Taking a Stand
Friday's Memory, September 7, 2018
Colin Kaepernick, the former football quarterback, is back in the news. Nike has announced they plan to feature Kaepernick, along with other athletes, in an upcoming ad to emphasize the meaning of their tag line, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” #JustDoIt
As predicted, the blow back has been swift and prolific with people coming down on both sides of the fence. Several folks have proclaimed they will never purchase another Nike product and have even burned their Nike sneakers and gear. Other people said they cannot wait to buy as many Nike products as they can and applaud them for coming out to support Kaepernick when so many have vilified him. This is all a continuation of the controversy that began when Kaepernick opted to take a knee instead of standing with his team mates during the national anthem which resulted in many enraged fans and a proliferation of tweets from the White House.
As this controversy continues, people of African descent ask ourselves how it is possible that white America continues to dictate how, when and if peaceful protest should happen. Not to mention how the “offenders” should be punished. How many times do supporters of these NFL players have to explain this has nothing to do with the flag, the national anthem, apple pie, motherhood or patriotism. It’s about the right to bring peaceful attention to the racist cancer that has plagued this nation for centuries. How long have Black Americans tried to state their case about the violence inflicted upon members of our community at the hands of SOME policemen--long before cell phones and modern day technology made it possible to capture it in real time.
And how long have Black Americans tried to spotlight what we have known to be happening for years; that a segment of American society has been abused and largely over policed without any accountability or justice? How do you explain that America has gifted a segment of society the ability to go about their daily lives without having to experience anything remotely unpleasant and in all likelihood will never find themselves in a situation that would cause them to feel fearful, let alone victimized or terrorized.
But ask any person of color, male or female, and you will undoubtedly get a different answer. Back in 1947, when Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play in major league baseball, Black Americans immediately became die hard Dodger fans. Up until that time Black baseball players were relegated to Negro Leagues and teams protested by taking a knee even back then. So the notion that today’s athletes, or the people who support their protest, are not patriotic is an insult of the highest caliber, for it was the grandfathers and fathers of these same athletes who were among the first to be called to war and proudly served.
In closing we want you to also consider the reaction of Beto O’Rourke, the democratic Senate candidate who is vying for Ted Cruz’s seat in Texas. When asked how he stood on NFL players kneeling during the national anthem his response was quick and to the point. He answered that it is not disrespectful if reasonable people can disagree on an issue, because it makes them no less American. He went on to further say that we can no longer ignore a peaceful non-violent protest centered around unarmed Black people being killed at a frightening level in this country without police accountability—and that it must stop. Taking a knee is way to bring attention to a problem so we can fix it.
As writers of the Friday memory we wholeheartedly agree. As mothers of African American sons, we applaud Nike for taking a stand. Both of us have had an up close and personal view of the struggles our husbands and sons have experienced as Black men in America. And every day we seem to be assaulted with a newspaper article or a segment on the news about this very subject which we certainly are not insulated from. On September 3, 2018 the front page of a local paper carried an article about the former Bordentown Township police chief, Frank Nucera, Jr., currently being investigated by the FBI and charged with federal crimes after being accused of beating a handcuffed black teenager in 2016. As if this wasn’t heinous enough, he has been recorded using an expletive-laden statement that Black people should stay out of Bordentown and also allegedly stated “it would be nice” if officers could have used a police dog during the arrest.
So all of you who are outraged by Nike’s actions and are still planning your Nike bonfire, we want you to consider that until you have lived just one minute with that kind of fear for your family, you will not be able to understand why Colin Kaepernick or any African American chooses to use a peaceful protest such a taking a knee at a sporting event.