The Spirit of Colin Kaepernick Alive at NFL Preseason Games

| Revolution Newspaper |


Thursday night, August 9, the first week of the NFL season kicked off with preseason games in several cities—where a significant number of players made it clear that protests against police brutality, racism and mass incarceration are NOT over. As the national anthem played:

Philadelphia Eagles player Malcolm Jenkins raised a fist while teammate Chris Long placed his hand on Jenkins’ shoulder. De’Vante Bausby also raised his fist. Jacksonville Jaguars players Jalen Ramsey, Telvin Smith, Leonard Fournette, and T.J. Yeldon waited in the tunnel. Three members of the Seattle Seahawks, Quinton Jefferson, Branden Jackson, and Duane Brown, did the same. Miami Dolphins players Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson kneeled, and Robert Quinn raised his fist. San Francisco 49er Marquise Goodwin raised his fist before the game. Oakland Raider Marshawn Lynch sat on the bench. Baltimore Ravens player Tim Williams stood in front of the bench with his back toward the field.

This was particularly courageous and significant in the face of ongoing threats by the NFL to punish players who protest during the national anthem and Trump’s continuing vicious and racist attacks on these athletes.

Colin Kaepernick, the first to bravely “take a knee” in 2016 as a member of the San Francisco 49ers, tweeted: “My brother @kstills continued his protest of systemic oppression tonight by taking a knee. Albert Wilson @iThinkIsee12 joined him in protest. Stay strong brothers!✊”

Malcolm Jenkins and some of his teammates on the Eagles (defending NFL champions) took the field for warm-ups wearing T-shirts that read: “More than 60% of prison populations are people of color” on the front and “Nearly 5,000 kids are in adult prisons and jails. #SchoolsNotPrison” on the back. Jenkins tweeted: “Before we enjoy this game lets take some time to ponder that more than 60% of the prison population are people of color. The NFL is made up of 70% African Americans. What you witness on the field does not represent the reality of everyday America. We are the anomalies...”

Later Jenkins, talking about the new NFL rules against on-field protests, told the press, “We don’t have this type of policies for the other causes we support, whether it be our ‘Salute to Service,’ or breast cancer awareness, or anything else. It’s just when you start talking about black folks, quite frankly. It’s disheartening, but we’ll continue to be creative.”

As he did all last season, Trump immediately went on the attack. He has called protesting players “sons of bitches” who should be kicked out of the country. Now he reiterated that players who don’t stand for the anthem should be suspended without pay. He also claimed the players wanted to “show their ‘outrage’ at something that most of them are unable to define.” This is, of course, total bullshit. These players have been very articulate in making clear what they are protesting, and Trump’s claim that these players are “unable to define” what they’re protesting is put to lie by what the players have said and continue to voice in great depth. But beyond that, this is part of Trump’s continued white supremacist theme of attacking the intelligence of Black people in general. The same Trump who insinuates that NFL protesters (mainly Black) don’t know what they’re talking about has attacked Lebron James for being “dumb” and says Maxine Waters has a “low IQ.”

At this point, the NFL is saying it won’t punish players who protested on Thursday. In May, NFL owners had announced new rules demanding players stand on the field during the national anthem and “show respect for the flag and the Anthem” or remain in the locker room—or they would be fined. After the NFL Players Association filed a grievance challenging this, the NFL and the Players Association announced the policy was on hold as part of a “standstill agreement.” But the NFL has continued to reiterate—including after Thursday’s protests—that during the anthem, “all player and non-player personnel on the field at that time are expected to stand during the presentation of the flag and performance of the anthem.” In other words: Enforced patriotism is still in effect!

Only a few days before the preseason games, after Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he expected everyone on his team to stand for the anthem and not stay in the locker room, 49er Richard Sherman said: “The owner of the Dallas Cowboys, with the old plantation mentality. What did you expect?”

Protests by athletes are also continuing off the field. On Saturday, August 4, Randy Moss, former record-breaking wide receiver in the NFL, made a powerful statement when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He wore a tie that listed Black men and women killed by the police in recent years including Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, and 12-year-old Tamir Rice, and Trayvon Martin who was killed by a racist vigilante. Later he said, “We all know what’s going on. You see the names on my tie.”

All these athletes are putting a lot on the line—their careers, even their lives—to take a highly public stand against police brutality and the oppression of Black people. And Trump’s continuing attacks on these NFL players is an expression of not only white supremacist outrage at “uppity” Black people challenging white supremacy, but a call for enforced patriotism and flag worship—which is an essential component of the fascist program of “Making America Great Again.”

All those who oppose injustice, white supremacy, and the oppression of Black people must have these players’ backs and oppose any efforts to silence and punish them.


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