Tag Archives: Martin Luther King Jr.

Freedom of Speech For Some, But Not for Black Athletes

30 Aug

 

 

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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick explains to reporters why he refused to stand for the national anthem during last Friday’s preseason game against the Green Bay Packers.

San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is the latest Black athlete to learn that to certain sports fans, he lost his First Amendment rights when he picked up a football.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

When San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem during the Niners preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, he was harshly criticized on social media, especially Twitter, for being unpatriotic.

Even worse, Kaepernick’s Twitter mentions were filled with the kind of invective that always seems to come up when a Black athlete dares to speak out on a social issue involving the African American community such as the N-word,“go back to Africa,” or my personal favorite, “shut up and play”..

Some of the visceral hatred such as the videotaped burning of Kaepernick’s jersey, kind of made his point regarding the racism that still exists in America and why people tend to lose their minds when anyone, especially millionaire athletes like himself speaks out against it.

When African-American athletes dare to show solidarity with groups like Black Lives Matter, they’re often criticized for their participation because it is seen as being ungrateful. You’re making more than I’ll ever see at my factory job by playing a game. How dare you talk about racism, police brutality and inequality?!

Now the fallacy in this line of thinking is that it overlooks the fact that  Kaepernick, like other Black athletes, have friends and relatives who look like Eric Garner and Tamir Rice and know that something could happen to them or their children at the hands of police. They know that doesn’t insulate you from racism.

It’s something that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out in his famous, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”:

“Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. 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.

When you go back to listen or read what Kaepernick was saying, it definitely runs counter to the charges of being unpatriotic and unAmerican.  If anything, Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the national anthem is in keeping with the principles of freedom and justice outlined in the Constitution.

“I have family, friends who have fought for this country that have gone and fought for this country and they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice for everyone,” Kaepernick said. “And that’s not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain as far as giving freedom and justice and Liberty to everybody. It’s something that’s not happening.”

What’s un-American about that? Seems like it’s in keeping with the Founding Fathers and how they felt about tyranny and oppression to me.

In fact, the Declaration of Independence says: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.”

Being critical of your government doesn’t make you un-American. The ability to dissent is perhaps the most American thing you can do. Kaepernick, like others before him, wants his country to live up to the promise of justice for all.

The backlash Kaepernick has received from white fans using racial slurs further illustrates the idea that Black athletes in particular and Black men, in general, are to be seen and not heard, especially when they strike at the heart of white privilege.

While White gun rights advocates are seen as patriotic when they brandish their pistols and assault rifles in the name of standing up for the right to bear arms, Black men, especially athletes, are seen as ingrates when they challenge police brutality and the all too American tradition of systemic racism in America.

If nothing else, the hateful messages on Kaepernick’s Twitter feed are proof positive that the phrase “the land of the free and the home of the brave” only applies to certain people.

It appears that Black athletes like Colin Kaepernick aren’t included in that group.

 

 

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The Contract That Broke The Color Line

3 Jun

Jackie Robinson’s history making contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers is on display at the National Constitution Center until June 5.

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Jackie Robinson’s Contract on display at the National Constitution Center. Photo by Chris Murray

 

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

When the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, they did so without taking the rights and freedoms of African-Americans into consideration.

The tumultuous journey of African-Americans from slavery to the Civil Rights Movement to the current cries of Black Lives Matter has been about making America live up to the lofty ideals of freedom and equality those documents imply.

When Jackie Robinson signed a contract to play Major League Baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers, that contract became an influential document not only for sports fans, but also for the nation as a whole.

Even the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King took notice. In a conversation he had with Hall of Famer Don Newcomb, King expressed his appreciation for Robinson’s willingness to lead the charge.

“You’ll never know how easy you and Jackie and (Larry) Doby and Campy (Roy Campanella) made it for me to do my job by what you did on the baseball field,” King said.

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Robinson’s signature on this contract changed the face of sports and American back in 1947. Photo by Chris Murray.

From now until June 5, you can see the original contract that Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers at the National Constitution Center.

While there are a lot of important documents on display at the Constitution Center, the Robinson contract is equally as compelling as all the others. Robinson’s contract symbolized the first major confrontation with a segregated America and was part of the ongoing battle to make the country live up to it’s ideas of equality and justice.

Robinson’s entry into major league baseball was met with violent hostility both on and off the field. He was spiked by his opponents and jeered by hostile white fans who were offended by the mere presence of African-Americans in what was supposed to be the American game.

In his first two years with the Dodgers, Robinson had to take affronts to his personal dignity for a cause that went beyond the box score. Eight years later, ordinary African-Americans from students to janitors were peacefully sitting in at lunch counters, boycotting segregated public transportation and education facilities.

When you think about it, Robinson striking down baseball’s color barrier preceded President Harry S. Truman’s executive order to integrate the military, Brown versus Board of Education, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Freedom Rides, lunch counter sit-ins, Birmingham movement, the March from Selma to Montgomery and the March on Washington. Dr. King described what Robinson went through:

“A pilgrim that walked in the lonesome byways toward the high road of Freedom. He was a sit-inner before sit-ins, a freedom rider before freedom rides.”

It’s actually kind of fitting that Robinson’s contract is hanging out here in the City of Brotherly Love. Philadelphia didn’t live up to that name when it came to him. Robinson had to deal with racism and hatred, he couldn’t stay in the same hotels as his teammates, and that’s on top of having to deal with a hostile Phillies squad led by manager Ben Chapman.

Black folks didn’t forget that hostility. An entire generation of African-American baseball fans refused to root for the Phillies even when they started signing Black players to the team and Black players, including free agency pioneer Curt Flood, didn’t want to play here either.

Recently, the Philadelphia City Council issued a resolution apologizing to Robinson and his family for the harsh treatment he received here as a baseball player.

So like the Constitution, Robinson’s contract is a piece of paper that symbolizes how far we’ve come and how far we’ve got to go in race relations in America.

The National Constitution Center is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $14.50 for adults, $13 for seniors, students and youngsters 13-18, and $8 for children aged 4-12.