Football

It isn’t About the Flag. Or Football

Peg Game

I’m not a sports fan. The game pictured above is probably as close as I get. No one in my home reveres Sunday football, none of my kids are athletes. So why am I going to talk about Colin Kaepernick, #taketheknee, and the NFL–how am I qualified to do so?  Because it isn’t about football. I’m not a veteran and neither is anyone else in my home. So how can I discuss the flag and the national anthem? Because it isn’t about the flag, veterans, or the national anthem. Maybe I should shut up because I’m not black. Or maybe I’m thinking that is exactly why I should speak up, so this isn’t yet another issue marginalized as “just a black thing.” It isn’t. This controversy-that-shouldn’t-be-but-needs-to-be is what it means to be an American, what exactly do we want and need it to mean when we say liberty and justice for all. Maybe I have a moral obligation to do this, not in an attempt to speak for the black community–I can’t, shouldn’t, and don’t want to–but to say, as someone with light, freckled, and wrinkly skin, I do not condone the continued oppression of fellow Americans, and support peaceful protest.

Social justice.  Call me an SJW, and when you do, snicker knowing that it took me a long time and a visit to urban dictionary to figure out it stood for social justice warrior. Hey, I was weaned on the Village Voice, so I kept reading it as Single Jewish White what? Male? Female? Genderfluid?  No really, go ahead and sneer as you label me a social justice warrior, I’ll gladly wear that label over racist prick, or worse–complicit and condoning through silence.

Maybe you believe this issue is getting too much play in the media; thinking (rightly) this has gotten more air time than the horrendous disaster that is Puerto Rico right now, or the shocking confirmation that our Presidential election was hacked in 21 states. Maybe you’re tired of hearing about it. If so, think about the reason this started, and imagine living it. Kaepernick began sitting out the anthem as a form of peaceful protest, to bring awareness and discussion to the systemic and systematic oppression of black people in the US, the injustice of police brutality without recourse or justice. He began kneeling after discussion with Nate Boyer, a former Green Beret and current snapper (I don’t know what that means, but it’s something football), told him kneeling was a form of respect paid to fallen soldiers. It was never Kaepernick’s intent to disrespect soldiers and veterans, and is not the intent of the players who have joined his protest. Now remember that the injustice being highlighted goes back long before this Presidency, the current fallout of ignoring climate change, and the internet.

95% of the arguments I’m hearing are bullshit, complete logical fallacies. If you want to support veterans, vote for politicians who want to pay them enough to live on and aren’t trying to take away their health care. Give money or food to that homeless veteran on the corner, don’t complain when shelters and residences are proposed in your neighborhood. If you want to get literal about what the flag represents, start protesting all the companies that use images of the flag to sell their products–stop pretending that red white and blue beach towel with matching bikini is what makes you a patriot, stop using paper plates and napkins with flags imprinted on them designed to be thrown away every fourth of July. No, I’m not a football fan, and don’t understand how being one makes someone a “real” American, but I know it makes a small amount of people a large amount of money, and that certainly is the American way. I also know sports offer opportunities for young people who might not otherwise have equivalent opportunities in other areas, same as joining the armed forces does. 70% of professional football players are black, so yes, this is exactly their issue to raise, and the stadium is an excellent place to raise it.

Colin Kaepernick and the other professional players taking the knee did exactly what used to be the American ideal: to whom much is given, much is expected. They are using their platform as public figures to address a public need.

Football players aren’t being paid to sing the anthem, they’re being paid to play football, which they’re doing. The argument of this being a slur on American traditions is again, bullshit. Standing and pledging didn’t begin until 2009, when players were told to be on the sidelines (instead of in the locker rooms) for the anthem before primetime games, in the hopes that it would encourage in young fans a desire to enlist in the armed forces–because the NFL was paid for this.  In May of 2016, the NFL said no thanks, and returned over $700K declining pay for play patriotism.

Many clever and painfully accurate memes have been going around illustrating the inconsistencies and hypocrisy of this faux outrage, so I won’t keep on this track.  Bottom line, I’d like all these people (45 now pouring kerosene on the flames) to stop pretending this isn’t about race. It is 100% about race, equality and the lack thereof.

The song below was released in 1973, and the inequality raised wasn’t new then. It’s older than that flag so many want to worship, and the game treated as sacred.