African Americans, athletes, Chargers, Korean War, Los Angeles, National Basketball Association, National Football League, NBA, NFL, Olympic Games, police, protest, Rams, Southern California sports, Sparks, Star Spangled Banner, United States, Vietnam War, WNBA, World War I
Los Angeles Chargers players showing solidarity before a recent game. Photo courtesy of nydailynews.com
MY TWO CENTS ON NFL PLAYERS AND OTHER ATHLETES TAKING A STAND AGAINST RACIAL AND SOCIAL ISSUES
It’s been another polarizing issue in a series of polarizing issues prevalent in this country as of late.
And it would be ignorant of me to not offer my personal opinion on Colin Kaepernick and other athletes, from the NFL and elsewhere, kneeling in protest of police brutality and other racial issues before games while the national anthem is playing.
So here’s how I feel about it all…
I have family who fought and died for that piece of cloth with seven red stripes, six white stripes, and fifty white stars on a blue field in the upper left hand corner.
My great-grandfather fought in World War I.
My uncle was killed in the Korean War; it’s been over 65 years and his remains are still somewhere in North Korea instead of the Los Angeles National Cemetery where it belongs.
My father, who I never knew (but that’s another story), fought in the Vietnam War.
Which is why I personally choose to stand for the “Star Spangled Banner”, my attitude being “Might as well”.
I’m also an African-American male.
A black man who has encountered racism, such as being racially profiled several times by the Santa Monica, CA police during the 1990s, including getting handcuffed in front of my house because I fit the description of a stalker.
As well as being denied jobs strictly because of my being black, like when I was told that someone else was being chosen to coach a little league girls’ softball team instead of me upon sight because “He asked first”, after I made such a good impression during the phone interview.
And being called the “N-word” mostly during my early childhood years by quite a few white kids in the then-rural suburb of Woodcrest outside of Riverside, CA, and hearing that word a few times in Santa Monica.
Not to mention experiencing various slights and “microaggressions” that, looking back, I recognize that that’s what I went through on various occasions during my adolescent and young adult years.
Of course I can’t forget the many instances of African-Americans being disrespected at best and encountering outright bigotry to the point of murder at the hands of the local authorities at worst.
Incidents like the Rodney King beating and subsequent acquittal of those four white cops despite the brutalization being caught on video – which triggered the L.A. Riots/Rebellion 25 years ago – and the police murdering guys like Trayvon Martin and Freddie Gray certainly come to mind.
THE “BLACK POWER” SALUTE HEARD ‘ROUND THE WORLD: Tommie Smith (center) and John Carlos (right) during the 200 meters medal ceremony in the 1968 Olympics. Photo courtesy of blackwomenofbrazil.com
I know, I know – What does this have to do with NFL players kneeling and protesting before games?
To put it bluntly, I support those athletes.
I know that many folks – who seem to be mostly white and conservative, curiously enough – are foaming at the mouth over the kneeling, the arm-linking and the fist-raising, saying that while they have a right to protest, to do so on the job should be punishable by virtual condemnation to hell.
What those folks don’t understand is that people like my uncle died so that Kaepernick and all those other players in the National Football League,
And I’m sure a lot of guys in the National Basketball Association when that season opens in a few weeks,
And every other sports league for that matter,
Can kneel, raise fists, link arms, or not come out of the locker room at all – like the Sparks did before Game One of the WNBA Finals – during the national anthem.
To not allow that is not only denying free speech,
But denying human rights.
Of course, all of this is nothing new.
In the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City Tommie Smith and John Carlos, after winning the gold and bronze medals in the 200 meter finals respectively, raised their fists in the “Black Power” salute on the medal stand during the national anthem, earning them an expulsion from the Games and a one-way ticket home from IOC President and known racist Avery Brundage.
Muhammad Ali had his heavyweight title stripped the year before when he refused to be inducted into the U.S. Army, losing three years of his boxing prime before the Supreme Court overturned his five-year jail sentence.
And we all know the pure hell that Jackie Robinson went through for daring to integrate Major League Baseball in 1947.
All of these instances and incidents past and present have one thing in common:
The protagonists’ color of their skin.
And as a black man, I feel I have no choice but to stand in solidarity to those who are taking a stand against injustice and the hypocrisy that America has exuded to those of its citizens who don’t happen to be white, wealthy, male, straight, conservative, or Christian.
Or a combination of those six attributes.
Though I wouldn’t kneel during the Star Spangled Banner due to my family’s involvement in defending that stars and stripes flag, if I were on an NFL team and they chose to remain in the locker room before the game, like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans and the Seattle Seahawks did this past Sunday, I would be right with them.
And if the team decided to link arms, I would do that.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
EVERYONE, including professional athletes, has every right to take a stand for what they believe in and what they don’t think is right.
Those who would bad mouth such actions or would deny those rights are doing one thing:
DENYING HUMAN RIGHTS.
Which in essence is the heart of it all.
It would be very wrong of me to not give these athletes my support in this.
Especially since there are millions of people in these United States – and other places – that still see me as inferior and lesser due to the color of my skin.