Point of View Columns

Colin Kaepernick and the Shame of Black America

Unless you have been hibernating during the Winter of Trump or hiding in a cave in the event of a Trump-induced nuclear holocaust, then you are probably aware that Colin Kaepernick is on his way to being the first player banned from the National Football League for his political views. The only thing worse than the racist right wing hegemony exhibited by the NFL owners is the indolent lap dog acceptance of this travesty by far too many black Americans.

The facts are that since he assumed his status as a free agent after the 2016-2017 season, not one of the 32 NFL teams has even offered him a tryout, even though most football experts would agree that he is a better quarterback than all 32 of the current backup quarterbacks in the league, and more than a few would argue that he is as good as, if not better, than more than a few of the starting quarterbacks in the league.

The facts are that numerous voices in the NFL Mothership have voiced “concerns” over Mr. Kaepernick’s support for the Black Lives Matter movement by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem before games. Further, his expressions of concern, outrage and frustration at the macabre American conveyor belt that transports the corpses of black victims of police brutality across the national landscape have been considered inappropriate for the sport.

The facts are that the NFL has welcomed players who have killed people, raped women, beaten women, ingested all manner of recreational and performance enhancing drugs and paid them enormous sums of money. The facts are that some NFL players have expressed their support for Donald Trump despite his history of racism, misogyny, sexual assault and xenophobia without consequence.

The fact is that Colin Kaepernick is being denied re-entry into the NFL because of his political beliefs and his public support of the Black Lives Matter movement. And it is also a fact that even though 75% of the players in the NFL are black, very few players have raised a voice of concern, much less protest – Richard Sherman and Martellus Bennett are a few come to mind, but whatever happened to Odell Beckham, Jr. or Russell Wilson or Cam Newton or any number of NFL superstars who are virtually immune from sanction because of their star power?

And what happened to DeMaurice Smith and Eric Winston, the Executive Director and President of the NFL Players Association respectively? Have they been muted by the enormous sums of money that are earned by their membership or have they been neutered by the fear of the awesome power wielded by NFL owners?

And while we are at it, where is the grassroots support for Colin Kaepernick? The black fan base in the NFL is huge and has the capacity to be vocal, but except for a recent protest by Spike Lee, the sound of black silence has rolled across this country like a fuzzy cotton cloud.

The reason why the Kaepernick Affair is so important is that the NFL is such an important part of American culture. The fact is that the NFL has suckled at the breast of the American taxpayer (many of whom are black) to the tune of billions of dollars in order to build their football temple stadiums and the NFL has received many more billions of dollars of revenue from American consumers (many of whom are black).

It is sad to see so little resistance from Black America when the NFL owners are acting in such obvious concert to silence black protest. It is sad to see such silence from the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Urban League and Black Lives matter. For that matter, what has happened to the voices of Jay-Z, Oprah Winfrey, Kevin Hart, LeBron James and all the other black men and women who manage to dominate the American media for their own profit? In this age of virulent Trumpism racism and degradation must be confronted all the time.

The NFL season begins in a little less than a month. One can only hope that Colin Kaepernick finds a roster position and one can only hope that all Black Americans – indeed all Americans – find the voice to resist this blatant injustice.

Point of View Columns

Columbus, Football and Genocide

Columbus Day is being celebrated throughout these United States. It is a celebration that reveals absolute and intentional ignorance of basic history. It is a celebration that honors the dishonorable, the horrific and the indelible. It is a time when collectively Americans choose to put on blinders and ignore the simple fact that this country, indeed modern “civilization” in the Western Hemisphere, is built on the blood soaked soil and bones of the indigenous people along with the shattered remains of their African comrades in pain. Just like the National Football League.

One would think that it would be unnecessary in the second decade of the twenty first century to once again point out that Christopher Columbus didn’t “discover” America. There were millions of indigenous people who had inhabited the so-called New World for thousands of years. There were towns and villages and cities and empires with achievements in astronomy, mathematics and engineering that rivaled and in some cases surpassed the best that Europe had to offer.

Columbus wasn’t even the first European to set foot in the Western Hemisphere. The Vikings beat Columbus to the historical punch establishing settlements in New Foundland almost half a millennium earlier. But Columbus Day has a much greater meaning than the abandoned Viking settlements in what is now Canada.

But Christopher Columbus brought with him greed, avarice and an implacable hunger for gold and riches which, with the blessings of the Catholic Church, opened an era of rape, genocide and treachery which resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of indigenous people throughout the hemisphere. Taking the concept of white supremacy to its most awful extreme, Christopher Columbus and the Europeans who followed him, felt justified in killing men, women and children without remorse. They considered the right to enslave others to be part of their white Christian birthright and they established societies which, to this day, carry the virus of sanctioned racism. And we know all too well that this virus manifests itself in daily society.

The question becomes, knowing these rather obvious facts, why does anyone choose to celebrate the legacy of a murderer who was the harbinger of genocide and the first to seize the opportunity to destroy, demolish and obliterate societies and civilizations? It must be that it is more comfortable for too many to celebrate undeniable falsehoods than come to grips with the uncomfortable truth.

Which brings to mind the National Football League which still abides by its Washington team being called the “Redskins”, an odious term that was never acceptable, and is more horrific in its usage the more that history has been revealed to us. Nevertheless, the NFL and CBS and NBC and Fox and ABC and other sports news outlets refer to “Redskins” even though it is impossible to consider sports teams with names like the “New York Niggers” or the “Boston Kikes” or the “Chicago Wops” being acceptable. Referring to the indigenous people as mascots is akin to building a communal toilet on what remains of their tradition and history.

There is no calculus which could reduce the concept of “reparations” to dollars and cents. But it would be helpful to stop celebrating lies and continuing horrific myths while the ghosts of the dead continue to seek recognition, if not the redress they so richly deserve.

Point of View Columns

Time to End the Epithets

In the afterglow of 11.6.12 it is certain that many people on the progressive side of the political ledger think that in a very real way this country may start moving in the right direction. But before people start breaking their shoulders patting themselves on the back consider that there is a very fixable wrong that exists in public discourse in America. What follows may offend you, but not as much as Native Americans are offended every day.

Somehow, well into the second decade of the 21st century, most people in this country simply do not have a problem with sports teams adopting Native Americans as “mascots”. To be fair, during the past thirty years, most colleges and universities have stopped the practice – my alma mater Dartmouth College went from being “Indians” to “The Big Green” years ago and other schools, St. John’s and Stanford come to mind, have followed suit.

Nevertheless, the National Football League team in the nation’s capital is still called the “Redskins”. “Redskins” has always been, and will always be, a racial epithet. There is no sane person who would call a Native American a “Redskin” to his/her face without intending to be offensive and probably expecting an altercation to ensue.

Not to be left out of this sordid bit of Americananonsense, the Cleveland Indians Major League Baseball team still uses a cartoonish logo of Native Americans complete with a big nose and scarlet complexion. Not to be outdone, the Atlanta Major League Baseball team uses a tomahawk as a logo and promotes the “Tomahawk Chop” among its fans.

The history of the interaction between the United States and Native Americans is stained with blood, betrayal and genocide. There is nothing even remotely honorable about the experience of Native Americans in this country since the first Europeans arrived in North America – the illusory fable of Thanksgiving notwithstanding.

One would think that after stealing their land, perpetrating government-sponsored genocide and a strategic destruction of their culture that the citizens of the United States would refrain from gratuitous insults and mindless racist epithets. Instead, the opposite has been the case.

Imagine if you will that the National Basketball Association had a franchise in New Orleans called the “New Orleans Niggers”. The howls and protests from the NAACP and the Urban League and the Congressional Black Caucus would be heard from sea to shining sea. And their protests would be righteous and just.

Yet the Washington “Redskins” play in a city that is 78% black. If there has been any concerted protest or organized outrage from the black community in that city or this country it has been buried behind headlines about Rihanna, Drake and Allen West.

Imagine if you will that the Women’s National Basketball Association had a franchise in Cleveland called the “Cleveland Bitches”. The National Organization for Women and numerous women’s organizations would rise up in righteous protest. Yet there are no news reports of the women in Cleveland expressing any offense or outrage to the scarlet-hued Native American cartoon logo that symbolizes the baseball team of that city.

Once again, imagine if you will that the Major League Baseball had a team named the “Atlanta Faggots”. A multitude of gay men and women’s organizations including GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Against Defamation) would be leading marches, protests and boycotts nationwide – as well they should.

Imagine professional sports teams like the Cincinnati Wops and the Los Angeles Kikes and the Kansas City Micks and you can start to understand the daily insult that American sports perpetrates upon Native Americans. There is nothing hip, cool, trendy or traditional about ethnic slurs that needs to be perpetrated or propagated, and certainly not on the platform of professional sports.

It is, therefore, all the more troubling that Americans from whatever constituency cannot understand the pain and insult that is inflicted upon Native Americans every time Fox Sports and CBS Sports gives the scores of the latest “Redskins” game. How is it that advocates for justice and human rights give sports a pass when it comes to racism directed at Native Americans?

With the fiscal cliff looming and war in Gaza blazing, insults directed at people who have already been demeaned and humiliated may not be at the top of the national agenda. But that is the point – hypocrisy, ignorance and shameful insensitivity can never have a place in the national discourse and now is always the right time to make a change for the better.

Getting the NFL to require the Washington football team to change its name may seem like a small step only if you are not a Native American.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – July 8, 2011

Clearly President Obama is either the best poker player on the planet, or the worst. His negotiations with the Republicans over raising the deficit ceiling have baffled his supporters and emboldened his adversaries – the end game will tell. Meanwhile football fans of a certain age mourn the passing of NFL Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey. Sadness at his passing is tinged with disdain for the greed of the NFL owners and players who are too busy carving up a $9 billion pie while leaving less than crumbs for former players who were broken and damaged by the game. And finally, the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case plays out with the victim now being on 24/7 defense. It makes you wonder who is actually accused of a reprehensible crime.

It’s Always Darkest before……Midnight

Anyone who cares about the future (and the present) of this country is watching the negotiations over the raising of the federal deficit ceiling carefully. The G.O.Tea Party has been very transparent in stating that they are prepared to bring the known world to the brink of financial ruin if that’s what it takes to get President Obama and the Democrats to agree to draconian budget cuts.

Indeed, if the deficit ceiling is not raised by August 2nd, the United States government will go into virtual default on its debt and the global capital markets will be on the verge of collapse. Republicans are claiming that raising the debt ceiling is a major event that cannot occur without a major reconfiguration of the federal budget.

In point of fact the budget ceiling has been routinely raised by Congress dozens of times over the past two decades. The fact is that the Constitution of the United States specifically allows Congress to raise the debt ceiling so that the government can finance its mission which includes “promoting the general welfare” of the people of the United States. But on the Planet Tea Party facts don’t matter and ideology conquers all.

And so we see President Obama seeming to offer up fearful reductions of government services that will most certainly impact upon those least able to provide for themselves. By appearing to appease the G.O.Tea Party lion with the red meat of budget cuts his plan may be to coax them into the cage of raising the debt ceiling and increasing taxes on the mega-wealthy individuals and Midas-like corporations.

If President Obama can cage the beast with this bit of strategy he will be a hero. But he is taking a tremendous risk as the G.O.Tea Party beast has yet to be tamed by anyone.

Giant Steps

The news that John Mackey passed away on July 7th was greeted with sadness and regret. There is sadness because John Mackey was a great NFL Hall of Fame player who also was a leader of the National Football League Players Association. There is regret because John Mackey died at the age of 69 in an assisted living residence where he had been living for over a decade suffering from frontotemporal dementia, a condition almost certainly brought on from years of collision and combat on the fields of the NFL.

There is irony in the fact that a pioneer of the modern NFL was entitled to benefits of approximately $88,000 year at the time of his death while at the same time NFL owners and players are haggling over how to divide a $9 billion pie with barely a thought for the former players who live their lives burdened by chronic pain or in clouds of confusion that never clear.

As the NFL labor dispute comes to an end, let’s hope that the owners and the players remember the wounded warriors who deserve so much more than they are getting.

The DSK Saga – continued……

The case against former International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn is reputed to be “crumbling” because it appears that his accuser, a hotel maid from the West African country of Guinea may have lied on her visa application. Her multiple sins also include possible false information on her tax returns and an ambiguous taped telephone conversation with her boyfriend that was translated from her native Fulani just last week. It should be noted that neither the accuser nor her lawyers have been able to hear the tape or read the transcript of the translation.

Defense lawyers get paid to engage in the shell game of getting the jury and the public to take their eyes off the alleged criminal conduct. In this instance we are supposed to be concerned about the presumed misdeeds of the accuser while ignoring the fact that there is DNA evidence of a sexual encounter between DSK and the hotel maid with no evidence to support his presumed contention that the encounter was consensual.

Many times in rape and sexual assault cases defense attorneys seek to “blame the victim”. However, robbers can be raped. We cannot forget that murderers can be sexually assaulted. Whatever misbehavior can be attributed to the accuser in the DSK case cannot possibly excuse the former banker’s conduct. I am hoping that this will not be an instance where justice turns a blind eye to moronic and beastly behavior.

Have a great weekend!