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NFL Players Continuing What Kaepernick Started and They’re Not Backing Down

2 Sep
Giants Browns Football

Members of the Cleveland Browns participating in a silent protest during the national anthem before their preseason game against the New York Giants on Aug. 21.  Photo  by Cleveland.com 

If the whole idea behind not signing Colin Kaepernick to an NFL contract was to end the movement he started, it’s not working.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

With kickoff for the regular season of the National Football League a week away, free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick still doesn’t have a job and the way things are looking right now, he probably won’t get one.

But if the 29-year-old Kaepernick never plays another down in his NFL career, what he started will be way bigger than any touchdown pass he threw or any of his long runs from scrimmage.

A year after Kaepernick began his protest, his symbolic gesture of protesting police violence and mass incarceration against African-Americans by not standing for the National Anthem is still resonating among his NFL comrades as well as fans.

Last week, about 1,500 to 2,000 protesters, led by the Kaepernick’s fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi and the NAACP, gathered outside of the NFL’s Park Avenue headquarters to protest what they see as the quarterback’s blackballing by the league’s owners because of his protest. Some Black football fans have said they will not watch another game until Kaepernick is signed.

Despite the fact that several NFL coaches, including Seattle’s Pete Carroll and Baltimore’s John Harbaugh, believe that Kaepernick is good enough to be a starter at best and a capable backup at worst, NFL owners have remained steadfast. Their goal is to make an example of him and to intimidate others from engaging in similar protests.

malcolmjenkinsfist

(From right to left) Steven Means, Malcolm Jenkins and Ron Brooks raise their fists during the national anthem in protest of unarmed killings of Black people by the Police prior to Monday’s game against the Chicago Bears.

But if Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, members of the Cleveland Browns and players on other teams around the league are any indication, the ploy has failed—badly.

“I think if that was the goal, it didn’t work,” said Jenkins, who raises a fist of defiance on the sidelines as the Anthem plays. “You had the largest protest (Aug.22) with the amount of players that they had. More and more guys are joining every week.”

Right now, Jenkins said, the focus needs to be on exactly why the players are protesting.

“We want to fight with those who are fighting for equal rights,” he said. “We want to make sure to keep the focus there.”

Another reason why the owner’s gambit isn’t working is because the protests have become multiracial.

Before their Aug. 22 preseason game against the New York Giants, several Black members and one white player, tight end Seth DeValve of the Cleveland Browns took a knee during the national anthem.

DeValve, whose wife is African American, was the first white player to kneel along with the African-American players.  He said that he joined his African-American teammates because he believes that while the United States is the greatest country in the world, “it doesn’t provide equal opportunity to everybody, and I wanted to support my African-American teammates today who wanted to take a knee. We wanted to draw attention to the fact that there’s things in this country that still need to change.”

Three other white players, Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr of the Oakland Raiders, offensive lineman Justin Britt and Eagles defensive lineman Chris Long expressed support for their teammates participating in the protests.

As Jenkins raised his fists in the air, Long put his arm around the Eagles safety. Britt put his hands on the shoulders of teammate Michael Bennett as he knelt during the national anthem and Carr did the same thing for Raiders defensive Khalil Mack.

While he’s not sure that the players can get Kaepernick back on the field, they can and should continue the dialogue on police brutality and racial injustice he started, Jenkins said.

“I think there’s a need for that next step,” said Jenkins, who has testified before Congress on the issue. “We’ve gained the attention, we’ve done the protests, we’ve had the stage, we have the microphones and now people are looking for solutions. I think there’s opportunities for guys to educate themselves about the system and the situation in their particular cities.”

“For instance,” Jenkins said, “In (Pennsylvania) when it comes criminal justice reform and mass incarceration, they trying re-introduce mandatory minimum sentencing. We’re trying to make sure that doesn’t happen. “

What Kaepernick started by simply is taking a knee is gradually into a movement and that’s worth more than any Super Bowl ring or accolades he will ever receive as a player.

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Hands Up, Don’t Shoot: Rams Players Were Right to Stand up For Michael Brown

4 Dec

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

(from left to right):  Stedman  Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Kenny Britt expressed their solidarity with activists protesting against the no indictment ruling in favor of Ferguson police officer who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown.  Photo by Huffington Post.

(from left to right): Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Kenny Britt expressed their solidarity with activists protesting against the no indictment ruling in favor of Ferguson police officer who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. Photo by Huffington Post.

As a long-time sportswriter and columnist, one thing I have never done in print or cyberspace is openly express my fandom for a particular team, especially those I cover on a regular basis.

But last Sunday I became a fan of five members of the St. Louis Rams—Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Kenny Britt, not so much for what they did on the field in a 52-0 shutout of the Oakland Raiders, but for what they did before the game.

As they came out of the tunnel to begin the game, Bailey, Austin, Cook, Givens and Britt displayed, “the hands up, don’t shoot” gesture made popular during in Ferguson, Missouri during demonstrations protesting the decision of a St. Louis County Grand Jury not to indict former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Britt and rookie running back Tre Mason also performed the gesture during the game after scoring touchdowns.

Rams fans at Edward Jones Dome  in St. Louis express their views about the decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michel Brown in Ferguson, Mo.  Photo by CBS local in St. Louis.

Rams fans at Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis express their views about the decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michel Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Photo by CBS local in St. Louis.

Black men, whether they be athletes or a sports writers, recognize that any of us can be victims of violence at the hands of police officers in the same way  Brown, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old who was recently shot to death in Cleveland while wielding a toy gun- were killed by the cops.

But usually, athletes tend to stay on the sidelines while others take to the streets in protest of yet another instance of the missive “There’s no justice, there’s just-us”. The possibility of lost endorsements, lost prestige and lost contract dollars tends to be their first thought.

In the tradition of Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ Black Power salute at the 1968 Summer Olympics, the players decided to use their place on the NFL stage to highlight just how big a problem police brutality is, and how important it is to solve it.

“I just think there has to be a change,” Cook told the Associated Press. “There has to be a change that starts with the people that are most influential around the world.”

There was the inevitable push back, however, and it came from the St. Louis Police Officer’s Association. The SLPOA called on the NFL to discipline the players and make them apologize to police for making the gesture, which they called “tasteless, offensive and inflammatory.”

While the Police Association acknowledged the player’s First Amendment rights, they also threatened to mount a protest of their own against the League.

“Cops have First Amendment rights too, and we plan to exercise ours,” said Jeff Roorda, a spokesman for the Police Association. “I’d remind the N.F.L. and their players that it is not the violent thugs burning down buildings that buy their advertisers’ products. It’s cops and the good people of St. Louis and other N.F.L towns that do. Somebody needs to throw a flag on this play. If it’s not the N.F.L. and the Rams, it’ll be cops and their supporters.”

(I should probably mention here that Roorda isn’t really a cop anymore. He was fired from his job as a cop in Arnold, Missouri for making false statements. Irony…)

To their credit, the NFL refused to bow down to the schoolyard bullies of the Police Association and discipline the players for exercising their First Amendment rights. I guess that Roger Goodell is too busy dealing with domestic violence and child abuse to add “attempting to change the Constitution because some cop’s feelings got hurt” to his to-do list.

But my question to the St. Louis Police Officer Association is what’s next? Will they threaten the thousands of protestors every time they point out an injustice by the cops? Will they racially profile the Rams’ Black players or refuse to provide security at future Rams games because someone dared to take a stand against the problem of police shooting unarmed Black men?

You would think in this time of heightened tensions between the African-American community and law enforcement that the St. Louis Police Officers Association would be coming up with ways to build better relationships with people of color. But all this did was reinforce the deep mistrust that many African Americans already had of the police.

While it wasn’t new, the Rams pre-game protest was refreshing in a day and age where prominent athletes shy away from anything controversial.

With their silent gesture, they spoke volumes.

Olympic Gold Medalist Allyson Felix Hopes for Another Golden Year in 2013

30 Apr
Four-time Olympic Gold Medalists is looking to have another good year in 2013.

Four-time Olympic Gold Medalists is looking to have another good year in 2013.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report/The Sunday Sun

(from left to right) Phoebe Wright, Allyson Felix, Doc Patton and Manteo Mitchell at Penn Relays USA versus the World Press Conference. Photo by Chris Murray.

(from left to right) Phoebe Wright, Allyson Felix, Doc Patton and Manteo Mitchell at Penn Relays USA versus the World Press Conference. Photo by Chris Murray.

PHILADELPHIA-Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix is coming off a 2012 track and field season that most sprinters would dream about.

Felix won the gold medal in the 200-meter dash (21.88) and she picked up more two more gold medals as a part of the women’s 4×100-meter and 4×400-meter relay teams at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. The 4×100-meter relay squad not only won the gold, but also set a new world record. Felix was named the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) 2012 Female Athlete of the Year.

The 27-year-old Felix also had first place finishes in the 200-meter dash at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore. and won the 100-meter in the Diamond League meet in Doha, Qatar. After winning in London, Felix took a well-deserved two-month break from the track, but was still busy with commercial endorsements and traveling.

With the start of the 2013 outdoor season, Felix said she has other mountains to climb and other goals to accomplish with the U.S. Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa in June and the World Championships in Moscow looming on the horizon in August.

“I think any year after a major championship is difficult, just to get back moving coming off such a high,” Felix said during a press conference at the Penn Relays.  “And so for me I’ve just been trying to take things slowly. I think this is going to be a season where I have a gradual build up and hopefully will come together at nationals.”

Felix got her outdoor season going last weekend when she ran the lead-off leg for USA Red in the 4×100-meter relay as a part of the Penn Relays USA versus the World.

Unlike the outcome at the London Olympics, Team Jamaica, led by Olympic 100-meter champion Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, edged out Felix’s USA Red squad at the Penn Relays.

“It’s always good competition, they’re always ready,” Felix said. “We know that they’re always going to be there and they’re our main rival.”

Going up against the competition from a loaded Jamaican squad and against a talented pool of American runners, Felix is gearing up for a season where there will definitely be getting the best efforts of her opposition at various meets this season.

“It’s always harder to run with a target on your back and it’s harder once you’ve had success to keep it,” Felix said. “It’s finding the motivation, making sure your work ethic is the same and I think after you have a major championship, you always kind a question a little bit, ‘am I working as I could be. You’re constantly trying to push yourself.”

After taking a couple of months off, Felix admitted that getting back into training mode wasn’t easy, but her coach Bobby Kersee, who is known to be a task master, got her ready for the 2013 season and back to her regular training regimen.

“I was out of shape, but Bobby whipped me back into shape,” Felix said smiling. “I’m just going to take things slowly this year and it’s going to be a gradual process to get back to where I need to be.”

Felix said her big goal this season is to make the U.S. team that will compete in the World Track and Field Championships in Russia and to ultimately equal or exceed her performance at the London Olympics.