Posted By Tiffany A. Bargeman,
Sunday, December 24, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, December 20, 2017
By Pamela Wood-Garcia
Many celebrities have used their positions in the spotlight to make small gestures that made huge statements and brought major progress in civil rights. For example:
- Nina Simone used her platform as a singer to produce songs that contained lyrics congruent to her beliefs on civil rights. Not only did these songs empower the Black community, but they provoked a new thought process in the White community. She also set an example by being present and accounted for during many domestic and international civil rights marches that sparked major change.
With football being one of this country’s greatest pastimes, people from all walks of life saw Kaepernick’s protest. This landed him at the center of one the deepest dialogues in American history.
- Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer of his time, used his celebrity status to protest the Vietnam War in 1967. He refused to fight in a war against a country that had not done him or the Black community any harm. His focus was on fighting for justice for Black people in America. He is quoted as saying “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong…They never called me niggah, they never lynched me, they never stripped me of my nationality…”
- John Carlos and Tommie Smith followed suit and did a Black Power fist salute at the 1968 Olympics. Each man wore no shoes and black socks to represent poverty in the Black community, and black gloves to emphasize the power of the Black community.
- Fast forward to 2014. Beyoncé took the stage to perform at the halftime show during Super Bowl 50. Fans were expecting one of her sexy, sultry performances, and she gave them that—with a revolutionary twist. All of her dancers came out dressed in black berets, black gloves, and black leather jackets; a reference to the Black Panthers of the 1960s and 1970s. As she belted out the lyrics to her controversial song, “Formation,” the crowd went crazy. “Ok ladies, now let’s get in formation!” During this time, the urban community of San Francisco was seeking justice for Mario Woods, a young man killed in firing squad fashion by the San Francisco Police Department. With the stigma of the killing looming over the city, news of her performance flooded headlines. The Black power fist was held up by Beyoncé’s backup dancers alongside a sign that read “JUSTICE FOR MARIO WOODS”. Conservatives were appalled, liberals were inspired, and the whole world was captivated.
- A few months later, Jesse Williams stepped up to the podium at the BET Awards to give an acceptance speech for his humanitarian award and shared words that uplifted organizers, activists and Black women. He spoke out against the unjustified murders of Black people and a system that feeds on Black culture and discards our bodies “like rinds of strange fruit.” Conservatives called for the producers of Grey's Anatomy to fire Williams, while the Black community was uplifted.
- Most recently, Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protest has persisted in causing controversy and capturing the attention of the public for well over a year. On August 16, 2016, Kaepernick sat during the national anthem in order to protest the numerous slayings of unarmed, non-combative, Black men, women, and children brutally slain by law enforcement in the United States. During this time, the Black community was in an uproar over news of the killings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, and Alfred Olango. Demonstrations were taking place all over the nation. Kaepernick made the conscious decision to sit during the national anthem in order to show his disdain for the lynching of innocent people by a system designed to work against them. He also pointed out to the country that the third verse of the Star-Spangled Banner made reference to the killing of African slaves. He eventually took a knee during the anthem after learning from fellow NFL player, Nate Boyer, a Green Beret U.S. veteran who has supported Kaepernick’s protest, that soldiers knelt at the graves of their fallen comrades as a show of respect. Kaepernick took a knee at every game he played in thereafter.
In NFL Owner, Roger Goodell’s, first statement to the press in the 2016 preseason, he said this about Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem, "Players have a platform, and it's his right to do that. We encourage them to be respectful, and it's important for them to do that...” One month later, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made this statement to Katie Couric, “I think it’s really dumb of them. Would I arrest them for doing it? No. I think it’s dumb and disrespectful…I would have the same answer if you asked me about flag-burning. I think it’s a terrible thing to do, but I wouldn’t lock a person up for doing it. I would point out how ridiculous it seems to me to do such an act.” She expressed regret a few days later, stating, "Barely aware of the incident or its purpose, my comments were inappropriately dismissive and harsh.”.
Filmmaker Spike Lee caught wind of the protest and caught Kaepernick’s back. He very passionately gave Anderson Cooper an enlightened perspective on how Kaepernick was following tradition and did not just “pop out of nowhere” in using his platform as an athlete for protest. He went on to give the prime examples of John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 Olympics.
President Barack Obama gave the brother his props as well. In one of his early statements regarding the Kaepernick controversy, he said, “I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about. And if nothing else, what he’s done is he’s generated more conversation around some topics that need to be talked about.”
Since each of these statements was made, Kaepernick became a free agent as an NFL player and is now an unemployed quarterback. Some debate whether it was Kaepernick’s drooping stats or good old American racism. Those of us who believe the latter are boycotting the NFL this season. Many say they will not watch NFL football until Kaepernick is back on an NFL team. Hundreds of NFL players, Black, White, Brown, and other shades are still taking a knee during the national anthem in support of Kaepernick. Marshawn Lynch and Seth DeValve are at the top of the list of players who have kneeled in solidarity with Kaepernick. Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch has not stood for the Star Spangled Banner since he came out of retirement. He was even spotted at a game at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City sitting for the United State’s National Anthem and standing for the Mexican National Anthem. Cleveland Browns’ tight end, Seth DeValve, who was documented as the first White player to take a knee during the national anthem did it based on the fact that his wife is Black and his children are biracial. He also kneeled to pray for the events that took place in Charlottesville. This was done with 5 other players in a circle with each players hand on another players shoulder. The real controversy in the grand scope of Kaepernick’s protest is that we are in 2017 and there are people like the current president and his administration who still have a distorted view of the racial disparities and the injustices that take place in the Black community at the hands of the establishment. Trump and Pence both demonstrated how they feel about Kaepernick’s brand of protest. Trump made a speech where he referred to players who kneeled during the national anthem as sons of bitches. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!’ You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in this country.”
He later suggested that the NFL make it mandatory to stand during the national anthem. He stated that anybody who does not stand should be fired. The NFL commissioner passed on his idea. Mike Pence found himself smack dab in the middle of the controversy when he walked out of the Colts versus 49ers game this season as the 49ers kneeled during the national anthem. Pence stated, "I left today's Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem," Pence tweeted.
He could not see that the flag wasn’t being protested, the violation of civil rights that takes place when one of our sons is gunned down like a hunted animal was being protested. Most conservatives don’t have the vision to see past their world of privilege to understand this. What’s even sadder, in my opinion, is that the Black community has perhaps not banded together tightly enough to ensure that our children and grandchildren don’t have to live within a system that was designed to keep them enslaved. I believe that if Spike Lee, President Obama, Denzel Washington, Oprah Winfrey and any other number of wealthy Black celebrities and citizens came together with Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and Kaepernick and created a new football league instead of fighting to get our young man back into a league that has proven to us repeatedly that it does not love us but our talent, we wouldn’t have these problems. If every Black player in the NFL went on strike, it would shut the NFL down. But if they did that, they might end up like Kaepernick. There is an energy about ownership that is untouchable.
When Beyoncé took the stage at Super Bowl 50, she walked up there knowing that nobody could pull her contract, nobody could fire her, and nobody could blackball her because she owns her name, her talent, and her record label! The same is true for her husband. If Beyoncé and Jay-Z want to go to Cuba, all conservatives can do is drop their bottom jaws to the floor and watch. Why? Because they own their stuff! While it is great that Kaepernick and P. Diddy are in meetings about buying the Carolina Panthers, they should consider teaming up with other people in communities of color to start a new football league with fresh new talent and a more liberal stance on the issues that directly relate to communities of color. If they purchase an NFL team, they will still be under the scrutiny placed on Kaepernick by the NFL; only this time, an entire franchise might feel it.
People tend to forget that there were the Negro Leagues (baseball), The Big Five (basketball), and Club Football before Black men started getting recruited by White leagues. The White leagues were looking to benefit from the talent of Black men and they did. When men like Jackie Robinson, Kenny Washington, and Charles Henry “Chuck” Cooper entered White leagues they brought about a new standard in sports and increased the earning potential of athletics in America. Football, baseball and basketball make billions of dollars each year. NFL Football alone is a $25 billion a year industry and Blacks contribute a huge chunk of that $25 billion dollar paycheck. Overall, the Black community contributes about $1.1 TRILLION into America’s economy each year. It’s about time we bring some of that money home. It’s about time for us to run our own football teams and anything else we’d like to run that will keep us paid and entertained. The goal here is not segregation, but financial empowerment by way of profiting from our own talents.
P. Diddy said he would have the best halftime shows, the best players, and the best team in the NFL. It would be great if he applied that vision to starting a league. P. Diddy has run Bad Boy Records, Sean John Clothing, and Revolt TV successfully. A man with the vision to successfully found and run a record label, a clothing line, and a television network surely has the vision to start a football league. Colin has proven that he is dedicated to the process of social justice and is willing to do whatever it takes to see it through. We have two men with proven track records of dedication and follow through and the hearts of gods. These men have proven success in everything the world has seen from them. These men don’t just draw crowds, they move them. They build empires. A new football league would be a brick in the foundation of each man's empire. If you build it, gentlemen, they will come. If you build it, we will come, and we will bring $1.1 TRILLION with us.
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