Boycotting the NFL: Colin Kaepernick and the right to resist

August 10, 2017 10:02 AM CDT BY CHAUNCEY K. ROBINSON

Professional American football player Colin Kaepernick used his platform as the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers to bring attention to the injustice of police brutality in the United States and the continued oppression of Black and brown people in the country. He made headlines last fall when he refused to stand for the national anthem and set off a string of actions protesting police abuse by athletes across the country.

The 29-year-old Kaepernick is currently paying a hefty price for his activism, as he can’t find a team willing to sign him. Fans, and a good amount of the general public, are calling foul on this recent development, and a campaign to boycott the National Football League (NFL) is now underway. Kaepernick’s fight to stay employed, even as he speaks out against systemic injustice, is an important battle that goes beyond sports.

A petition making the rounds on Change.org that uses the hashtag #NoKaepernickNoNFL already has (as of this writing) over 136,000 signatures toward its 150,000 goal. The organizers of the petition made the case for a boycott on the website:

“If you are appalled by this [Kaepernick not being signed], then show your power by boycotting the NFL until Kaepernick gets signed to a team… We understand NFL is very important to you. We also understand the purpose of Colin Kaepernick’s protest is FAR more important than any game you will ever watch. Simply put, if things stay the same for the way America—where “all men are created equal”—treats people of color, then your loved ones, friends, and children will eventually be affected as well… This situation shines a light on how much the NFL really cares about its Black athletes. It’s pretty much: Play for us, entertain us, make us money, and shut up.”

The protest is going beyond online petitions though, with Los Angeles civil rights activists planning demonstrations outside NFL stadiums. Najee Ali, leader of the local chapter of Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, announced that protests will take place outside the pre-season games of the L.A. Rams and L.A. Chargers. In an interview with LA Weekly, Ali said, “My attitude is Colin Kaepernick may not be Tom Brady, but you can’t tell me he shouldn’t be in training camp. He’s being blackballed for standing up for black and brown folks… The NFL is a form of the modern-day plantation. Most of the players are black and the ownership is all white. They’re treating Kaepernick like a runaway slave, making him an example so other players get the message: Do not get too uppity, or we will blackball you. The parallels are very much like slavery, except the players are million-dollar slaves under contract who have made billions for the NFL.”

Ali, and others, have a point, as statistics show the NFL is 70 percent Black. The population of people that predominate in this professional sport are part of a group disproportionately affected by police brutality in this country. A recent study revealed that Black men are three times as likely to die from police use of force. Yet, it would appear that the sports league considers any attention brought to this injustice a distraction from the game. The distraction argument doesn’t hold much weight, however, given the NFL is no stranger to hanging onto, and even standing by, controversial players past and present.

The New York Giants were completely fine signing kicker Josh Brown even after allegations surfaced that he had assaulted his wife. It wasn’t until even more damning evidence was revealed, in which Brown admitted to domestic violence, that the Giants released him from his contract last year.

Running back Joe Mixon was caught on video punching a woman in 2014, yet he was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals. A.J. Jefferson was a player arrested for domestic assault by strangulation. Although he was initially released by his then team, the Minnesota Vikings, he eventually found a home with the Seattle Seahawks. Not to mention Michael Vick, who was found guilty of illegal dog fighting, spent 21 months in federal prison, yet was able to become the NFL’s first two-time $100 million player in 2011.

In all these instances where so-called distractions by players occurred, fans and teammates were able to carry on with the game. Clearly, the claim that Kaepernick’s activist “distraction” is so egregious is an unfounded one. Kaepernick being unsigned also can’t be blamed on merit, as recent statistics show his skills and accomplishments are superior to half of the NFL backups now being signed.

“They’re treating Kaepernick like a runaway slave, making him an example so other players get the message: Do not get too uppity, or we will blackball you.”

If the arguments of distraction and meritocracy are disproven, then it becomes clear that Kaepernick is dealing with the fallout of taking a stand against systemic racism and inequality. By kneeling during the National Anthem, Kaepernick solidified his presence on the world stage of politics and popular culture. His distraction wasn’t in line with other football player controversies before him that involved arrests, domestic violence, and the like.

He also had the audacity to do so during the onset of the era of Trump, a time when those who cater to racism and hate have become emboldened. The administration now occupying the White House has given space for such behavior to rise to the surface.

Donald Trump has gone on record condemning Kaepernick’s protest and said that teams might not be signing the football player for fear of getting bullied on Twitter by the president himself. Trump used Kaepernick’s current unemployment in a recent speech in Louisville, Kentucky to push a twisted narrative about how standing up for the American flag equates to patriotism.

Trump clearly sees Kaepernick’s protests as something that goes beyond sports. Those who resist the hateful rhetoric of Trump’s administration should do so as well, and they should defend Kaepernick’s right to protest.

What Kaepernick has decided to do is utilize his platform to take on a system that would rather keep him quiet while it profits from his labor. His resistance to efforts to silence him—and his fight for his and others’ freedom from oppression—is not unlike what many are going through these days: struggling to maintain a livelihood while pushing for progress, whether it be on the job or in the streets.

The stakes are high because if Kaepernick goes without being signed, it could send a signal that standing up for human rights and justice is a battle with too high a cost. It will also prove that corporations, like the NFL, are allowed to use Black and brown bodies for profit, but dismiss them when it comes to the brutality they face under a system embedded with racism and oppression. Neither of these messages are good ones in a time where continued attacks on basic rights by the current administration in Washington occur almost daily.

Kaepernick chose to kneel for justice, along with donating to charities and starting programs that combat police brutality, and it seems only fitting that fans, and the general public, take a symbolic stand with him for his right to resist. If we don’t do so, then Trump—and those that believe in his ideologies—win.

Even if you don’t like sports, this is one “game” you can’t afford to sit out.

Via People’s World

Black empowerment is not the same as white supremacy, Donald Trump

August 24, 2017 9:55 AM CDT BY CHAUNCEY K. ROBINSON

Holy false equivalencies, Batman! In the aftermath of the tragic events of Charlottesville, where white supremacists and Nazis descended onto the University of Virginia inciting hate speech that would eventually lead to death and numerous injuries, Donald Trump did not use this as an opportunity to truly condemn white supremacy and Ku Klux Klan terrorism. Instead, the so-called President of the United States buckled down on vilifying the media and his dangerous rhetoric claiming there was blame on “both sides” when it came to the violence. Trump, like many of his fellow right-wing politicians, tried to reinforce the false narrative that left groups and anti-racist organizations, like Black Lives Matter, are equivalent to the Nazis and white supremacists in their level of extremism. That is just not the case, Mr. President.

Rhetoric like this has an insidious two-fold agenda. First, it normalizes white supremacy as simply a case of one group (whites) seeking representation and fair treatment. It lets white supremacists off the hook. Secondly, it vilifies movements like Black Lives Matter and others who actually seek to protect the rights of the marginalized against real systemic oppression. Trump’s rhetoric says that struggling against racism and state violence is essentially the same thing as the hateful Nazi and white supremacist goal of wanting to place all other races of people below one so-called supreme race.

Neither point of this ideologically driven agenda can be accepted. Both are detrimental to movements that aim to combat unjust racial discrimination against people of color in our society. Thus, it is imperative that people reject this rhetoric, and see it for what it truly is. It is a backdoor way of condemning the much needed fight for racial justice being carried on by people of color and allies. To accept this false equivalency is to play right into the hands of Nazism and white supremacy.

In Trump’s initial statement regarding Charlottesville, he stated, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides. [This has been] going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. A long, long time.”

Make no mistake, Trump is not referring to the “long, long time” of systemic racism against people of color in this country that has gone on in various forms, whether it be slavery, Jim Crow, or police brutality.

No, in this sentence, and the tone-deaf speeches that have followed, Trump lumps the calling out of racial oppression (what Black Lives Matter does) into the same pile as the call for subjugating other races under the so-called white race (what Nazis and the KKK call for). It is almost equivalent to one saying, “Those fighting racism are just as much to blame as those being racist.”

Trump is not alone of course in pushing of this false narrative. The vilification of Black Lives Matter and groups seeking racial justice for Black people and others of color is nothing new. In the case of BLM, since its initial inception around the deaths of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and too many other Black lives lost to police violence, a theme has emerged from the right regarding portrayal of this movement. The right depicts it as a movement of violence and so-called “anti-whiteness.”

The National Rifle Association, as recently as this past July, released a video heavily playing up the idea that BLM and other left groups cause disorder and division. The video stated, “All to make them march, make them protest, make them scream racism… To smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports, bully and terrorize the law-abiding—until the only option left is for the police to do their jobs and stop the madness.”

After Charlottesville, Arkansas Republican State Rep. Bob Ballinger zealously joined Trump’s effort. He tweeted: “#WhiteNationalists, #BLM, #KKK, #Natzis, #Antifa, etc, all spew hate and violence. Reject them and their hateful ideologies. #DividedWeFall”  These are only the most recent condemnations, but they are in the company of a long line of similar sentiments. Sentiments that don’t hold much weight when actual facts and statistics are placed against them.

The violence and chaos that have been attributed to Black Lives Matter and other left-leaning groups pale in comparison to violence rooted in white supremacy. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), as recently as 2015, 38 percent of all extremist killings were attributed to white supremacists. Left extremism accounted for just 1 percent of all killings. “Black extremism” wasn’t even a factor.

What this data means, as explained by the ADL, is that the 38 percent of killings could be directly attributed to people committed to the ideology of white supremacy. And no, detractors do not get to claim that violence perpetrated by Black people in large cities can be attributed to Black Lives Matter, because unlike the statistical data that can directly identify white supremacists in this research, it is nearly impossible to connect inner city violence to anyone aligned with BLM. The violence does not compare, and neither do the mission and goals.

The fight for racial equality of Black people is a struggle against oppression that has been rooted in the United States since its inception. Without slave labor, there would be no United States. After the Civil War, Black lives were negotiated away in exchange for political gains. The infamous Compromise of 1877, which resulted in the failure of Radical Reconstruction, ushered in Jim Crow segregation—a system that we continue to feel the remnants of today.

Add to that the prison industrial complex, which has Blacks and Latinos incarcerated at a substantially higher rate than whites, mixed with the disproportionate police violence suffered by Black people in the U.S., and it is clear to see why BLM and others are calling for justice. The slogan “Black Lives Matter” of course does not mean white lives and other lives don’t matter. The movement to protect Black lives is not in direct opposition to protecting white lives. The same, however, cannot be said for white supremacy and “white pride.”

Let us be clear, white supremacy and white nationalism are not about some sort of  “white pride,” or  speaking out against any real systemic mistreatment against white people based on race. That is not what is going on here, despite Fox News reporters like Pete Hegseth, claiming young white men are out in the streets because they feel persecuted and like “second-class citizens.”

White supremacy is rooted in the very idea that non-whites should not be afforded the same rights and privileges as white people. When white supremacists and Nazis are out in the streets chanting “Blood and Soil,” and “Jews will not replace us,” they are not calling for equality for all. They are calling for keeping the status quo—which means the systemic oppression of people of color and the extension of privileges for white people.

The defense of Confederate statues, some of which were only erected during the time of the Civil Rights era as a response to the fight for race equality, represents the glorification of a time when Black people were seen as three-fifths human.

The idea that white people are being persecuted under this system because they are white is a myth that needs to be rebuked. The advancement of racial equality is not a detriment to white people. White men and women in the streets fighting for some misguided right to be (or stay) the master race is fundamentally not the same as BLM and other groups fighting for marginalized peoples’ right to exist.

In a time when we have a U.S. president making erratic speeches claiming the media are the ones dividing the country, and that “our history” is being taken away, all while teasing that he may pardon a sheriff who practiced judicial discrimination against Latinos, it is imperative that people speak against racism and white supremacy.

That means we must be clear on what it is, and what it isn’t. And what it isn’t is the same thing as Black Lives Matter and anti-racism movements, or any movement fighting for true equality and justice. The Klan-sympathizing president wants you to think differently. He also stares directly into solar eclipses. Don’t trust this guy, or anyone who pushes his rhetoric. They’re the ones perpetuating fake news.

Via People’s World