“The NFL is naïve to think that sending Black men to a locker room like they’re naughty boys is a solution. These men are of African descent before they are athletes. I can’t wait to see what acts of creative resistance will come from the brothas in the locker room”
“African American athletes are still black in America. You still risk everything, including your life. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to make a statement.”
Those are the words of Dr. Harry Edwards when he was interviewed last year on St. Louis Public Radio. Edwards is a St. Louis native and one of the architects of the 1968 Olympics boycott which resulted in the infamous Black power salute by Olympian medalists Tommy Smith and John Carlos. Edwards is one of my go-to people for insights into Blacks and sports. I thought about Brother Edwards when I heard the National Football League policy on athlete activism. He’s a friend and advisor to Colin “Take a Knee” Kaepernick.
What any self-respecting Black person – athlete or not – heard in the white and male dominated owners’ decision is: We don’t care about what happens to you as a citizen; we just want to use your Black body to make money for us.
On the same day the National Football League owners announced its decision to ban player protest during the national anthem, the video exposing the barbaric tasing of Sterling Brown by Milwaukee police was released. What irony. Brown, Milwaukee Bucks player, was tased and arrested for a minor parking violation. There will be no charges against the NBA player but that hasn’t silenced him.
The wanna-be dictator in the White House declared that players need to “proudly” stand for the flag. Or what? Well, according to trump, they “shouldn’t be playing” and “maybe they shouldn’t be in the country.”
The owners have allowed trump to push the league into a policy that is racist and unconstitutional. They have allowed him to fan the same flames of racism in the league as he has done throughout the country.
It’s clear to me the NFL cow-towed to the trump-et who has been railing against football players since Colin Kaepernick first took a knee during the national anthem to protest police terrorism in Black communities. In retaliation, the former San Francisco 49er quarterback, is now a free agent with no contract offers anytime soon. He also has a lawsuit against his former employer.
Sterling Brown has accepted the responsibility to use the injustice against him to speak out against a police department with a long and brutal history in Milwaukee’s African American community. Brown has vowed to be the voice of police victims of brutality and murder in his city. He knows damn well if he was not an NBA player, this incident would not have seen the light of day. Brown also knows he’s lucky to be alive.
Since 2015 Milwaukee taxpayers have forked out about $20 million in settlements to victims of police violence. Rogue cops are bankrupting the cash-strapped city which has had to borrow the money for the payoffs. Still, no accountability is forthcoming. Not in Milwaukee. Not in any U.S. city.
The NFL has made the anthem protests the scapegoat for its diminishing profits. It has its own set of internal issues, such as the impact of concussions, assignments of specialty positions (quarterbacks, punters) to white players, etc. Note that the multi-billion dollars league has no Black owners and nearly 70 percent Black players.
Make no mistake about the NFL illegal decision. It is not about respect for the anthem. If that was the case, the concession stands would be closed in the name of patriotism until after the singing of the anthem. This is about shutting down Black protests of white supremacy. And we know the shut downs are not just happening in the sports arenas.
The NFL is naïve to think that sending Black men to a locker room like they’re naughty boys is a solution. These men are of African descent before they are athletes. I can’t wait to see what acts of creative resistance will come from the brothas in the locker room – especially if they have a Harry Edwards in their ears.
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member and Columnist, Jamala Rogers, founder and Chair Emeritus of the Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis. She is an organizer, trainer and speaker. She is the author of The Best of the Way I See It – A Chronicle of Struggle. Other writings by Ms. Rogers can be found on her blog jamalarogers.com. Contact Ms. Rogers and BC.