Players resist NFL owners on rule to stand during anthem

Howard University cheerleaders.

Bulletin: African-American reporter Jemele Hill was reinstated to her co-hosting job on ESPN’s Sports Center on Oct. 23 following a two-week suspension. Hill, who called Donald Trump a white supremacist in September, was suspended for asking fans to boycott advertisers of the Dallas Cowboys, whose owner Jerry Jones threatened to bench players if they didn’t stand during the national anthem.

While Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, continues his fight against being whiteballed by National Football League owners, his protest against police brutality and racist oppression by taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem in 2016 continues to impact sectors of society, not only in the U.S. but worldwide. Eleven Hertha Berlin soccer players from the German Premier League, for instance, took a knee on the playing field in solidarity with Black NFL players on Oct. 14.

Two members of the gold-winning U.S. fencing team at the Fie World Cup games in Cairo took a knee during the anthem ceremony on Oct. 22.

All of the cheerleaders at Howard University, a historically Black college in Washington, D.C., along with Kennesaw State University cheerleaders in Kennesaw, Ga., took a knee. Despite risking suspension, high school football players in Mississippi, Texas and elsewhere have also protested during the anthem.

When Nobel Peace laureate Jody Williams received a Human Rights Award on Oct. 15 in upstate New York, part of her acceptance speech was praising Kaepernick for taking a knee against racism. Williams received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her efforts to ban landmines.

When asked in an interview why Kaepernick and others were taking a knee, Williams, who is white, replied, “The seeming inability of this country to deal with racism in general, but in particular, the police brutality against primarily Black men. There certainly has been violence against Black women, but the killings of Black men have been very, very disturbing to many people. I think [they] helped spark the Black Lives Matter movement.” (, Oct. 19)

Players, owners meet

On Oct. 17 and 18, 13 NFL players and 11 team owners met at the offices of the NFL in New York City to discuss the protests that continue on a weekly basis during the anthem and flag ceremonies before the games.  The players in attendance were Kelvin Beachum, Michael Bennett, Anquan Boldin, Demario Davis, Mark Herzlich, Malcolm Jenkins, Chris Long, Josh Norman, Russell Okung, Eric Reid, Kenny Stills, Julius Thomas and Michael Thomas. Representatives from the NFL Players Association were also present.

The players stated that their protests will continue until the NFL takes on a more pro-active role in providing resources to oppressed communities to help bring about equality. This is a just demand since the NFL is the richest professional sports league in the U.S., raking in billions of dollars in profits, especially from television revenues. These players have made it very clear that taking a knee during the anthem is a form of protesting the injustice suffered by Black and Brown people.

Only Jerry Jones, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Cowboys, echoed during this meeting the same sentiments as his buddy, Donald Trump, that a rule should be established that players will be benched if they don’t stand for the anthem, because the league is “suffering.” That rule was not voted on — resulting in a victory for the players — although Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, reiterated ad nauseum that the protests were “alienating” a majority of fans. He never mentioned that the vast majority of fans who are season ticket holders are white.

Player protests continue

Bennett, a defensive player with the Seattle Seahawks, also announced that no meaningful discussions between the players and owners could take place until the issue of Kaepernick is addressed. Bennett stated at a Oct. 19 press conference: “Before we even negotiate anything about whether we sit or whether we stand, (there) should be a negotiation about opening up the doors for Colin Kaepernick and giving him an opportunity again. For the guy who started everything not to be able to have a voice at this moment doesn’t seem right to me.”

When Bennett and his teammates sat during the anthem on Oct. 22, they were harassed by racist New York Giants fans. An estimated two dozen players took part in the protests before the Oct. 22 games.

Even though Kaepernick was invited by the players to attend the two-day meeting, no such invitation came from the NFL hierarchy, making him a no-show.

Kaepernick made it known in the spring that he was ready to sign with another team, either as a starting or back-up quarterback, once he opted out of his 49ers contract. But going into the eighth week of the NFL season, he remains unemployed.

Kaepernick announced on Oct. 14 that he was filing a grievance against NFL bosses, charging them with collusion for denying him employment as punishment for igniting this protest. Whether Kaepernick wins or loses this legal battle, his grievance will be making a strong political argument for exposing these owners and the league, who care more about making profits than defending the rights of the players to fight for racial equality.

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