NFL Commissioner Goodell: It's Hard for you but Place Yourself in the Shoes of Black Players To Understand the Protest

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Courage: Eagle's player Chris Long opposes violation of constitutional rights of Black players by NFL  

[Speaking Truth To Empower]

NFL owners unanimously approved a new policy to force players to stand during the singing of the national anthem—a move clearly meant to silence players' from protesting against police brutality and the murder of African-Americans.  

Involvement by players in the protests has brought international attention to the ugly systemic abuse of Black citizens of this country by police forces.   

NFL owners caved to the pressure from Donald Trump, the commander-in-chief-of-racism, and a large segment of White America, who don't see resisting the brutalization of Black people by racist policing as a priority.   

The NFL has unconstitutionally implemented an anti-First Amendment policy to silence Black players—and to protect their economic bottom-line, at all cost. In corporate America, profits always come before the rights of people—especially, Black people. The constitution be damned when it comes to money.  

What will be the response from Black NFL players—and from us in Black America generally? The new NFL national anthem policy requires players on the field to stand for the anthem, or face fines. Players have the option of staying in the locker-room during the playing of the anthem. It will be interesting to see how many Black players exercise this “option,” since the NFL has decided to violate their supposed First Amendment rights.

Will players opt to cooperate in the violation of their rights as American citizens?  NFL commissioner Roger Goodell talked about this dubious decision. "We want people to be respectful of the national anthem," commissioner Roger Goodell said. "We want people to stand -- that's all personnel -- and make sure they treat this moment in a respectful fashion. That's something we think we owe. [But] we were also very sensitive to give players choices." Is that what fans pay to come to see? The playing of the national anthem?  

Not surprisingly, the racist aspiring-dictator residing in the White House, initially cheered the decision. Now he says the NFL didn’t go far enough. Donald Trump is now talking about those who maybe “shouldn’t be in this country,” if they refuse to stand for the national anthem. Obviously, he’s talking about African-American players.

Trump's own roots are in Germany; a country's whose virulent racism in the 1930s plunged the whole world into cataclysmic war. In Germany dissenters were also persecuted and even murdered. Perhaps that's where he should return.  But here’s what we should tell this thug, and other White-Americans who think like him: African-Americans have earned the right—more than other Americans to not stand for the national anthem—if we so choose.

African-American bones and blood built much of the wealth now disproportionately enjoyed by White Americans through the economic exploitation system that was American Slavery. The sad thing now is: Black players are expected to display respect to an anthem that has an ingrained contempt for them, and all Black-Americans and decent human beings.

The racist writer of the Star-Spangled Banner, Francis Scott Key, also had enslaved Africans. 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?" Imagine, some White Americans expects us to, in the words of Goodell to be “respectful of the national anthem,” while they show utter disrespect for Black lives.  

We mustn’t let Trump change the narrative of why these protests started in the first place. Colin Kaepernick, and the Black players who took his lead, have made it clear they were protesting police prejudice and racism nationally. Some in White America, led by Trump, the divider-in-chief,  want to undercut that message. 

Some elements in White America aren't concerned with the brutal treatment Black Americans face in their interactions with police. Such treatment would not endure if there was more outrage. It has been this way, ever since the inception of indigenous American policing, from the days of the Plantation Police and Slave Patrols. 

Consider what Dr. Victor E. Kappeler, a former police officer, had to say on this in a paper entitled “A Brief History of Slavery and the Origins of American Policing.” Dr. Kappeler is a Foundation Professor and Dean of the School of Justice Studies, at Eastern Kentucky University. “The birth and development of the American police can be traced to a multitude of historical, legal and political-economic conditions. The institution of slavery and the control of minorities, however, were two of the more formidable historic features of American society shaping early policing. Slave Patrols and Night Watches, which later became modern police departments, were both designed to control the behaviors of minorities… many southern police departments began as Slave Patrols. In 1704, the colony of Carolina developed the nation's first Slave Patrol. Slave patrols helped to maintain the economic order and to assist the wealthy landowners in recovering and punishing Slaves who essentially were considered property.” 

Blacks have been abused and misused for far too long, in this America so full of lies and hypocrisy. Some in White America who yearn for the "good old days" must not be allowed to white-wash the racist reality that was created to destroy the lives of Black-Americans.

Some police operate like terroristic thugs in Black American communities as we have seen with some recent high-profile killings of unarmed people.  The majority of NFL players are Black.

The owners of the NFL teams are White. It cannot escape them that this act of compelling Black players to stand in violation of their rights reflects plantation mentality. Should we be surprised they won’t speak with any honesty regarding racism and prejudiced policing? 

Bavo to San Francisco owner Jed York who was reportedly the lone abstention in the vote to punish players who kneel. The NFL players' protests against police brutality and racism were initiated by the brave stance of Kaepernick who once played for the 49ers. After launching his historic stance against police brutality and racism Kaepernick was pushed out of the league by the NFL. 

Christopher Johnson, the New York Jets chairman, said the team will pay the fines of any Jets player who decides to rebel against the NFL's anti-First Amendment policy. He also objected to the new policy in a statement. “I plan to sit in the very near term with Coach Bowles and our players to discuss today’s decision regarding the National Anthem,” Johnson said, when the policy was announced. “As I have in the past I will support our players wherever we land as a team. Our focus is not on imposing any club rules, fines, or restrictions. Instead we will continue to work closely with our players to constructively advance social justice issues…” 

The new policy was inserted into the NFL’s game manual—which reportedly makes it not subject to the collective bargaining agreement. The NFL Players Association—who were not involved, or, consulted in this decision—said it will review the policy to see if it is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement. 

The NFL owners showed their disrespect and disdain for the rights of the players by unilaterally deciding on the new policy. Will the NFL Players Association just accept this flagrant disregard for their feelings, opinions and rights?  

Several players have spoken out against the NFL owners, including: Malcolm Jenkins, Brandon Marshall, Doug Baldwin—and Chris Long, who is a White player. Jenkins and Marshall echoed the irony of how their constitutional First Amendment rights have been trampled upon—while the same folk give us lectures about their Second Amendment rights. Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins rightly said: "What NFL owners did today was thwart the players' constitutional rights to express themselves and use our platform to draw attention to social injustices like racial inequality.” 

Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall called the NFL’s decision, and Trump’s racist rantings, "Disgusting. I say 'disgusting' because of our First Amendment rights. We have freedom of speech, right? Freedom to protest? Because somebody decides to protest something, now have to be kicked out of the country? That's not how things should work, in my opinion." 

Doug Baldwin, speaking on Trump’s racist rantings, said "He's an idiot. Plain and simple... But he's just being more divisive... For him to say that anyone who doesn't follow his viewpoints or his constituents' viewpoints should be kicked out of the country, it's not very empathetic, it's not very American-like... It's not very patriotic.” 

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long spoke with a level of honesty—especially, as a White-American. Long stated the policy was the “fear of a diminished bottom line. It's also a fear of a president turning his base against a corporation. This is not patriotism. Don't get it confused. These owners don't love America more than the players demonstrating and taking real action to improve it...I'm someone who's always looked at the anthem as a declaration of ideals, including the right to peaceful protest. Our league continues to fall short on this issue."Amen. 

These United States progressively became --and continues to become-- a better country through the centuries as a result of protests and resistance. 

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