By Pastor Khalil
There is an old saying that says “seeing is believing.” What I have been witnessing these last few days would be laughable if it wasn’t so maliciously obvious that the original message Colin Kaepernick so eloquently and passionately delivered to the United States of America has been hijacked and lost in deflection. In August of 2016, Kaepernick boldly and unapologetically made headlines when he sat during the 49ers third preseason game. He gained national attention immediately. When questioned about why he sat during the national anthem, he gave an impassioned response: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street, and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” Just a side note, he did say that this was bigger than football. I will be addressing the boycott of the NFL later in this article.
What I have come to understand about a lot of Americans is that they have a serious problem with confronting and dealing with the inhumane treatment of Africans in America. From the transatlantic slave trade to the 400 years of slavery, to Jim Crow, to the War on Drugs, to mass incarceration, these maniacally evil, well-thought-out schemes were inflicted in conjunction with the implementation of systemic economic brutality in our community
America’s inability to honestly confront its past and present atrocities inflicted on Black folks are as obvious as the ignorance and bigotry of our current president.
So when Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest police brutality and social injustice, the immediate deflections perpetrated by the media went straight to calling it a national anthem protest, saying Kaepernick was disrespecting the flag, disrespecting the military, disrespecting cops, disrespecting Betsy Ross, disrespecting apple pie…and so on.
“They gentrified the protest. They put a Starbucks, a dog park and a tanning salon right in the middle of what use to be a very powerful and meaningful protest against police brutality and injustice.”
What has also been lost in deflection is the fact that Colin protested by sitting down first, and it was actually U.S. Army veteran and Green Beret Nate Boyer who convinced Colin Kaepernick to kneel, rather than sit while protesting police brutality and social injustice during the national anthem.
Yet, here we are lost in deflection. While the good, proud, American flag loving patriots and the media bring the military, the flag, and honor into the fray, our government escalates war in other countries so private contractors can make millions of dollars. The truly sad part is that companies have been marketing patriotism to the unsuspecting masses to get them to buy their products since 9/11.
The hypocrisy of the NFL is that steroid users, domestic abusers, rapist, accused murderers, racists, and bullies are allowed to play in the NFL, and yet a man who exercised his First Amendment rights by peacefully protesting to bring attention to police brutality inflicted upon the Black community is ostracized by the league. People have the nerve to say ALL LIVES MATTER. In America, they don’t, so let’s just stop with that, please!
To add insult to injury, Sports Illustrated published an article about the recent protest:
What’s wrong with this picture? First, it’s extremely hypocritical. Why? Well, the distinguished gentlemen with the handlebar mustache on the 2nd row from the top is Shahid Khan, the owner of Jacksonville Jaguars football team. He donated 1 million dollars to the current president’s campaign. That’s the same president who disinvited all-star basketball player Steph Curry from the annual visit to White House by the NBA championship team, despite Curry already declining to attend. Curry is on the front row in the middle. To the right of him is NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the front man for the same owners who won’t hire the guy who should actually be on the cover. This is what we call a hot mess!
Kaepernick’s original message of “Hey stop killing us, oh and by the way can we please get some social justice” has been hijacked and turned into propaganda by the NFL. Now it’s all about unity. Who can’t get behind unity? This is just cover to avoid having to deal with what this whole protest was all about.
The NFL owners have decided that unity is the ticket to redemption. This display of unity is no more than commerce protection, and it’s not what Kap was originally protesting. The protest is being diluted with a “happy, happy, joy, joy, let’s lock arms and sing kumbaya” message. This works perfectly because now we don’t have to have a real and relevant conversation about race relations.
They don’t even see their white privilege when it manifests itself by saying that ending black people protesting is a better solution than stopping cops from killing black folks with impunity. They have the audacity to wag their finger at oppressed people and tell them that nothing is wrong. Now go STAND for the anthem!
The following Sunday after the current president called any player who doesn’t stand for the National Anthem a “S.O.B.,” most of the NFL players were all galvanized under one protest banner. The next Sunday was back to business as usual, standing for the anthem.
Let’s now deal with the other side of this, because some black NFL fans have now gotten into the mix of all of this by calling for a boycott of NFL games, telling NFL fans to not watch any NFL games until Kaepernick is on a team. While well intentioned, it’s really a waste of time. Let me explain. First, the purpose of any boycott is to effect real change in the entity that you are boycotting. Case in point, the model of any boycott for Black folks is the bus boycott. This was a concerted effort started by Rosa Parks to sit anywhere on the bus they wanted to. So when the boycott started, they had a clear reason for the boycott. The easiest way to achieve the goal of the boycott was to stop riding the bus. This was done with the mass cooperation of Black folks all throughout the city of Montgomery, Alabama. They knew how to affect change; simple, don’t ride the bus, bip bam boom, goal achieved.
Now let’s look at the NFL; this is a billion dollar industry owned by old white men who have billions of dollars. They only thing they respect is money. These men are not the model for morality or fair play. They only respect and care about money. To even get their attention about anything, you have to mess with their money. That’s why they were locking arms with players.
When you don’t watch NFL games, it doesn’t mess with their money. They have already been paid: CBS ($3.73B), NBC ($3.6B) and Fox ($4.27B) — as well as cable television’s ESPN ($8.8B) — paid a combined total of US$20.4 billion to broadcast NFL games. From 2014 to 2022, the same networks will pay $39.6 billion for the same broadcast rights. The NFL thus holds broadcast contracts with four companies (CBS Corporation, Comcast, 21st Century Fox and The Walt Disney Company/Hearst Corporation, respectively) that control a combined vast majority of the country’s television product.
So if you’re thinking, well we can boycott the sponsors, the NFL reaped $1.25 billion in sponsorship revenue last season. That may be a better plan than not watching. When Jemele Hill of ESPN tweeted out a thread of tweets about the NFL protests, the one that caused the hammer to fall was when she said “Change happens when advertisers are impacted.” It’s overwhelmingly obvious that she hit a serious nerve. Advertisers are the cash cow that caused ESPN to immediately suspend her. That’s where the chink in the armor is, and the NFL and ESPN has shown us the way.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember Kaepernick or any NFL player ever saying don’t watch the games. Why would they? I firmly believe that Kaepernick really has no interest in playing in the NFL anymore. To me, that would be like Rosa Parks going to the back of the bus asking for her seat back.
The fact of the matter is that the NFL is roughly 80 percent Black, and it seems to me that the players have more leverage to impact change in the league than the average fan. With Jerry Jones using mafia boss language, “just so we’re clear,” he, the current president and some of America have hijacked the message and made it about patriotism. The current president emboldened Jerry Jones to publicly announce that “ain’t no black man gonna kneel on MY team!” I guess now we know why the Dallas Cowboys are called America’s Team!
In a perfect world, the NFL owners would collectively donate some of that TV money to invest in the Black community and facilitate economic development in cities where they own NFL teams. Yeah I know, it’s a pipe dream. The question that Black folks really have to ask is how do we shift from protest to progress? How do we get off of one knee and move our agenda forward for real change in our community?
Khalil Hakim is a former Veteran of the U.S. Air Force and holds a Bachelors of Science Degree in Telecommunications. Hakim also studied Theology at Phillips Theological Seminary. Hakim was the pastor of Shekinah Glory for 14 years. He is a poet and the author of the critically acclaimed novel “Fade to Black”. He is also the founder of 4KB Publishing as well as a Staff Writer for the Black Wall St. Times.