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.

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

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.

The NFL Has Little to No Respect For Women

By Barry Federovitch
For The Chris Murray Report

NFL Commissioner Roger Gooddell has been under fire for how the league has handled domestic violence incidents.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been under fire for how the league has handled domestic violence incidents.

Is there a North American pro sports league more disrespectful to women than the NFL?

At a time of year when the continent’s most popular league would love for you to be focused on fantasy stats and jersey sales and what game you will be attending next, rarely has there ever been a worse series of events in terms of public relations, in particular towards women.

Commissioner Roger Goodell either saw or should have seen the contents of the Ray Rice elevator assault.

Adrian Peterson, another player without any previous track record of violence, turned himself into police after video evidence suggested he beat one of his seven children with a switch. Once one of the game’s most admired figures, he is now a pariah.

Pam Oliver has been roaming the sidelines for FOX sports, but was removed from the No.1 broadcast team for a younger Erin Andrews.

Pam Oliver has been roaming the sidelines for FOX sports, but was removed from the No.1 broadcast team for a younger Erin Andrews.

Before all this came down was the demotion of 19-year sideline reporter Pam Oliver, one of the most respected journalists in the business, for the younger Erin Andrews. And let’s not forget the offseason lawsuit by Raiders cheerleaders that resulted in a $1.25 million settlement in back pay.

All very different situations and yet all, on some level, degrading to at least one demographic of women.

The ugly flip side is what these transgressions say about large portions of men in our sporting society. As Hannah Storm, a mother of three girls, suggested last week, are so many willing to compartmentalize their emotions and look the other way when spouse abuse and child abuse is concerned?

Ageism is another issue on another level.

We see sideline reporters about five minutes a game and listen to them for 10. As men are we so pathetic that we have to have the prettier face (if that’s what you consider Andrews) for those few minutes while discarding someone who has been a credible news source for almost two decades?

This is no slight on Andrews, who had done a lot to prove her worth as a poised reporter in recent seasons. But what does it say about us when a 50-something year old black woman (who looks like she’s 35), who is not only a pioneer, but one of the best in her field, is so easily dismissed? And is the offense more sexist or racist?

The cumulative evidence right up to Goodell’s press conference Friday which answered nothing, is disturbing.

In a league so eager to punish players for dunking the ball over the goal post or for not having their jersey tucked in, there’s a whole other set of rules (and not appealing ones) when it comes to women. The term ‘zero tolerance’ has become a punch line, too often more machismo than substance, just a shadow of what should be a firm message for the demographic that makes up 45 percent of the league’s fan base.

Will it get better and when?

That the Vikings deactivated Peterson and Panthers did likewise with Greg Hardy are reactionary moves. As the NFL waits for the winds of anger to blow over, new cases, like that of Jonathan Dwyer, come to the forefront and old wounds are re-opened.

Like the winds of change, those winds are turning too slowly with too many negative messages recently for healing, if not learning, to begin.

For a league so eager to protect its shield that is the worst possible outcome, not only in its ignorance, but in that it has to be pressured to protect so large a segment of its fanbase and workforce.

Federovitch is a former sports reporter and editor with the Trenton Times.

Dropping the Ball: There Are No Good Guys in the Ray Rice Domestic Abuse Saga

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

Janay and Ray Rice's press conference to explain spousal abuse incident in New Jersey.

Janay and Ray Rice’s press conference to explain spousal abuse incident in New Jersey.

PHILADELPHIA—As I observe the reaction to running back Ray Rice’s release from the Baltimore Ravens and indefinite suspension by the NFL , I’m left with the feeling that there are no heroes and nothing but villains in this sad drama.

The thing that brought about Rice’s termination from the Ravens was the video from that “paragon” of journalistic integrity—TMZ– that shows the former Rutgers star hitting his then fiancée Janay Palmer with a left hook that knocked her into a rail on the elevator and onto the floor unconscious. Rice then coldly drags an unconscious Palmer out of the elevator and shows no concern about her well-being.

I don’t care what the circumstances are. No man should ever hit a woman at all and definitely not with the kind of force that Rice used. You just can’t do that. He probably should have been arrested for felony assault.

I hope that Rice is undergoing some serious counseling and he should be thankful that he doesn’t have to behind bars, thanks to a pretrial intervention program. Rice’s record will be expunged after a year.

While I don’t think he should be out of the game forever, Rice should have been suspended beyond the two games suspension he was given. He should have been suspended anywhere from eight games to a year, similar to what New York Jets quarterback Michael Vick got for dog fighting.

If and when he ever gets back into the league, Rice should be made to speak to young men about the evils of domestic violence and make a contribution to help shelters that house battered women. He should want to do that himself.

Actually, the most aggrieved victim in this whole thing is Janay Palmer, who wound up “apologizing” for being a part of this incident as if she did something wrong. I don’t care what she did or said, she didn’t deserve to be hit. The worse thing we do in this society when it comes to domestic violence and rape is to blame the victim. That has to stop.

But there are a lot of things that bother me about this incident beyond Rice hitting his girlfriend and it involves all the people who are now distancing themselves from the now former Ravens star.

For one thing, didn’t the NFL have access to the full video? Didn’t NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell see that Palmer was out cold as Rice dragged her out like an overstuffed trash bag? How could he have given Rice just a two-game suspension after seeing even a little bit of that tape?
As they say in social media, I’m SMDH….(Shaking my damn head.)

You would think with all the resources the NFL has to investigate incidents like this that they would have found this video before TMZ. Atlantic City casinos have cameras everywhere. That the League and law enforcement officials somehow missed or overlooked this is simply astounding.

The outrage at Goodell and the NFL is justifiable because players had gotten longer suspensions to guys smoking marijuana and taking fertility drugs. For a lot of women, the slap on the wrist that Rice initially received spoke volumes about the NFL and its attitude toward domestic violence.Many said that it showed that hurting a dog would get you in more trouble than hurting a woman.

The outrage from women groups and bad PR for a league trying to appeal female sports fans forced Goodell to apply stricter penalties to players who commit acts of domestic violence.

Now with the latest video, Goodell suspended Rice indefinitely and the Ravens gave him his unconditional release. But don’t think it was all about the Ravens or the league’s concern for women and domestic violence. The spin machine that is the NFL cares about one thing: “Protect the shield.”

I contend that Goodell, the league and the Ravens knew about this video and looked the other way. When it came out, both the NFL and the Ravens went into spin mode, cutting ties with Rice in order to cover their own asses in the face of mounting public criticism.

I am not surprised the NFL was in denial about its handling of domestic violence among its players. Remember this is the same league that was in deep denial about effects of concussions on its former and current players and had to be dragged, kicking and screaming to face this reality.

As for TMZ Sports releasing the video on the first week of the NFL season, Bleep you, too because there was nothing virtuous or heroic about the release of this video, especially from a media outlet that has the journalistic integrity of a plagiarist.

I wonder who TMZ paid off to get a copy of the video?

All TMZ Sports did was exploit human suffering to get higher ratings. They don’t give a rat’s ass about domestic violence unless it’s celebrities and they can get it on video. Spare me your fake outrage, too as you sip on your vanilla latte while stalking athletes and movie stars.