Football, the sport as American as apple pie . . . or so we’ve been told. Who made apple pie the American dessert mascot of this country? And exactly what population does this apple pie represent? Does it represent the black population, they may prefer sweet potato pie, or the Puerto Rican population they may say it’s flan, tres leches cakes, or is it that the mascot for the dominant culture? You probably get where I am coming from. Football is a sport that is colorless, classless, devoid of the separations of the heaviness of this country, well at least it was until Colin Kaepernick decided to sit, and then kneel on the Star-Spangled Banner . . . another one of those very American things no one voted on. The very “American” song written by Francis Scott Key and how the flag proudly flew over Fort Henry. People assume that people of color have something invested in this victory and battle. That is a wild and baseless assumption, one that is the start of what is wrong with this country’s racial divide to begin with.
Here is a little history lesson about the song written by the lawyer Francis Scott Key, who was also a poet. On September 13th, 1814, British warships fired on Fort McHenry in the Baltimore Harbor, this is only a mere tidbit in the War of 1812. A week before this Francis Scott Key boarded a British flagship to persuade the British to release a friend. They did so, but kept Key, because he and his companions overheard the plans of the British’s upcoming attack on the harbor. During the time of the attack he penned the words of the song in the form of poem, but soon put them to the melody of an old English song. The night of the attack this song came to life and by morning he saw the American flag being raised instead of the British Union Jack. His brother who was in the militia had the song sent to the Baltimore Patriot, a newspaper, and published and the name of it was changed from the “Defence of Fort McHenry” to the “Star-Spangled Banner”.
What a lovely time we have had in history class, now here a few more lessons we don’t hear along with those times of pride and patriotism. Blacks could enlist during this war simply because there was a shortage of bodies. The same people Key was so proud to have defeated had offered freedom to the enslaved of the United States, the very country he had penned the home of the brave and the land of the free for, I am sure he was doing not so with the enslaved in mind, when it was written. There is little known about the lives of so many, because they were not allowed to be taught to read and write and their stories would fade.
And so now years later the new place of worship from November to February is the living room couch and den, or the high school fields. This is where we watch either professional football or pee-wee leagues. Colin Kaepernick turned the sanctuary of football upside down last season. Some may argue he brought the very colorless, classless, politic-less world to the game, but the truth is for anyone that has ever been anything other than white, race is in everything. From the very rich-excuse me wealthy white owners and the very black and brown players in sports who beat up their bodies and play for these very wealthy sky-box owners, it can look a lot like another form of slavery. Now let me be clear, I am a diehard G-Men fan, I eat and sleep and drink football, but I also eat, sleep and live in my black skin. I watch football no matter who is playing and yes, I go onto a deep depression the minute the Super Bowl is over. What in the world will I do now? And it is with this fervor for the game that I realize that I must boycott the upcoming season. The last year has been filled with racial tensions like no other recent years before, but not unlike the years leading up to King’s assassination, think the LA riots and Kings’ death. Colin Kaepernick did not disturb anything he merely brought it to the homes of football fans on a Sunday morning and afternoon who are not brown and black skinned. What he brought to the forefront is something as native, brown and black people deal with every day of our lives. People were torn black, white, Hispanic about whether what he did was disrespectful. Years of murder of our people have come to the spotlight, the use of social media and smart phones have shown a light on the very things we in certain communities have known all our lives. And Kaepernick brought it to everyone’s TV set. He sat the first time and after speaking to Nate Boyer a former serviceman he decided instead to kneel in support of people of color being gunned down all over the United States. The issue became about patriotism as opposed to the fact that the very meaning of patriotism would be acknowledging that there is a segment of our society that is marginalized and abandoned and unheard, that there is a part of our country that walks in fear of those paid to serve and protect, because their very presence does everything else, but that. The issue became about Kaepernick himself, not who he was, or his right to do what he was doing, but about the fact that it was considered disrespectful. But lost in the discussion was the reason the discussion was happening in the first place. The issue disappeared and the real issue became about patriotism and our servicemen. What bothered me so very much about that was true patriotism should be shown by making sure our servicemen have the proper services when they get home from their service, that their pay should match their sacrifice, and it is not. We were more concerned that Kaepernick did not stand for an anthem that was not written with him in mind than we were about the real issues about how our servicemen come home with PTSD at alarming rates, and that 1 in 8 commit suicides. This was not about that. If nothing else Kaepernick had the right to exercise free speech. The NFL has decided to penalize him for that. The same league that allowed wife beaters, dog fighters and drunks back to the league has issued a silent ban on Kaepernick. The same league that tried with all their might to keep CTE under wraps when they knew this caused violence in their players and did not take responsibility for it for years. I watch football because I like football I do not watch football and expect them to be the authority on moral high ground, the fact that they are now taking one offends my moral senses. Truthfully if the NFL wants to take a moral high ground they should look no further than Kaepernick. Kaepernick who donated $25,000 to Appetites for Change, an organization that helps urban neighborhoods help teach healthy eating, he donated 100 of his suits to a charity organization 100 Suits that helps men who have been released from jail, $50,000 to Meals on Wheels, $25,000 to a youth violence prevention non-profit group I Will Not Die Young, and he helped raise money to send food and water to Somalia with Ben Stiller’s non-profit Love Army for Somalia. Now for his sports accomplishments Kaepernick has the 17th best quarterback ratings, his touchdown percentage is 13%, better than the Washington Redskins Kirk Cousins who was in the Pro Bowl and received a contract for 24 million dollars, his interception rating is 6th behind Aaron Rodgers and behind MVP Matt Ryan. He has received both comments from teams he is overqualified and underqualified. Sounds more like some teams don’t have the guts that he did to buck the system.
So, let’s address the NFL’s moral high ground, Ezekiel Elliott caught on video pulling down a woman’s shirt during a St. Patrick’s Day parade, his sentence, Ray Rice and his debacle with then fiancé in the elevator of the hotel points to domestic abuse, more than 40% of NFL’s retired players living with brain injury, 5000 former players are tied up as we speak in a settlement case with NFL that could cost them 1 Billion dollars after Dr. Omalu’s findings. The NFL makes at least 13 Billion dollars a year. Talk about a moral high ground, the very people you put in harm’s way you now will not pay. Now don’t get me wrong I don’t have any ideas on what the NFL’s punishments should be one way or the other in some instances I think they go overboard often. But what they have done to Kaepernick I have found to be a misuse of power. This country is home of the brave and the land of the free, isn’t it?
So as much as it pains me I will be going to church and avoiding my addiction this season. Let me explain to you why. I am black, I am gay, and I am a woman, oh and let me include I am Republican, that is marginalization within itself when you consider all the labels beforehand. I have been harassed by policemen, I have experienced driving while black, I have been profiled by state troopers, I have been beat up, arrested and accused of things merely because of the color of my skin. I have been in stores and approached by white people who assumed that I must be a retail associate, I have had white women and men hold their bags close to them because all black people steal and are violent, don’t you know? I know that cops are quicker to pull a trigger on us than on others. I also know that white America has long been in the dark of their own volition in many cases to what living black in this country really entails. Just recently Lebron James mentioned during a news conference that it was hard being black in this country, and although this country has a great many things to be proud of we also have a great many things we to be ashamed of. Colin Kaepernick did what his/our people have been doing for years and like all the others we are subject to being told how we should protest and who should be the protestor. I do not stand with Colin Kaepernick simply because I do or do not agree with what he is doing I stand with him because he has the right to do it first and foremost. I stand with him secondly as a black American. An American whose descendants had no choice in what anthem they sang at the sporting events, whose descendants did not get to choose the flag that represents them at the Olympics, I stand as an African American whose family does not do green bean casserole on Thanksgiving by default for the American thanksgiving meals, I stand as a negro/colored as the great-granddaughter of a woman who only read on a third grade educational level because the remnants of slavery and the illegal spirit of reading and writing for slaves was carried over in time, I stand as a descendant of Africa whose history is never spoken of in class, whose black skin is reminiscent of where my people hail from. In the end, how important is football if people are being marginalized by it, if it is being used to silence the voices of those who have something to say, ask the Natives how they feel about the Washington Redskins, so I challenge all my black, brown, native, and white counterparts to do the same. My self-respect and the respect of my brother is not worth the couple of hours I get from watching a football game. I couldn’t really enjoy watching knowing that the NFL has made this personal and have joined the powers that be. So, I ask whose field of dreams are you playing on this season?