Evan F. Moore: What the NFL protests really mean
Imagine being a white sports fan in 2017.
You’ve seen all of these ungrateful and uppity (Your words. Not mine.) athletes bring politics into your safe space -- sports.
Now you’re clutching your pearls. And you fear what you don’t understand.
“How dare you? Stand up! You’re disrespecting our flag! If you don’t like this country, get out!” is what you probably yell at your TV when hundreds of NFL players lock arms, take a seat, kneel or -- what you’ve hated the most -- sit in the locker room while the national anthem plays before games. For validation, you’ve retweeted false equivalencies from conservative pundits who ask “What about Chicago?” and people of color who are caping for white supremacy by questioning the intentions of these players.
Most importantly, this isn’t what you were taught in history class. As far as you know Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech ended racism for good. And most likely you’ve posted a meme whitewashing his message.
Judging by social media, we can see that you’re pissed.
Imagine how a black person must feel when a flag that is supposed to protect him from tyranny has a history of letting him down. And what has gotten lost in the protest that quarterback Colin Kaepernick spearheaded last year to bring attention to police violence against blacks was that he was using his platform to tell us America needs to have a “Come to Jesus” moment. As much as we love to say “Land of the free and home of the brave,” our president, and those who’ve been inspired by his brand of dog-whistle rhetoric, aren’t as brave and patriotic as they would like us to believe.
While you’re at it, imagine seeing a statue of a Confederate Army soldier day after day as a symbolic middle finger to you and yours. That’s the America these players and their families live in. Only a coward who thinks there’s “very fine people on both sides” would use a political rally to tell Americans that any form of protest, which is backed up by the Constitution, makes you a “son of a bitch.”
When black people stand up for ourselves, white supremacy has always found a way to put us in a place they believe we belong. Just how discussing police brutality can be conflated into hating cops, Kaepernick’s initial protest was seen by many as a way disrespect the flag.
“These players ought to be thanking God that they live in a country where they’re not only free to earn millions of dollars every year, but they’re also free from the worry of being shot in the head for taking the knee like they would be in North Korea,” Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist pastor in Texas and one of President Trump’s chief advisers on America’s Evangelical Christian community, told “Fox & Friends” host Ainsley Earhardt in September. “And I think tens of millions of Americans agree with President Trump when he says they ought to be called out for this.”
Imagine how a white person who haphazardly blurts out “What about black people who kill each other in Chicago?” is allowed to tell the “truth,” while a black person who points out inequalities — in which white people, liberal and conservative, are complicit — is called a “race baiter.”
The game is rigged and the dice are loaded. Black people will no longer play by these folks’ rules.
The locking of the arms was the conservatives’ answer to what liberals did when they created the safety pin in response to President Trump’s election. Both were grand displays of performance art that put a Band-Aid on a bigger wound.
— Evan F. Moore is a syndicated columnist with GateHouse Media. He writes about the intersection of race, violence and culture. His work has been featured in Rolling Stone, Chicago Tribune and Ebony. Follow him on Twitter at @evanfmoore.