United States. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” he said, referring to high-profile incidents in which police officers have not been prosecuted for inappropriate uses of deadly force. He’s been mocked, ridiculed and called everything but a child of God by a wide range of people. They’ve burned his jersey in effigy (chilling when you think of the history of Lynching in this country.) Sportscasters weighing in that he should just shut up and play. His only value to them is entertainment, Black bodies have always been commodified and consumed in America, we are not allowed to have nor express an opinion. Wealth and Celebrity change nothing. Look no further than the Birther movement against our POTUS for proof. But something quite unexpected is happening.
Not only have his other teammates joined him in protest, players thought the NFL have as well. His boss, the 49ers owner, instead of sanctioning him, joined him in matching the one million dollar gift he’s making to programs encouraging dialogue between Bay Area police and the communities they serve and other charites. His jersey is selling out everywhere. And not to burn them.
Sunday Night Football coinciding with the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks was televised worldwide. His protest was the elephant in the room that could no longer be ignored. He’s inspiring families and kids wearing his jersey and following his example. Also, people are questioning, some for the first time, what are the lyrics and history of our national anthem? Who was Francis Scott Key and what were his views on slavery? Did you know there are lyrics that glorify slavery? Why is this song so important if it celebrates this? Why are there so many victims of police brutality? What can I do to help?
“It’s not a moment, it’s a movement.”
He’s the Katniss Everdeen of the NFL. (Warned you, Blerd)
His critics, however, aren’t laughing anymore.
Now comes the backlash. The fragility of some white people and their black friend never ceases to amaze. Forcing shallow ideas about patriotism down the throats of other people’s children is not a good look for any educational institution, particularly in Virginia, Capital of the Confederate States of America, nor Virginia Tech which was segregated until 1953.
There are counter protests by black apologists like Cam (we sick boss?) Newton and whatever all those brothers on the Seahawks were doing Sunday Night. A Chorus Line number? Good on them! Open debate in the public square is something humans have done since ancient Ur, Timbuktu, Athens, Egypt. Healthy exchanges of ideas are what help minds grow & form new opinions. Questioning the status quo moves great societies forward and students challenging why things are the way they are should be encouraged.
That’s why I find what you did in November, which I learned about only yesterday, pushing your views on your players and forcing them to salute, so sinister. You’re in Virginia, not North Korea.
I’ve got no beef bringing Veterans to share wisdom with the young brothers, there’s a lot they can learn from each other, but you’ve only done so with an ego driven, ulterior motive.
To shame them into compliance to standing at attention, as if they are soldiers during the National Anthem so in your words “you don’t embarrass me.”
This is shockingly inappropriate and dangerous for a free society to condone. I thought to myself. “What a sad, petty use of these great men & women you claim to respect. What a squandered opportunity for growth and intergenerational learning.” What is the the lesson you wished to convey using these veterans as a shield for your contempt for players rights? You can’t shame students into compliance with your ideas of what patriotism is. That’s not freedom, that’s fascist. It’s certainly not your role. There are racially and culturally diverse Veterans that agree with Kapernicks protest. Are they not as patriotic? Anne Frank said “People can tell you to keep your mouth shut, but that doesn’t stop you from having your own opinion.” She was right, history is full of people that loved flags, symbols and slogans more than citizens.
Consider this Coach. Many of these players are the descendants of enslaved Africans. They already know what time it is Jack. How ironic that by lecturing them about how grateful they should be for the chairs they sit in, you only make Colin Kaepernick’s point about America’s shameful past and continued inequality. It’s not your job to force them to accept your idea of patriotism.
But man to man I’ll give you a short civics lesson:
Nowhere did it say any civilian is compelled to stand at attention, memorize the pledge of allegiance, or The Star Spangled Banner, but what it does clearly say is “support and defend the Constitution”. The First Amendment is what the veterans you assembled swore to protect. Not chairs…
What is it with you conservatives and chairs anyway?
Those who want to put this fire out its too late. Victor Hugo said “there is no army more powerful than an idea who’s time has come.” Perhaps “America the Beautiful” which is well respected, melodic, (Ray Charles sings the hell out of that song) non-miltaristic, inclusive and has none of the racist baggage of The Star Spangled Banner should be our new Anthem? Times change.
Here’s is my suggestion, save your condescending, ‘Scared Straight’ tactics and simply talk with your players. Ask them non-confrontationally what they think of Colin Kaepernick’s protest? What kinds of interactions have they personally had with police? Do you know? Why not? If a small group of ten year olds can find the courage to protest in front of thier entire school, surely you can stand in solidarity with those players who may eventually choose to protest as well. Maybe surprise a few of your colleuges and join them. Talk to them like young men, not children. They respect you. Be worthy of that respect.
I was an educator for 20 years and a father for 9. You’d be amazed the things you can learn if you shut your mouth, open you mind and your heart.
Coach. I don’t know you. I assume you’re a stand up guy. You have a unique opportunity as a white man and authority figure to reach out to the young black athletes in your charge, Don’t fear to exchange ideas and opinions, is this Virgina Tech a university or not? Take this time to work on cohesion between all your players, black, white & brown. It’s not too late. Be man enough to leave your ego at the door. Set a good example.
Or, continue to lecture them, stifle dissent, use their talents on the court to enrich yourself, rob them of their rights as American citizens and become another cog in the machine to exploit and oppress them. Is “just shut up and play” who you really are? I assume it’s a coaches responsibility for your team to play better basketball? But isn’t it your duty as a mentor to help these players become better men? How can you accomplish this is if you have no clue what their daily struggles may be or where these Young Bloods are coming from?
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
I’m going back to not caring about sports.
Live Long and Prosper,