Jim Crow Is Bald And Has Huge Talons     

Since black San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee in August of 2016 during our national anthem that emphasizes the phrase “land of the free and home of the brave,” at least 378 black Americans have been killed by police in firearm “incidents.” The list was compiled by the Washington Post, and it adds that other blacks killed by chokeholds and other types of attacks are not included in that total. Remember New Yorker Eric Garner of “I can’t breathe!” fame? He’s dead by chokehold. The Post has records of 253 more killings where race was not mentioned. Colin’s protests were based on the tragedy of police killings of innocent black Americans. Because of his protests he has lost his job, although he is considered to be among the top 30 best quarterbacks in the National Football by coaches and white and black players.   

The 49ers paid him $43.5 million over six years because of his football skills before the protest. Since he has been black-balled by 32 teams at this point, several coaches have declared he has the skills to be a starting quarterback as he was at San Francisco. As an old lineman who has chased quarterbacks around a football field, I endorse their opinion. I have seen him play dozens of pro games. He can run and he can pass. But his unemployment is not about football or his talents. It’s about the ugly cruel thing called racism.  

An Ambassador Of Conscience     

Kaepernick recently went to Amsterdam, Netherlands to receive its 2018 Ambassador of Conscience Award from Amnesty International for his strong support of human rights. It is a global organization of 150 countries with over 7 million members. Here is a few lines from his acceptance speech: “How can you stand for the national anthem of a nation that preaches and propagates ‘freedom and justice for all’ that is so unjust to so many of the people living there? Racialized oppression and dehumanization is woven into the very fabric of our nation---the effects of which can be seen in the lawful lynching of black and brown people by the police, and the mass incarceration of black and brown lives in the prison industrial complex” (A reference to private prisons in the U.S. that have contracts with states to ensure they have 90% occupancy!). Kaepernick has described police killings of black and brown people as lawful lynchings. His stated reason for protesting: “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.”   

With the new NFL rules that if players are on the field they must stand during the anthem, the 31 billionaire owners are siding with Emperor Donald who called Kaepernick and others who protested with him “sons-of-bitches” who should be fired when they took knees in protest. With 70% of the players being black (they can run and jump), I think the owners have opened up a barrel of worms, not a can, which they will regret this season.  

I Will Always Take A Knee With Kaepernick And Others Who Protest Human Rights Abuses     

Because of many experiences with race in the Marine Corps and living in the segregated South during the 1950’s during Jim Crow days and nights, I will always take a knee to join the protest. While stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and living in segregated towns and cities, as a Marine Corps officer I commanded a heavy machinegun platoon and later a rifle company with dozens of black non-commissioned officers and men. My three squad leaders in the machinegun platoon were all black decorated Korean War veterans. My assistant was a black master sergeant. I learned quickly how they had to live under ridiculous, demeaning Jim Crow laws that tried to strip them of manhood, property, and freedom. Those laws still exist.     

Over the years I have enjoyed the writing of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the National Basketball Association’s all-time leading scorer---and a long-time champion of black civil rights. (He graduated with a degree in history from UCLA while playing for the famous John Wooden. He interviewed Martin Luther King while a high school senior in the Bronx.) He has quite a personal history with other famous black athletes such as Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown, both heavily involved in the civil rights movement. Hr writes this about the NFL edict about protests: “What should horrify Americans is not Kaepernick’s choice to remain seated (or kneeling) during the national anthem, but that nearly 50 years after Muhammad Ali was banned from boxing for his stance (Ali refused to be drafted into the Army during Vietnam because “no Cong ever called me a nigger!”) and Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ raised fists in the Olympics caused ostracization and numerous death threats, we stlll need to call attention to the same racial inequities. Failure to fix this problem is what’s really un-American here.”  

Jones: “We’re In The Football Business, Not Social Issues”     

What were the 31 billionaire owners thinking about when they came up that ridiculous “compromise” of having the players stay in their locker rooms during the anthem—or force them to stand if they went out to the field? Most of them were thinking money—as usual—and not much else. The vote to change policies was never revealed, but evidently it was not unanimous. When asked if money was the only incentive for the change, CEO Jed York of the 49ers said: “Our country is more important than economic impact.” But Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys responded: “We’re in the football business, not social issues.” He added he would bench players if they took a knee during the anthem.   

Black players today are fighting the same social issues U.S. Army veteran Jackie Robinson wrote about in his 1972 autobiography. Jackie was the first black player to be signed to play major league baseball. He was signed by Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1940’s for several reasons. He thought that Jackie with his military experience could take the heat of representing his race. Rickey also knew Jackie was a great athlete who could lead the Dodgers in a number of categories. Jackie suffered through death threats, name-calling, and all the aspects of abuse leveled by white fans. In his 1972 book he wrote this revealing paragraph: “Today as I look back on that opening game of my first world series, I must tell you that it was Mr. Rickey’s drama and that I was only a principal actor. As I write this twenty years later, I cannot stand and sing the anthem, I cannot salute the flag; I know I am a black man in a white world. In 1972, in 1947, at my birth in 1919, I knew that I never had it made.” How depressing. This is why Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the anthem 50 years after this statement. He knows he has never had it made either.   

Some older F-M Twins fans will remember Barnet Field and the first year that 18-year-old Jim “Mudcat” Grant, a phenomenal high school athlete from Lacoochee, Florida was signed by the Cleveland Indians and sent to its minor league club in Fargo, North Dakota. Mudcat had never been out of Florida, one of the most racist states in our very imperfect Union. In an interview after several years with the Minnesota Twins, the Dodgers, and other major league teams, he said he remembered two things about Fargo. It was the first time in his life he was allowed to eat in a restaurant—and he “allowed” there were also some racists in Fargo at the time. Well, after all, Fargo had a ton of Klu Klux Klanners in the 1920’s—and have several today.  

A Republican Congressman Steps Right In It  

Republican Rep. Peter King of New York made a real mess of things—and showed his ignorance of history-- by comparing the kneeling during the national anthem to “players giving the Nazi salutes” or “spewing racism.” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell backed him up by saying: “We want people to be respectful of the national anthem. We want people to stand.” Evidently they didn’t know Adolf Hitler required all German football teams to stand and salute the Nazi flag before playing. In 1934 a French team refused to play a visiting German team if they saluted Hitler before the game started. The French coach thought the salute would cause a riot of French fans. The Germans agreed. When Hitler and his Nazis found out his salute was not performed, he banned the German team from play for a year.

A Few Reasons Kaepernick And Other Players Took A Knee  

1. In the five major college athletic conferences in the country, 55% of the football players and basketball players are black—in a country where blacks make up only 12% of the population. In all of those major colleges and universities only 2.4% of the students are black. That stat calls for a knee.

2. In the 1980’s about 500,000 0f the prison population was black. In 2018 there are 2.3 million blacks in jails, prisons, and on probation or on parole. Although only 12% of the population, they make up 33% of the prison population.

3. Here’s what happens to the black vote because of the high incarceration rate. In ten states a felon can permanently lose voting rights. In 20 states, voting rights are restored after the sentence, parole, and probation are served. In four states voting rights are restored only after probation. In nine Republican states people can’t vote if they owe legal or court fees. Most of these people are black. This stat calls for a knee.

4. There are over one million law enforcement officers in the country. Less than 6% are black. This stat calls for a knee.

5. Just two years ago Richard Nixon’s right-hand man John Ehrlichman admitted the Republican administration in 1968 started the war on drugs for these reasons: “We couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.” Take a knee. That’s sicko.

6. Black Stephon Clark was murdered by police in his own backyard when he was mistaken for a thief in his area. He had gone outside to see what was going on. The police said they thought he had a gun in his hand. They discovered it was his cell phone. By that time he had 20 bullets in him. Take a knee….

7. Sterling Brown, a black NBA player for the Milwaukee Bucks, recently got handcuffed, Tased, and unlawfully booked over a simple parking ticket. He is planning to sue the police department. He said: “Black men shouldn’t have to have their guard up and instantly be on the defensive when seeing a police officer, but it’s our reality and a real problem. There must be mutual respect and both sides have to figure out how to accomplish this.” The decision by the NFL owners demanding all players stand for the anthem doesn’t help our racial situation at all. Years ago James Baldwin wrote: “Racism is 1,000 cuts.” That’s “real” news.