Protest: Does NBA’s Adam Silver Know Racist History of Anthem?

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Durant on cover of Sports Illustrated when he helped the Warriors win it all. Black athletes are increasingly taking a stance on social issues.

The NBA season is fast approaching and the league, which claims to be progressive, has insinuated that players might be reprimanded if they decide to protest during the singing of the national anthem, as is being done by NFL players, following Colin Kaepernick’s example.

The NBA’s edict, in effect, goes against the First Amendment rights of players—and forces Black players to pay homage to the national anthem, or, Star-Spangled Banner, and the racist Slaveholder who wrote it: Frances Scott Key.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made it clear he expects NBA players to stand during the national anthem and not engage in protests as Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players have engaged in since last year.

Recently, after attending the NBA’s board of governor’s meeting in Manhattan, Mr. Silver said "It's my hope that our players will continue to use that as a moment of unity. Many of our players have spoken out already about their plan to stand for the anthem. And I think they understand how divisive an issue it is in our society right now."

He also said standing for the anthem has “been a rule as long as I've been involved with the league, and my expectation is that our players will continue to stand for the anthem.” The NBA rule calls for players, coaches and trainers to "stand and line up in a dignified posture."

Silver seems to be suggesting that players who don’t fall in line will face punishment—possibly by fines. The fact that he would do that, in the likely event some player does decide to protest, would be interesting given another comment the NBA commissioner has also made.

“One of the core principles of this country is freedom of expression as well,” said Silver. “It is my hope, though, that with NBA players, that given the platform that they have -- whether it's the regular engagement they have with the media, whether it's social media, whether it's other opportunities they have to work in the communities -- that they have those opportunities for their voices to be heard.”

In other words freedom of expression is for "this country" except for NBA players, the majority of whom are Black?

If Silver really believes “one of the core principles of this country is freedom of expression,” then how will he be able to punish a player for protesting police brutality and racism during the National Anthem? If multiple players, especially elite ones, take this route then what? And if one of the NBA’s stars—like LeBron James—decides to protest during the anthem then what?

Recently, Kobe Bryant has said if he was still playing he would take a knee.

The sad thing here is: Black players are expected to display respect to an anthem that has an ingrained contempt for them, and all Black-Americans—because of the words written by the racist writer of the Star-Spangled Banner who also had enslaved Africans.

The Star-Spangled Banner was the result of a poem written by Frances Scott Key, in September of 1814. It was adopted as the nation’s National Anthem in March 1931.

Key, a Slaveholder, was a witness to the bombing of Fort Henry during the War of 1812, between the United States and England. While writing his poem, Key was furious with the enslaved Africans fighting on the side of England.

Unfortunately, his racist ranting in this poem was not known by most Americans—until Colin Kaepernick caused national consternation and condemnation, by righteously refusing to stand for the singing of the anthem during last year’s NFL season.

Below is the offensive racist part of Key’s poem that was removed from the Star Spangled Banner.

“Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

The first line where Keys talks about “their blood” and their “foul footstep’s pollution” is a direct attack on enslaved Africans. In the next line, he makes it clear there should be “no refuge” for the “Slave.” Is there any wonder why these lines were removed? Moreover, why wasn’t another more fitting song adopted given the odious past of Key’s poem?

Another important point to remember here is that: Key was a U.S. Attorney who used his political position to persecute and prosecute abolitionists seeking freedom for enslaved Africans. In fact, in August 1836, Key prosecuted Dr. Ruben Crandall for “seditious libel,” because Dr. Crandall was found with numerous anti-Slavery literature in his possession.

During the trial, Key told the jury: "Are you willing, gentlemen, to abandon your country, to permit it to be taken from you, and occupied by the abolitionist, according to whose taste it is to associate and amalgamate with the Negro? Or, gentlemen, on the other hand, are there laws in this community to defend you from the immediate abolitionist, who would open upon you the floodgates of such extensive wickedness and mischief?"

If he lived in our era you know whose side he would have stood with at Charlottesville--with his White supremacist intellectual descendants.

This is the character of the charlatan who wrote the Star-Spangled Banner. Every Black-American is justified if they decided never to stand for this racist song written by a vile enslaver of Africans. The true anthem for Black America is: Lift Every Voice and Sing, written by James Weldon Johnson in 1899, or, 1900.

Of course, the great hypocrisy now are all those White-Americans who talk about “respect” for the national anthem. Why should we respect something that was written, in part, to demean us? Aren’t we really disrespecting ourselves when we sing and stand for this song? Is that what is being demanded of Black folk?

More importantly though, where is the respect for Black lives—which are, repeatedly, being taken by police officers?

We must be outraged by injustices.

Today we mourn the massacre of 58 people in Las Vegas by Stephen Paddock, a rich mad White man—armed to the teeth with weapons of human destruction. It was his privileged status that also exempted him from careful scrutiny. How is anyone allowed to haul into his hotel room, repeatedly, so many pieces of luggage without raising suspicion?

Yes, we must mourn this mass murder by this demented killer. We must also feel equal outrage when Black-Americans are killed by men in uniform who have taken an oath “to protect and serve.”

Because of the Las Vegas massacre, some politicians are once again giving us a lot of rhetoric about the evils of violence. Democrats are asking for commonsense gun-control legislation. This comes at a time when there was only tepid reaction when Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a KKK sympathizer, restored the rights of police departments to be equipped with military materiel.

No one wins when we engage in selective outrage.

Meanwhile, Republicans offer the insane refrain that this is not the “right time” to discuss gun-control. When is the “right-time?” When the latest mass shooting recedes from memory?

America is in a better space than it was a century ago due to people who throughout history have spoken truth to power.

The courageous stance of Colin Kaepernick must be applauded by Black people and all Americans who believe in justice. He took the platform he had and stood up for the human rights and justice for a historically despised part of the population: African-Americans. If this country, which boasts about freedom, democracy and the “rule of law,” was really living up to it’s often hollow words, Kaepernick would not have had to take this stance.

Indeed, America’s political class, if it had any real moral decency, would’ve put a stop to the mass murders of African-Americans long ago.

African-American sports icons have more power than they realize. The time has come for them to collectively use it to address the racial oppression Black America faces from police prejudice and White supremacy.

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