By Leslie Afua
Sometimes, we can be gullible as hell. I’m not even going to touch the fact that a lot of us are still watching the NFL despite its anti-Black and sexist history. Instead I’m going to focus on how easily some of us seem to be falling for the old bait-and-switch in the form of the NFL’s #TakeAKnee movement against police brutality, which has somehow ridiculously morphed into #TakeAKnee against Donald Trump.
This evolution occurred after #45 decided to spend his weekend Twitter trolling not only Kim Jong-un of North Korea and inching us closer to a nuclear world war, but also trolling some of y’all’s celebrity athlete faves. Trump began his race-baiting feud with athletes at a rally held in Alabama to stump for fellow racist bigot, Sen. Luther Strange. The 2016 presidential popular vote-loser declared emphatically to his rabid supporters, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”
This was an obvious reference to Colin Kaepernick, who was originally seen sitting through the anthem during last season’s first pregame. When asked why he remained seated during a postgame interview, Kaep stated, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Now look, I’m not suggesting that Colin’s protest was executed perfectly. He eventually switched from remaining seated during the anthem to “taking a knee” because of feedback that he received from a white veteran.
To reiterate, Kaepernick amended his protest from defiantly sitting his black ass on the bench to respectfully kneeling because of a white person who fought for the same nation-state responsible for anti-black violence in the first place. Protests are not meant to make oppressors feel warm comfy. They are meant to light their oppressive asses up and spark social justice and change.
Taking the knee felt like a most unnecessary concession, especially given the fact that white folks still railed against him anyhow, as anyone with sense probably guessed they would.
But here’s where things got so fucking annoying for me: Within all this back and forth with Trump, the whole entire script got flipped. Players, coaches, and owners all started making plans to rally against the president to combat “division,” while Black people are still dying.
Sports are one of the easiest avenues to go about influencing the Black folks who play them. Imaginary displays of conditional unity are commonplace because, of course, in sports—race, color, creed, and all the things that makes human beings unique “don’t matter,” even though they do to everybody else. Niggas everywhere began #TakingAKnee in supposed solidarity with these NFL players. Teammates and—Black, white and other—locked arms. Racist owners who donated the maximum amount allowed to The Great Cheeto’s campaign and the sambos who talked shit about Kaep alike all got down on one knee and in some foolish cases even outside of the NFL, both knees, to protest Trump. Trump.
Not police brutality or anything like that, but motherfucking Trump. And, predictably, the liberal media ate this shit up.
I truly cannot recall the sheer number of insincere, pacifist-promoting posts I read from news sites, celebrities, and even my Facebook friends, uniting in their stance against Trump. #TakeAKnee hashtags littered my newsfeed.
People manipulated a protest they know full well began as an indictment against anti-Black police brutality and used the (liberal) public’s collective hatred for Trump in order to push a lie that this country is uniting against bigotry.
If such unity were real, there wouldn’t have been such antipathy toward Colin Kaepernick’s stance, which culminated in his being blackballed by the NFL, in the first place. If fighting bigotry was something liberals in this country were serious about, then Kaep’s supposed disrespect of a flag, anthem, or whatever, could never have been more important than so many dead Black bodies.
This past Sunday, I posted on Facebook in frustration pondering what the fuck the meaning of all this kneeling was. I vented about how folks were letting hatred of Trump co-opt taking a stance against police brutality and the simple message of a dude who just wanted to use his platform for the voices of the oppressed to be heard.
Like I said then, if someone asked those players why they’re collectively taking a knee, I guarantee 99% of them will cite the divisive rhetoric of Donald Trump, and many of them already have. Ask them, “Well, what about police brutality?” and shoulders are sure to lift in shrugging unison. Perhaps a few will comment on the inherent goodness of police officers and how tough of a job being a police officer must be, and if we all could come together, we might be able to kumbaya.
I would be unsurprised by such responses. I just wish they wouldn’t always sully the intended message in the name of their bullshit solidarity.
Leslie Afua is a graduate student with a focus on Gender, Leadership, and Public Policy. She is passionate about uniting Black people, of all walks of life, toward a goal of economic and spiritual independence. She is a devoted friend, loudmouth, and giver of zero damns. Leslie hopes to one-day move to Ghana and start a nonprofit aimed toward liberating its people from the foothold of Western colonization and influence. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram: @Lunit30 and on Facebook under Leslie Amane.