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Silence is Golden For the NFL: Players, Black Community Have to Stand up For Kaepernick

10 Aug
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Colin Kaepernick and teammate Eric Reid (left) take a kneel during the national anthem to protest the unarmed killings of Black people by the police. As of Aug. 10, Kaepernick remains unsigned.

While fans are talking an NFL Boycott to protest Colin Kaepernick’s lack of a new team, voices that should be speaking out aren’t.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and The Philadelphia Sunday Sun

With NFL teams still avoiding quarterback Colin Kaepernick like the plague because of his national anthem protest, African-American football fans on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are saying they’ll “boycott” the league if he remains unsigned.

While it sounds like a good and principled stand on the surface, I doubt that it will move Commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners all that much. If folks decide to go after the league’s advertisers, that might move the needle, but it would take an organized effort and would also depend on the advertisers involved.

That said, there are a number of entities within the African-American community that have been eerily silent on the issue of Kaepernick and his obvious blackballing at the hands of NFL owners.

Civil Rights organizations like the NAACP haven’t said much. I haven’t heard anything from Jesse Jackson and it was until late this week that Al Sharpton mentioned Kaepernick on his radio show.

In fact, the most obvious effort on Kaepernick’s behalf appears to be coming from his fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi. On Aug. 23, the fraternity, the Justice League of New York City, as well as other civil rights organizations, are planning a rally in front of the NFL’s headquarters to protest what they see as the league keeping Kaepernick from plying his trade.

There is also a website soliciting for petitions,#StandingforKaepernick https://standingforkaepernick.org/ that outlines its plans for boycotting the NFL on behalf of Kaepernick.

That will probably be the closest thing to a collective effort by the Black community on behalf of Kaepernick.

Another group that hasn’t said much publicly has been the NFL Players Association and executive director DeMaurice Smith.

While I was unsuccessful in getting in contact with Smith, a source close to the NFLPA told me the union is in contact with Kaepernick on a regular basis and is monitoring the situation. The source also said the union is there for Kaepernick if he needs them.

If African-American fans really want to stand behind Kaepernick and make their voices heard, it’s going take a truly collective effort.

And it’s also going to have to include the players themselves to be truly effective. They’re going to have to be the agents of change here.

If all the African-American players were to come together and say that they were sitting out the season until Kaepernick is signed, it would bring the NFL to its knees.  Black men make up 70 percent of the NFL’s players.  Without those players, NFL teams wouldn’t be able to field a special teams unit.

While individual players like Seattle Seahawks safety Richard Sherman and Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins have voiced their support for Kaepernick, but the players as a group or even as a rank and file members of the NFLPA have not come together as an organized collective to challenge Goodell and the owners.

The league’s African-American players see the blackballing of Kaepernick as the owners’ way to keep the players in their place and to intimidate any future activists from coming up. It’s the NFL’s way of saying, “Just shut up and play.”

Back in 1965, Black American Football League players, Abner Haynes and Cookie Gilchrist, organized a boycott of African-American players, who were being discriminated against in various throughout the city of New Orleans. The players said they would not play in the AFL’s All-Star game unless the game was moved from New Orleans.

The collective efforts of the Black players and a few whites who joined them eventually got the game moved to Houston.

At the end of the day, the African-American players themselves have to stand up for Kaepernick because this is nothing but a power move by the owners to instill the fear of the shield into the players.

Especially the Black ones.

 

Philadelphia Eagles Training Camp 2017: Improving Cornerback Position Critical to Birds Success This Season

29 Jul

 

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Eagles rookie cornerbacks Rasul Douglas (32) and Jomal Wiltz (30) are competing to get playing time in the Eagles secondary. Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

With a group of new players and rookies and a ton of expectations, the Philadelphia Eagles 2017 squad started training camp on Monday with more questions than answers.

But fans are hoping that once the team gets these questions answered, the Eagles will be a shoo-in for a playoff spot and possibly a Super Bowl.

Among these questions fans and coaches have is How much better will quarterback Carson Wentz play now that he has more weapons to work with? The Eagles signed wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in the off-season, giving Wentz two more weapons to work with. He’ll also have running back LeGarrette Blount behind him, and the team is hoping that he can duplicate his career-high 1,161 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns from last year. Coaches will also be keeping an eye on diminutive rookie running back Donnel Pumphrey to see if he can be an every-down running back despite weighing just 178 pounds.

On the defensive side of the ball, the weakest link on the Eagles squad appears to be the secondary in general and the cornerback slot in particular. That’s because you have a group a group that hasn’t played with each other much that includes a group of talented, but untested rookies and a second-year player still trying to find his way.

“We’re going to continue to look to bring in guys, if we can, to create as much competition at that spot,” said head coach Doug Pederson during his post-practice press conference on Monday. “It’s obviously a spot we’re going to keep our eyes on throughout camp, but it gives a couple of our younger guys a chance to get some valuable reps.”

Rookie and former West Virginia star Rasul Douglas is among the group of Eagles first-year players that could crack the starting lineup or at the very least get some time on the field.  If you know something about his past, this is a young man whose motor is on all of the time.

Before transferring to West Virginia, Douglas played his collegiate ball at Nassau Community College as a walk-on and there were times he had to rely on ordering the McDonald’s dollar menu for meals because he didn’t have a lot of money. That experience fueled his determination to succeed once he got to West Virginia, he said.

Douglas will certainly need that kind of hunger (pardon the pun) to get playing time on the field, much less a starting spot. Especially since the competition appears to be really tough in his chosen slot.

“All of us have a chance to be a starting cornerback every position is open and up for grabs,” said Douglas, who intercepted eight passes in his final season at West Virginia. “We’re all trying to compete and get better every day. We’re definitely working and improving.”

The presumed starters at the cornerback positions are second-year corner Jalen Mills and 10-year veteran Patrick Robinson with Ron Brooks, who missed last 10 games with a torn quad last year, playing in the slot. The Birds also signed five-year veteran Dwayne Gratz. Also, veteran corner and former Canadian Football League standout Aaron Grymes returns to the Eagles after being cut last year.

If anything is going to prepare the Eagles young cornerback group for the upcoming season is the group of wide receivers they’ll be going up against in practice. Smith and Jeffrey are veteran receivers who know how to stretch defenses.

During the Eagles mini-camp in June, it was Jeffery who said that he liked Douglas’s potential at the cornerback spot and predicted that the rookie could have as many as five or six interceptions for the Eagles.

If that’s the case, the Birds could make a run for the division title this year.

“(Jeffery) has played against some of the best cornerbacks in the NFL,” Douglas said. “To hear something like that and being a rookie, not knowing and just playing off the athleticism means a lot.”

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said his young corners competing  against quality wide receivers in practice can only help the maturation process.

“I think the competition helps them. Whether it helps them to develop quicker, I don’t know. But I know that competition is going to bring out the best in them,” Schwartz said. “If they make a mistake in technique, it will show. You can’t cover it up against a veteran player. So I think that’s probably the biggest part of that equation.”

But players like Douglas are going to have to learn from players like Brooks and Robinson. Douglas said there were times he struggled during OTAs, but the veteran told him that there are going to those days when receivers get their catches.

“When we first came out here, we were out here just running around, trying to make a play,” he said. “They (the veterans) were like, Look young fella, they (wide receivers) get paid like you get paid. You can’t take away everything.”

The Eagles secondary will certainly need a push from the front seven to get pressure on quarterbacks. On the defensive line, former Baltimore Raven Tim Jurnigan along with defensive end Chris Long will give the Birds a solid rotation.

Meanwhile, rookie and No. I draft pick Derek Barnett is looking to join Brandon Graham as a starting defensive end.

“OTAs were very competitive. I’m competing with guys who’ve been in the league for a while and guys who’ve been in the league for two or three years. It’s all good competition,” Barnett said.

Despite breaking former Eagles great Reggie White’s all-time sack record at the University of Tennessee and being the Eagles No. 1 pick, Barnett knows he’s still got a lot of work ahead of him.

“What I did in the past doesn’t mean nothing, being a first-round pick doesn’t mean nothing,” Barnett said. “I still gotta come and go to work every day, improving my craft and showing the coaches they can trust me and showing my teammates they trust me on the field as well.”

The road to the Philadelphia Eagles 53-man roster for the 2017 season begins with the team’s first pre-season game against the Green Bay Packers on Aug. 10.

Negro League Baseball Museum Still Thriving as a Beacon of Black History

9 Jul

The Negro League Baseball Museum shines a light on the players who played with Jackie Robinson first.

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Major League Baseball commissioner Robert Manfred; Kansas City Mayor Sly James; Judy Pace Flood, widow of Curt Flood; MLB Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark and former player Dave Winfield attend ceremonies in Kansas City, Mo., Wednesday, June 21, 2017. Major League Baseball and its players’ union presented a $1 million grant to the Negro League Baseball Museum to help with operating costs, expansion plans and educational opportunities. Photo by Philadelphia Sunday Sun via the Associated Press.

 

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

With Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game coming up on Tuesday, I am reminded of the time prior to Jackie Robinson’s breaking the color line when baseball, not basketball, was the most popular sport among African-Americans.

In the 30s and 40s, stadiums like Chicago’s Comiskey Park and Philadelphia’s Connie Mack Stadium would be filled with African-Americans coming to see Negro League Baseball teams like the Philadelphia Stars play the Negro League’s elite players like Satchell Paige, James “Cool Papa” Bell and Josh Gibson.

“Let me tell you something, fella, Negro League baseball was a happening in the Black world,” the late Stanley Glenn told me when I interviewed the former member of the Philadelphia Stars in 2005. “Women came to the ballpark dressed in their Sunday best, high heel shoes, silk stockings and they had hats on their heads on their hats and long-sleeved gloves … Let me tell you something — we married some of the girls. They would be there dressed to kill. You would think you were at a cotillion.”

While memories of those days have faded along with African-Americans interest and participation in the game, there’s a monument to the Stars at 44th and Parkside in West Philadelphia, as well as a wing dedicated to Negro Leagues at the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

But if you really want to see what the Negro Leagues were all about, and you can’t find a copy of the Richard Pryor film “The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings”, a visit to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City is a must.

Since it opened in 1997, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum has become a showcase and permanent monument to the greatest players in the history of baseball; players that were kept from the major leagues because of the color of their skin.

“It’s an American history, it really is,” said Bob Kendrick, the museum’s president. “It is a story of America at her worst, but it’s also a story of America at a time of her best because what drives this story is the American spirit. America didn’t want to let these guys play, but the American spirit propelled them to do so. That’s why it’s such an awe-inspiring and such a compelling story that few people have been exposed to until the rise of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.”

Whether you walk inside the museum’s hallway with the uniforms and old photographs of the players or you’re seeing the bronze statues of players like Paige and Gibson playing their positions in a makeshift stadium, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is a living, breathing monument to the greatness of those players.

And it’s a greatness that tends to attract Black major leaguers to the museum, Kendrick said. Many of them have come to the museum to draw strength and inspiration from the statues and artifacts contained there, including former Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, who would often visit the museum to draw strength and inspiration before heading to spring training.

“Ryan used to come to the museum before we even knew who Ryan Howard was,” Kendrick said. “Every year he would come to the Negro League museum because he said it was place he need to come before spring training. He drew strength. It was almost like his rites of passage.”

In the aftermath of being jeered with racial epithets by a fan at Boston’s Fenway Park, Baltimore Orioles centerfielder Adam Jones visited museum and talked about its importance to him.

“Some have no idea what the Negro Leagues are about or what they went through. I appreciate people coming out here to learn something they didn’t know about the great game of baseball through the Negro Leagues’ eyes,” Jones told MASN.com (MidAtlantic Sports Network) after donating $20,000 back in May.  “This is just the place to learn what these great men had to go through.”

Recently, the Negro League Baseball Museum, which has had its share of financial ups and downs, received a huge boost from Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association in the form of a $1 million donation.

The contribution will support the museum’s operations, services, its expansion as well as its educational and community programs. The portions of the money will go to complete the Buck O’Neil Research and Education Center on the Paseo YMCA site where Andrew “Rube” Foster formed the Negro Leagues in 1920. 

Kendrick said museum’s partnership with MLB through Commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBA Executive Director Tony Clark is yet another way of reaching out to the African-American community in an effort to renew their interest in the sport.  African-American players make up just 7.1 percent of the athletes playing the sport.

Not only was the financial contribution significant, it was the presence of both Clark and Manfred at the museum to make the announcement last month that made it even more special for Kendrick.

“They have embraced the notion of the museum playing a significant role in its effort to bringing African-Americans back to our sport in terms of playing and watching it,” Kendrick said. “This is the first time that we’ve sat down and look at this as a collaboration and the partnership aspect of what this means.

“(Manfred and Clark) being here to me, in some regard, is more important than the financial because it raises the platform, the profile of our museum and how it is seen and valued by those who run our great sport.”

The Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be broadcast from Marlins Park in Miami beginning at 8pm on Fox-29.

 

#BlackFansMatter: Colin Kaepernick and how the NFL disregards its African-American Fan Base

1 Jul

If nothing else, the verdict in the Philando Castile case should show the National Football League that Colin Kaepernick had a point.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Following the acquittal of the police officer who shot him, the video of Philando Castile being shot  by a Minnesota police officer was released.

Like many of you, I was shocked and horrified by what I saw. Castile, by every measure, complied with the officer’s instructions and even lawfully informed him that he had a gun.

And yet, former St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez still shot Castile to death because let’s face it — if you have the wrong skin color, running a stop sign can be an offense worthy of capital punishment by a law enforcement officer more than willing to serve as judge, jury and the guy wearing the black hood.

Which is exactly why former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick spent much of last season taking a knee.

In the  same week that the Criminal Justice system proved him right with the acquittal of Yanez, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement saying that Kaepernick is not being “blackballed” for his national anthem protests during the 2016 season. 

Goodell is the commissioner of a league where 70 percent of the players are Black. Despite their status as professional athletes, they face the same possibility of “Death By Police Officer,” that Castile faced. Black men, according to the “Washington Post”, are almost three times more likely to be shot and killed by police officers. Unarmed Black men are seven times more likely than Whites to die in police gunfire, according to the Post.

You would think that at the very least, Goodell and the league owners would have some type of sensitivity, empathy, or come to some understanding of a problem that affects the majority of their players.

Instead, the NFL, like the juries and prosecutors that allow cops who kill unarmed Black people to go free, has chosen to turn a blind eye to this injustice against African-Americans.   

That’s because calling  Kaepernick unpatriotic and  using him as a cautionary tale for other Black players is easier for the owners to do than it is to listen to these athletes when they  speak about the racism that affects the Black community.    

And as Castile found out by being  shot to death, and  Kaepernick is finding out through being blackballed because he refused to just shut up and play, the Constitution is First Amendment never really applies to African-Americans.

Don’t believe me? Check this out.

The Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman said he talked to several owners around the NFL who said they would not bring Kaepernick on their team because of his refusal to stand for the national anthem.  Freeman is a well-respected, by the book, old-school reporter who would not make stuff like that up.

But if that’s not enough for you, here’s New York Giants owner John Mara.

“All my years being in the league, I never received more emotional mail from people than I did about that issue,” Mara said to a reporter. “If any of your players ever do that, we are never coming to another Giants game. It wasn’t one or two letters. It was a lot. It’s an emotional, emotional issue for a lot of people, more so than any other issue I’ve run into.”

I wonder many letters Mara has gotten from African-American fans telling him they support Kaepernick and that he and his fellow owners shouldn’t deny him a job?  Mara’s statement tells me NFL owners are always more concerned about the sensibilities of their White fans first and foremost.

Or put another way, #BlackFansDontMatter.

And that’s actually pretty stupid because African-Americans football fans love their football, too. You can see them tailgating at stadiums, ordering Papa John’s Pizza during the games, drinking Coors Lite and spending  money on officially licensed NFL apparel, probably more than their White counterparts.

More than a few African-Americans that I’ve come across on social media have told me they won’t watch the NFL this season because of how Kaepernick is being treated. But don’t expect Goodell and the owners to raise an eyebrow, or to even be concerned, because their Black fans don’t matter to them.

(And if we’re honest, Black players and the Black doctors trying to help them don’t matter much either. This is a league, after all, that vehemently denied that head trauma was affecting its players long after their playing careers were over. This was also the same league that relentlessly vilified Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Black Nigerian forensic pathologist who discovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy and how if affected players after their careers were over.)

In the end, Castile’s death and the apparent death of Kaepernick’s football career are the latest examples of a country that is still in deep denial about how racism affects African-Americans and other people of color.

But then again, that shouldn’t be much of a surprise either.

Atlantic City Celebrates its Storied Boxing History With Inaugural Hall-of-Fame Induction

2 Jun
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Dwight Muhammad Qawi was inducted into the new Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame. Known as the “Camden Buzz Saw,” Muhammad had some memorable fights in Atlantic City. Photo by Chris Murray

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Back in the 1980s, local high rollers looking for entertainment away from the tables in the form of a boxing match didn’t have to go all the way to Las Vegas to scratch that itch.

They only had to go as far as Atlantic City.

Atlantic City was as big a boxing venue as they come and was the setting for some of the greatest boxing matches in the sport’s history.

From the heavyweight title bout between Mike Tyson and Michael Spinks, to the Arturo Gatti-Mickey Ward Trilogy, and great matchups between Philly-area fighters like Dwight Muhammad Qawi and Matthew Saad-Muhammad, Atlantic City was a major hub for professional boxing.

That history was honored on Sunday night (May 28) as the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame inducted its first class of boxing legends.

In addition to Gatti, Spinks, Qawi and Saad-Muhammad, boxing champs Mike Tyson, and Larry Holmes, boxing writer Bert Sugar, referee and former N.J. State Boxing Commissioner Larry Hazzard Sr., Philadelphia boxing promoter J.Russell Peltz, matchmaker Don Elbaum and legendary promoter Don King were among those enshrined as part of the first class.

In addition to being a celebration of the Sweet Science, the ceremony at the Claridge Hotel also served as a glowing tribute to what was once one of the sport’s beloved locations.

“When you consider that in the five years from 1984 to 1988, there were 451 fight cards in Atlantic City, which is an average of 90 a year,” Peltz said. “What city, what state has 90 fight cards a year?!”

Like the boxers it celebrated, Atlantic City itself is scrappy. Through the ACBHOF, that scrappiness is celebrated, said Ray McCline, the Hall of Fame’s president and founder.

At a time when the city’s Boardwalk is a shadow of its former self and tourism is spotty, the ACBHOF could be a big help, McCline said.

“It’s a huge boost,” he said.  “It’s really about trying to remind people what Atlantic City was in the past, but to also create a space so that we can be competitive on a boxing level … It’s about promoting the history of Atlantic City and also Atlantic City as a tourist destination for people that love the sport, but also love the city.

Don Guardian, Atlantic City’s Mayor, agrees. The economic impact these athletes had on the City alone makes honoring them this way make sense, he said.

“It’s almost like we owe this to these great athletes that came in their prime and performed in Boardwalk Hall, especially,” he said. “What it meant was that hundreds of thousands of people over a decade came to Atlantic City that wouldn’t have been here otherwise.  … Thousands of jobs existed because of the great athletes that are in that ring.  Atlantic City was the East Coast boxing Mecca and it we hope to return to that again.”

While McCline and Guardian are optimistic that Atlantic City can return to its boxing glory days, Peltz thinks that the increased level of competition from casinos in locations like upstate New York and Connecticut makes it highly unlikely.

“I think Spinks and Tyson was the peak in June of 1988,” he said. “It’s never going to be what it was because the casinos have too much competition from those in New York and Connecticut and they aren’t willing to put up the money they way they used to back in those days.”

For boxing fans, Sunday night’s event provided a chance to envision what Atlantic City’s boxing heyday must have looked like. Seeing Michael Spinks and Dwight Muhammad Qawi and Mike Rossman served as a reminder of the epic battles these fighters had with each other and of the days when Atlantic City was a great boxing venue.

“I don’t try to figure it out, I just accept it,” said Qawi, who fought Matthew Saad Muhammad, both Michael and Leon Spinks. “(Fighting in Atlantic City) brought the best out of me.”

McCline is in the process of trying to find a permanent home for the ACBHOF, he said. The Claridge Hotel is in the running, and he is looking at other locations around the city.

Here are the members of the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame’s Class of 2017:

Boxers: Matthew Saad Muhammad (deceased), Dwight Muhammad Qawi, Michael Spinks, Mike Rossman, Levander Johnson (deceased), Arturo Gatti (deceased), Mike Tyson and Larry Holmes.

Trainers: Bill Johnson (Levander’s father), Lou Duva (deceased) and Mike Hall (deceased).

Promoters/Matchmakers: Frank Gelb, Don Elbaum, Don King, J. Russell Peltz

Officials: Larry Hazzard Sr., commissioner New Jersey Athletic Control Board, referee Steve Smoger, ringside physician Dr. Frank Doggett (deceased)

Media: Bert Sugar (deceased), Dave Bontempo and Jack Obermeyer (deceased)

Casino Officials: Ken Condon, consultant Caesar’s Entertainment; Dennis Gomes, CEO Resorts International (deceased) and Bob Lee, president of the International Boxing Federation.

Defying the Shield: The Blackballing of Colin Kaepernick

23 Mar

Snowflakes In Designer Suits

 When it comes to free agent NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, NFL owners appear to want a “safe space” where they don’t have to think about the racism he was protesting.

 

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away

We better stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down…
Buffalo Springfield

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Colin Kaepernick is still without a team and he may never get one because of his refusal to stand for the national anthem during the 2016 season. Photo courtesy of ESPN.com

The words to “For What It’s Worth”, a classic of the 1960s heyday of protest music, feels particularly relevant when we talk about athletes speaking out on social issues and the sports culture overall these days.

It’s become especially relevant when the subject of free agent NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick comes up. As of press time, the former signal caller for the San Francisco 49ers is currently the most high profile free agent without a football home.

A lot of sports writers and commentators have speculated that the reason why Kaepernick has no football bench to sit on is because he refused to stand for the National Anthem during the 2016-2017. Shortly before the free agent period began, he announced that he wouldn’t be taking a knee during the anthem this year, something that disappointed a few people.

But in spite of that, NFL owners, fearful of getting a nasty tweet aimed at them by Recalcitrant 4-Year-Old In Chief Donald Trump, haven’t been calling Kaepernick to his services despite the tons of money being thrown at the feet of career backups and people that will never be able to include an NFC Championship or a trip to the Super Bowl on their resumes.

Because we’re not really big on remembering our history, there are probably more than a few people who are looking at the travails of the former Nevada star, who is still sending money to feed folks in Somalia and gave $50,000 to the Meals on Wheels program that the Recalcitrant 4-Year Old In Chief is looking to cut despite not having a contract, and see something new.

But in reality, Kaepernick is just the latest NFL star to get smacked down and blackballed by the league for protesting the national anthem. Defying the “Shield” has consequences no matter how talented you are.

Back in 1969, John Mackey, then a star tight end for the Baltimore Colts, helped to form the National Football League Players Association and served as it’s resident from 1969-1973.  Mackey led the first players strike in 1970 and stood up to some brutal coercion by then NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle.

According to Washington Times columnist Thom Loverro who co-authored a book with Mackey, Rozelle and then Washington Redskins owner Edward Bennett Williams tried to get Mackey to sign a document to end the players strike by blaming them for the death of Vince Lombardi, who was then dying of colon cancer.

But Mackey refused to be manipulated and won the right to receive disability and widow’s benefits and having an agent negotiate salaries for the players. Mackey also led the legal fight against the Rozelle Rule, which made a player’s new team compensate his old one when they switched.

Shortly after Mackey beat Rozelle and the NFL court in 1971, the Colts traded him  to the San Diego Chargers after the 1972 season. Mackey, who is considered one of the greatest tight ends in the history of pro football, was denied entry in the Pro Football Hall until 1992 because of his union activities.

Former American Football League star running Abner Haynes, one of the leaders of the 1965 AFL All-Star boycott that moved the league’s All-Star game from New Orleans to Houston because of the Crescent City’s racism, was traded from the Kansas City Chiefs to the Denver Broncos because of his activism.

“(The Kansas City Chiefs) wrote me a two-page letter explaining to me how a football player’s role is not to help his people. All I’m supposed to do is to keep my mouth shut and play football,” Haynes said in the Showtime documentary,“Full Color: A History of the AFL”.

That’s the message that’s being conveyed to Kaepernick and other Black players who have dared to speak out on issues pertaining to race. According to my friend and “Bleacher Report” columnist Mike Freeman, a large number of NFL executives and owners despise what Kaepernick did.

In an article Freeman wrote in “Bleacher Report”, he said that one league executive he spoke with said that the owners “genuinely hate him and can’t stand what he did [kneeling for the national anthem]. They want nothing to do with him. They won’t move on. They think showing no interest is a form of punishment. I think some teams also want to use Kaepernick as a cautionary tale to stop other players in the future from doing what he did.”

During the course of the 2017 NFL Combine, Freeman also reported that some of the players, according to their agents, were asked about the Kaepernick situation during the course of the interviews. That lends credence to the idea that the owners are saying to guys around the league and to the new guys coming in that this can happen to you if you dare to protest the racism that African-Americans live with on a regular basis.

Of course, you can point to some football reasons that there is no interest in Kaepernick. He’s got some accuracy issues. The scouts also say he has difficulty hitting receivers in tight windows and will run even when receivers are open. Even though he is 3-16 in his last 19 starts, Kaepernick still has thrown 22 touchdown passes against nine interceptions and has an 88.2 passer rating.

That said, Kaepernick is still better than guys like Josh McCown,  Mike Glennon or even Eagles backup Chase Daniel who don’t have his ability or his accomplishments.  Kaepernick led the San Francisco 49ers to two straight NFC title games and a Super Bowl.  He was one play away from pulling off a huge comeback against the Baltimore Ravens in Super XLVII (47).

Two current Philadelphia Eagles—safety Malcolm Jenkins and wide receiver Torrey Smith—took to Twitter to let the league and anyone else reading that they’re not falling for the “Kaepernick isn’t good enough” okey-doke.

Malcolm Jenkins‏Verified account @MalcolmJenkins

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Malcolm Jenkins Retweeted NFL Total Access

hhhhmmmmm… @nfl GM’s you can try to act like talent is the reason @Kaepernick7 isn’t employed …but we know the real reason.

 

 

Torrey Smith‏Verified account @TorreySmithWR

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Torrey Smith Retweeted Cameron

Colin Kaepernick is not currently employed. However, his skill set vastly exceeds others who were on the market.

 

But if you’re one of the folks agreeing with the owners that Kaepernick should have just “shut up and played”, I have a question for you. Are you going to hold Denver Broncos General Manager John Elway to that standard? Elway not only wrote a letter supporting President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Justice Neil Gorsuch, but did it on the team’s letterhead. I’d also like to know if you’re going to, at long last, tell New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to stick to sports in light of his support of Trump and his refusal to accompany his teammates to visit the White House when President Barack Obama was president.

To quote a line from George Orwell’s Animal Farm: “All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others.”

But when it comes to the NFL, the treatment of Colin Kaepernick might be the incident that forces Commissioner Roger Goodell to look at his Animal Farm a little more closely.

When “Shut-Up and Play” Hits Home

23 Feb
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St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler, picture here with his wife Darya, who is from Iran,, received some hate-filled messages on social media for expressing concern that President Trump’s executive order banning Muslims from coming to the U.S. would affect his wife’s family. Iran is one of seven countries listed on Trump’s executive order. Photo courtesy of Youtube.

When Black professional athletes are often told to stick to sports, sometimes it’s asking too much.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

I used to think of sports as a way to bring people of different backgrounds together with the possibility of getting to know each other and learning somehow to negotiate the things that divide us.

During my years as a sports writer, I’ve found that more often than not, that notion is still a long, long, way off, especially when it’s an African-American athlete who dares to speak out on race in a way that’s critical of American society.

Dexter Fowler, St. Louis Cardinals newly signed outfielder, recently found that out the hard way. During an interview with ESPN, Fowler was asked about the Executive Order President Donald J. Trump recently signed banning immigration and travel from seven Muslim nations.

This ban hit home for Fowler because his wife, Darya Baghbani is from Iran, one of the seven countries listed in the order. Fowler, like any husband and father would, expressed how the travel ban would affect his family.

“It’s huge,” Fowler told ESPN. “Especially anytime you’re not able to see your family. It’s unfortunate.”

Never mind that Fowler neither mentioned Trump by name nor said anything disparaging about him, the speedy Cardinals outfielder was hit on social media with “shut-up and play!”, a time-honored bon mot that’s been thrown at a who’s-who of Black athletes that includes Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Tommie Smith, John Carlos, the Black players who boycotted the American Football League All-Star game in 1965 and more recently Colin Kaepernick and Martellus Bennett.

That plantation mentality has been ingrained in the minds of some White sports fans and even sportswriters when it comes to African-American athletes. You can hit homeruns, slam-dunk from the free-throw line, and score touchdowns all you want, but once Black athletes veer off of that very straight line and talk about the ills they see in society, they’re told to remember their place and to be grateful that they live in a country that allows them to earn millions of dollars from playing a sport.

What’s really sad to me is that the White sports fans who spew this kind of vitriol seem to believe that Black athletes give up their First Amendment rights the moment they sign their first pro contract or even when they sign that collegiate letter of intent. You also have to wonder what their attitude toward the 13th Amendment is. I mean, it was former St. Louis Cardinals great Curt Flood who once said is a slave is still a slave even if he’s a well-paid one.

But even worse than telling a Black athlete to just shut up and play is the hypocrisy that sometimes comes with that statement. For example, when white athletes like New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady refused to visit the White House when President Barack Obama was president, none of the fans criticizing Black Patriots players like Martellus Bennett for skipping the visit or giving Fowler grief would ever tell Brady to just shut up and play.  He’s an American hero to them.

That’s the folly of conflating nationalism, patriotism and racism in these situations. If an athlete like Fowler can’t even express concern for his family without being raked over the coals for making a “political statement”, we have a problem.

The larger issue in my mind is that Blacks, the LGBTQ community, Hispanics, and Muslims are supposed to just lay down and take it on the chin in the face of bigotry. It reminds me of the mentality of calling out the Native Americans as “savages” for daring to fight back against the theft of their land.

In the end, all Fowler did was express concern for how a misguided policy decision on the part of a President who built is entire campaign and large chunks of his administration on fear and bigotry. To his credit, Fowler has managed to stand is ground despite the backlash.

But to the people telling Fowler to shut up and play I say this:

When you’re telling a fellow American to “just shut up and play”, you’re not only being a bigot, you’re also being downright un-American because the Constitution of the United States gives every American the right to speak his mind—

And that’s whether you like it or not.