From Mav: Football season is nearly upon us. If you know me, then you know that’s a big deal for me. Even if you’re not a football fan, assuming you live on the planet Earth, chances are you are also aware of the current battle over the rights of the football players to kneel in protest, epitomized on one side by Colin Kaepernick, and on the other, primarily by the current (sigh) president of the United States. If you follow my personal blog, you already know how I feel about this, and even if you don’t, if you listen to this show at all, it certainly wouldn’t be hard to guess. I’m going to try to not rant as long as I normally do on these (yeah right!) because I have already written about it again, and again, and again, and again. And I’m sure this won’t be the last time.
Suffice it to say, I support the right of the players to kneel. I understand why it pisses people off. Frankly, I’d argue that the fact that that it pisses people off, is all the more reason to do it. Again, if you listen to this show, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I have a pretty liberal, social justice warrior bend to my general ideology. I support the #BlackLivesMatter movement — in part because it’s the right thing to do… but also because I’m a black man and I happen to have an all-too-human allergy to bullets.
So obviously I support the cause. But then the question becomes one of “but why do they have to protest during the anthem? Couldn’t those protests come at a more appropriate time?” And the answer to that is best seen by an argument that I recently got into on Facebook. I saw a meme posted in a conservative alt-right group that I will not be linking to here because I don’t want to give them any more press than they already have gotten. The context of their post was:
Just curious – but has anyone seen any of the NFL “kneelers” protesting… ANYWHERE… since the season ended? on their own time? I mean s- since they care so much about their message, I’m just Wondering why, once they are “off the clock” so to speak, they haven’t been out there advocating for their message… y’know, exercising that “First Amendment” – which they have perfectly free to embrace for the past 6 months
Atrocious grammar aside, this could make a great point. Except it doesn’t. Mostly because of my response which was that, of course I’ve seen them protesting all over the place. They’re on the news constantly. Going around speaking about this is literally all Kaepernick has done since he lost his job two years ago. Perhaps the reason that those who complain haven’t SEEN them protest is that they don’t actually care about the issue. They prefer to ignore black athletes literally don’t pay any attention to them EXCEPT when they’re running into each other and concussing themselves for public amusement. This is why the kneeling protest is important. Because it bothers people to the point that they complain about it, it forces people to be aware of the issue that is being protested, even if they disagree with it. This is why we hold protest marches on busy streets instead of in back alleys. The idea is to block traffic and inconvenience people. The purpose is to piss people off. If a protest is done “on your own time” and “in your own space” it’s generally largely ineffective.
The other conversation that I have seen a lot of is that “I don’t want politics in sports. They should shut the fuck up and play the game. I can’t protest at work.” This is wrong on so many levels. First of all, you can protest at work. I submit that very few of us are asked to stand for the national anthem during our day jobs. This does not happen in the school where I teach. It does not happen at the office buildings I worked at prior to returning to academia. It does not occur at construction sites not shopping malls. And if it did, you would not be forced to do it. The Supreme Court decided this in 1943 in the case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. Compulsory patriotism isn’t patriotic at all, and in fact violates the very ideals of which the anthem, flag and pledge of allegiance theoretically represent. By complaining that the players don’t salute the flag in the way in which you want them to, YOU are in violation of the principles upheld by the Constitution of the United States. YOU are in fact being unAmerican.
Secondly, sports have always been political. The placement of Jackie Robinson on the Dodgers in 1947 was a political event. The raising of the gloved black power fist by Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics was a political event. The celebration of Jesse Owens’ victory in the 1936 Olympics was a political event. Muhammad Ali’s refusal to enlist after the draft in 1966 was a political event. Even if you want to get away from racial politics, the Olympics only exist int he first place for political reasons. The national anthem is only played at sporting events for political reasons and the the concept of NFL players standing for the anthem is politically motivated. Furthermore, it is a “tradition” that only dates back to 2009. So the idea that you are outraged that people aren’t doing a thing “they’ve always done” that literally started “a little while ago” is sort of ridiculous. Hell, the most dominant teaming football over the last decade (and I admit this only grudgingly) is literally named “the Patriots.”
So, It’s not so much that people don’t want politics in sports. Rather, the issue is more that people don’t want to be confronted with politics they don’t agree with. There are very few people complaining that “I want to support #BlackLivesMatter, but I refuse to until Kaepernick stands for the national anthem.” Because, really, that’s all it would take. Kaep, and the other players who are kneeling are simply saying “we want you to help us fix the atrocities being committed on the American people.” If it was really important for the players to stand, the solution would be quite simple. Vote for legislation protecting black men from being murdered by the police. If you are against this, that means it is more important to you that cops be able to kill unarmed black men, than it is that anyone stand up during a song.
I’ve had these conversations a lot over the last year. And, with football season starting up again. I’ll be having them a lot in the days to come. And certainly a good place to start this is doing so on this show. After all, what’s the point of having my own podcast if I can’t rant about this shit?
So that’s going to be our next episode. Wayne and I want to know your thoughts. We want to know what you’ve seen. Where have you seen people complaining about this? What counterarguments have you seen or given? What other avenues should we explore here? Usually when we plan one of these shows, we have an idea of who we want to be the guests, but this time we’re actually completely open. So we’d love to see some comments — LOTS of comments on this one, because we’d like to book guests based on people who have strong opinions here and would like to engage in the conversation.