Roger Goodell and the NFL Need to Say Kaepernick was Right and Say Systemic Racism is Wrong

The tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota police and the protests that ensued is exactly why Kaepernick took a knee four years ago   

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

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. Kaepernick remains unsigned since 2017.

“We lost because my guys didn’t stand up with me and I can’t make any excuse for them. Had we shown any amount of solidarity, if the superstars had stood up and said we’re with Curt Flood. If the superstars had walked into that courtroom and made their presence known, I think that the owners would have gotten the message and given me a chance to win that.” Curt Flood after losing his Supreme Court case to end Baseball’s Reserve Clause in 1972.

I start this column with the above quote as the nation is reeling from demonstrations and riots after the tragic death of George Floyd, an African-American who was unjustly strangled to death by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin despite his desperate plea of “I can’t breathe.”

I was moved by the Twitter comments of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz who expressed a sadness felt by many: “All I know is that the institutional racism in this country breaks my heart and needs to stop. Can’t even fathom what the Black community has to endure on a daily basis.”

Throughout the NFL, several high-profile white players including six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady and Joe Burrows, the Cincinnati Bengals No. 1 draft pick and 2019 Heisman Trophy winner, have expressed empathy for what happened in Minneapolis. 

But then, I flashed back to the 2016 season when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was taking a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality and raise awareness of systemic racism. None of those white players, with the exception of players like Eagles defensive lineman Chris Long, were vocally supporting Kaepernick’s protest.     

I wonder what would have happened if other higher-profile white superstars had come out for Kaepernick? Would he have gotten another job?  Hmmm. What if New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees had really understood why Kaepernick was protesting instead of just coming out against it?

Kaepernick’s protest, while supported by a few players (both Black and white), was not only vilified as being anti-American, anti-flag and unpatriotic by a large number of white fans who expressed their rage in a variety of ways including burning his jersey.  

On top of that, the Idiot-in-Chief, President Donald J. Trump, felt the need to gin things up by calling for retribution against the players engaging in anthem protests. While speaking at one of his infamous rallies, Trump said of Kaepernick,: “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired.” 

Even more troubling was that more than a few NFL executives branded Kaepernick as a traitor and made sure that he would never get another job with an NFL team for daring to bring awareness to systemic racism in America.

Joe Lockhart, who served as the NFL’s executive vice president in charge of communication and government affairs, said in a piece on CNN.com that the owners felt Kaepernick’s protest was “bad’ for business. Despite efforts by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to persuade the teams to sign Kaepernick, the owners were dedicated to keeping him out.

“That symbol of racial injustice was reinforced every day that Colin sat on the outside of the football world,” Lockhart wrote. “It may have seemed like a good business decision for the clubs not to sign him and it certainly wasn’t illegal, but it was wrong.”

Unfortunately, it took another the unnecessary, on-camera death of another Black man at the hands of a police officer to get some of the NFL’s white players to understand why Kaepernick was taking a knee. 

I am hoping that the unrest in cities from Philadelphia to Salt Lake City will finally bring the owners to their senses and get them to acknowledge that the blackballing of Kaepernick was morally wrong and unfair. Given that 85% of the NFL’s players are African-Americans, isn’t silence in the face of bigotry and systemic racism also bad for business?

Goodell and the owners need to do what they did for Michael Vick when he was let back into the league after being suspended for dogfighting. Vick not only owned up to his transgressions, but he also became a part of solving the problem by becoming an anti-dog fighting advocate.    

The NFL, led by Goodell and the owners, needs to acknowledge that keeping Kaepernick out of the league was wrong and give him a real opportunity to resume his career.

But more importantly than that, the NFL has to show some respect for it’s mostly Black workforce and the league’s Black fans by truly involving themselves in the fight to end systemic racism in America instead of just throwing money at the problem.

Because whether they like it or not, the NFL needs to recognize that unlike appeasing an angry player with an incentive laden contract, the problem of systemic racism won’t be solved by throwing money at it.

It’s Time to End Homophobia and Anti-Gay Bigotry in the African-American Community

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

“Civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, it’s all wrong. Call in the Cavalry to disrupt this perception of freedom gone wild. Goddammit, first one wants freedom, then the whole damned world wants freedom. Nostalgia that’s we want. The good old days when we gave them hell.”-Gil Scott-Heron’s “B” Movie

Jason Collins admission that he is gay has sent shock waves throughout the world of sports.

Jason Collins admission that he is gay has sent shock waves throughout the world of sports.

PHILADELPHIA—Unless you have been living under a rock or didn’t pay your cable or Internet bill this week, you know that NBA player and former Stanford University star Jason Collins used an article in Sports Illustrated magazine to tell the world that he is gay.

The reaction was mixed. On one hand, Collins was applauded for having the courage to come out while he is still an active player.  Considering the macho, often-times homophobic world of male sports, what Collins did took on a lot of significance.

But on the other hand, some believed that Collins would have been better off staying in the closet.

The most visceral of these reactions came from ESPN basketball writer Chris Broussard, who said that people who engage in homosexual behavior are in rebellion against God. To his credit, he mentioned fornicators and adulterers as among who are allegedly against the Almighty.

Then there was comedian Kevin Hart’s comment on Twitter:

“Tim Tebow: ‘I’m a Christian.’  Media: ‘Keep it to yourself.’ Jason Collins:  ‘I’m Gay.’ Media: “This man’s a hero.”  #justsayin.

Hey Kevin and Chris—intolerance and hatred of your fellow human being on the basis of religion is an even worse abomination against God.  Just sayin’.

But the rather judgmental views of Collins’ admission from folks like Broussard and Hart is reflective of a deep homophobia and a curious insensitivity that seems to exist in the African-American community when it comes to the issue of gay rights.

I noticed on various social media sites that most of the negative reaction to Collins has come from African-Americans. I find the hostility to gay rights or someone revealing him or herself as a gay a strange brand of bigotry from a people who should know better due to its history of experiencing hate and intolerance due to difference.

The Black community’s estranged relationship with the idea of homosexuality has its roots in the Christian church as well as the mosque. Folks are quick to tell you that it is an abomination against God and then you receive the requisite scriptural chapters and verses as to why we should frown on those “people.”

Pssst, I’ve got a news flash for ya…:  Folks have used scriptural passages to justify the enslavement of African-Americans, putting Jews in concentration camps for being “Christ killers” and to say interracial marriage among heterosexuals is against God.

Conveniently left out, of course, are those passages that refer to loving thy neighbor as thy self and judge not, lest ye be judged. In my view, the worse type of sin we have in the world today is the sin of the reasons and justifications we find to hate each other—whether it be race, religion, gender or income level.

What’s funny is that we as Black people have often been referred to as “those people.”  For all the things we have been fighting for in terms of our struggle for equality, we now have the nerve to put a “scarlet letter” on another group fighting for their rights. Really?!

In social media parlance, I am SMDH

(That means “shaking my damn head” for those of you who don’t know….)

And when you dehumanize folks as “those people,” you have to come up with your own bizarre stereotypes.

Recently, one of my friends told me that a childhood friend, also an African-American, pulled her daughter out of basketball for fear that her child would become gay, as if it was some kind of disease. They are examples of the kind of homophobia that you sometimes hear in our community.

And today you have the curious habit of guys saying stuff like, “No homo” whenever some guy expresses some sort of agape type affection for another guy to let everybody know that he’s not gay. It’s like, who are trying to convince? Are you really that unsure of your own sexuality?

In what I refer to affectionately as “Black World,” folks are quick to tell you not to compare the Civil Rights and gay rights movements, although the Civil Rights Movement is the inspiration for all the human rights movements of the 1960s.

Some African-Americans will point out the visibility of our skin color as to why this struggle is different. We can’t help that our difference is evident. After all, gay people don’t have tell anyone that they’re gay. They can cover it up. No one has to know.

And there lies the problem. For fear of violence, discrimination, being shunned by friends and family, gays and lesbians have had to cover up who they are. The Gay Rights movement is about  fighting for the right to be accepted for they are, not what society says is normal.

If they are seen in the streets holding their hands of their partners, they’ve often faced violence or the same types of hostile looks that interracial heterosexual couples would get back in the day, especially in the South.

Often times, openly gay people have beaten up and killed. The torture and death of Matthew Shepard in 1998 was eerily similar to that of Emmitt Till in 1955.

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that all Americans born here in the U.S. deserve equal protection under the law. That’s all gays have ever asked for and that’s what we as African-Americans have been fighting for as well, the freedom from injustice.

The African-American community and the Gay Community should be allies, not enemies in this struggle.

But even if you can’t see or don’t want to see the parallels between the civil rights experience and gay rights experience, shouldn’t we as African-Americans, for all the things we have gone through, have some empathy and compassion for our gay brothers and sisters, many of whom are our family, friends, and co-workers?

During the Civil Rights movement, folks felt they were marching not just for Black rights, but for the rights of all Americans. Dr. Martin Luther King, in his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” reminds us that everyone’s rights are important: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

We might want to remember that when the next Jason Collins decides to share his truth.