“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” – Benjamin Franklin
As the new NFL season kicks off, quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been denied a chance of playing by team owners and management.
In taking the knee last season during playing of the national anthem Kaepernick has paid a heavy price. Yet all he did was protest against the injustices of the criminal justice system. Especially police brutality and racial profiling against blacks.
Contrary to what some of his critics and detractors have said Kaepernick (known to his teammates as “Kap”) is still a decent NFL quarterback worthy of a starting position. At times in Kap’s career he was superlative, especially from 2012-2014 under coach Jim Harbaugh for the San Francisco 49ers.
Yes, Kap’s form had dipped (following surgery) and he started last season as a reserve quarterback for the same San Francisco 49ers. But by the end of the season Kap had won back his starting place. He played well despite working under head coach Chip Kelly who was fired due to poor results.
I admire Kap for taking such a brave and unpopular stance. In an era when sport stars and other high profile figures have been criticised for their lack of genuine political and social activism Kap has stood up courageously. Kap’s protest was non-violent.
Do I agree with all of Kap’s comments? No. But it is so refreshing to see a young man like Kap speaking up.
In the UK you hardly ever witness British sporting stars taking the lead on any activist stances. When there is ample need for such figures to front up and set an example. In Jamaica such stars stay far away from the activist platform. Sad.
If there was one criticism I had of Usain Bolt was, despite declaring his love for all things British, he said nothing on the harsh immigration controls stacked against Jamaicans hoping to visit the UK. The only time Bolt spoke out on an UK based issue was on his taxes!
I admire Kap for protesting during the Obama presidency in particular. The mainstream media and liberal activists kept their coverage/outrage over racial profiling issues to a dignified minimum, so as not to upset the Obama administration.
What I find strange is the lack of genuine support from high profile black figures who usually love to join a political bandwagon. They all seem scared to support Kap for fear of harming their own financial interests and lucrative sponsorship deals.
However, I feel that some on the left were angry when Kap called out Hillary Clinton (as he did Trump) during the presidential campaign.
“Both are proven liars and it almost seems like they’re trying to debate who’s less racist.”
Some in Conservative circles were ecstatic when former sports stars Jim Brown and George Foreman publicly slammed Kap for his actions. Brown accused Kap over defaming the US flag (which Kap never did).
Brown also added that Kap needed to decide whether to be an activist or an NFL player. Is Brown implying an activist cannot have a job?
Brown shows a high degree of hypocrisy given during the 1960s he too was a respected civil rights activist whilst being an NFL player and subsequently a Hollywood actor.
But former baseball legend Hank Aaron has come out in support for Kap. So too Tommie Smith. Aaron said he will boycott watching any NFL games this season.
The stance taken by Kap has similarities to the black power salute by US sprinters John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 Olympic Games.
Back then Smith and Carlos were banned from athletics for life for their stance by Olympics chief Avery Bundage an admire of Adolf Hilter.
In his auto bio “Silent Gesture, Tommie Smith explained how he felt let down at the time of his stance in 1968 by a number of black athletes including Jim Brown and George Foreman. Smith stated other black athletes such as former 100m world record holder Jim Hines blamed him for loss of earnings.
Even NFL team LA Rams withdrew from drafting Smith to play for them.
Today, Tommie Smith and John Carlos are now revered as icons and are feted all over the globe. I attended such an event in Smith’s honour in London 2011.
Will Kap endure the same fate as Smith and Carlos? Call it what you like but Kap is being banned dressed up as “poor form”, “unpatriotic” & “distraction”.
There are 32 clubs in the NFL. Each team has up to 3 quarterbacks on the roster meaning there are roughly 96 in the league. Yet no place can be found for Kap who is one of the top 20 quarterbacks of the last 5 years.
New York Jets is one NFL team with a consistent record of recruiting and developing third-rate quarterbacks. Some NFL experts do not expect the Jets to win a single game this season due to the club’s current quarterback deficiencies.
But there is no chance of the Jets hiring Kap as their quarterback or even as a reserve given the owner – Woody Johnson – is a Trump supporter and current US ambassador to the UK. Trump came out earlier this year and predicted with confidence that no NFL team would hire Kap.
Kap’s charity efforts has been noble and well documented. .He recently donated $800k to a number causes relating to young people. Last week Kap donated $33k to assist former incarcerated men and women prepare for employment.
The hypocrisy of the NFL is stark. There have been numerous NFL players who have committed serious criminal offences such as drinking driving & killing a pedestrian (Donté Stallworth), child abuse (Adrian Peterson), animal abuse (Michael Vick) and domestic abuse (Greg Hardy); yet all were given contracts after serving suspensions and/or convictions.
Greg Hardy was hired by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones who felt the player deserved a second chance following his domestic abuse issues. Yet this week Jones warned his players that they will be fired if they make any Kap-like protest.
Then there is quarterback Brock Osweiler, who in 2016 moved from the Denver Broncos to the Houston Texans in a $72million deal in 2016.
Brock was so awful that the Texans gave up on him last season and off went Brock to the Cleveland Browns this summer. But before Brock could even play a single game Cleveland quickly moved him on – back to the Denver Broncos. Brock will be paid $775,000 by the Broncos and $15.2 million by the Browns.
Hank Aaron Supports Kap
One NFL player who has consistently supported Kap’s activist stance is Michael Bennett of the Seattle Seahawks. After the recent events in Charlottesville Bennett said he will not stand for the National Anthem at NFL games. On 26 August Bennett had his own frightening experience with the police in Las Vegas which he described in an emotional tweet.
“for doing nothing more than simply being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time” and the police threatening to “blow his fucking head off”.
Police brutality is still real for black people in the US and UK. Black Canadians have amplified similar concerns.
Racial profiling against black people by the police, the wider society in the US and UK is just the norm. It is so common in the UK as you are prejudged before you can say boo.
Yet there are times when you have stand up and speak out. If others are upset by your (non-violent) stance, then tough.
Many Republican and Conservative supporters would have us believe that some black people are over reacting to the issue of racial profiling.
But in the US Congress itself, Republican Senator Tim Scott spoke earlier this year of the numerous racial profiling encounters he has faced; even on Capitol Hill.
“”The (police) officer looked at me, a little attitude, and said, ‘The pin I know — you I don’t. Show me your ID,'” Scott said. “Later that evening I received a phone call from his supervisor apologizing.” Scott went on to add…
“I do not know many African-American men who do not have a very similar story to tell, no matter the profession, no matter the income, no matter their disposition in life”
Kap’s stance received worldwide attention and generated discussions that any well meaning government or think tank report could not have achieved.
Just last week in the UK, Labour MP David Lammy produced a report on the “discrimination against black and ethnic minority people (BAME) in the criminal justice system”. In the report Lammy stated that in England and Wales blacks make up 3% of the population and 12% of the prisons.
- Beyond the media, political and legal circles is anyone aware of Lammy’s report?
- Has the tabloid press covered the story with passion and thrust?
- Are discussions going on in the media today?
- Is the African American community discussing the report?
Kap’s simple stance gained more traction, more awareness and more outrage in the UK than Lammy’s report.
- Can you imagine the publicity (+ FIFA outrage) if a black English footballer like say Rio Ferdinand had made such a protest similar to that of Kap in the UK?
Just as with Tommie Smith and John Carlos will the noble actions of Colin Kaepernick be acknowledged 50 years too late?
“This is America. Anyone is free to protest about anything they want.” – Nikki Haley US Ambassador to the UN