This is a post about how American ignorance, fake morals and values, and stigma can play into any segment of our society as they do with sex work. This post is about politics playing a role in areas politics has no business being in. This post is about the commercial marketing of war at the expense of those who have already paid for it. This post is about Colin Kaepernick, the NFL, and very rich white men. If you’re not interested in this subject, I apologize for wasting your time. If you are, please read on!
One autumn day last year, Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, quietly took a knee during the National Anthem to protest the rash of shootings by police of black Americans. Virtually no one noticed this at the time. However, when it was brought to the usually-short attention span of the American public, a groundswell of outrage grew to the point where, after the season, Kaepernick was released from the team. Other players joined in on the protest, but Kaepernick was singled out as the primary “antagonist” and has received the brunt of American patriotic fury to the point where he has been blackballed by the posse of billionaires who own NFL teams. As a result of these protests, the NFL suffered a decline in the all-important ratings numbers. Ratings equal dollars, and the most important part of any business is dollars. The American public screamed, “Keep politics out of our football”, a notion I totally support. But Kaepernick was not responsible for bringing politics into football – the NFL and the Pentagon were.
You enter Met Life Stadium in New Jersey, passing the American flags hanging from the light stanchions in the parking lot. You take your seat and wait for the game to start. There is a tribute to military members who served time in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. Hundreds of police and military unfurl a 300’ x 160’ American flag as the National Anthem is played. Some people stand & remove their headwear – others chat or wait in line for their cold Budweisers. All in all, this is a marvelous example of Military Americana – in other words, politics. How great is it that the NFL allows the military to honor its members with such a display! But wait – is it really the NFL showing its patriotism, altruism, and support for those who lay their lives on the line to defend our great nation? No, it’s not – it is a paid commercial, a sales and marketing ploy. What is the product being sold? Militarism and war. Who is really paying for these efforts? Those who have already served and struggle for assistance the Pentagon will not give them.
I am enraged every time I see a commercial for organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project. When I incur a bill for actions I have taken, I assume full responsibility for the cost. The Pentagon is responsible for every veteran who suffers from physical or psychological disability due to their military service. The Pentagon has carte blanche when it comes to starting or conducting a new or existing action or developing new and wonderful ways to kill people, and yet there are thousands of vets who struggle due to inadequate care. Surely a couple million dollars could help this effort. So how does the Pentagon spend their money? By pumping millions of dollars into promotions at sporting events to recruit even more people for their purposes. Here’s a link to a quick breakdown of how the Pentagon spends money on recruitment and desensitization instead of taking care of those who served –
As the graph shows, although many sports participate in this marketing program, the NFL receives the lion’s share of both the “tributes” and taxpayer dollars. This makes sense, as football has replaced baseball as “America’s favorite sport”. What better way is there for the Pentagon to spread a message than through the outlet with the largest viewership? What better way is there for the NFL to advertise its product as “America’s Game” by playing the patriotism game? Do you not like Slate as a source? Here’s another – http://www.businessinsider.com/the-pentagon-pays-the-nfl-millions-to-honor-veterans-at-games-2015-5
As of today, Colin Kaepernick still does not have a job in the NFL, despite the fact he has proven he is better at his job than many quarterbacks that will be starters for their teams come the beginning of the season. He has been vilified by fans of the sport as being a “spoiled millionaire” as though this somehow makes him less human and not allowed to express his views on events he feels are injustices. He has been labeled as a “distraction” while the NFL has no qualms with putting players with actual violent offenses on the field. The party line is that these players “are better at their positions”, which somehow negates the distraction or negativity of having a domestic abuser representing “the brand”, as Emperor Goodell puts it. The NFL’s bottom line is “You can beat your significant other but don’t you dare disrespect the flag”. (I could go into a tirade about the “patriots” who I see disrespecting the flag every day, but that’s for another time) When we look at domestic abuse statistics, this is, unfortunately, a much more American stance than we would care to admit.
I have seen many statements about how people will not watch NFL games due to Kaepernick. I’m sure there are sponsors for individual teams who have privately expressed this. Certainly the owners have minimal sympathy for the protests by Kaepernick and other players, as none of them have ever spent a single day being black and poor in the United States. Those who say, “Kaepernick just isn’t good enough” are supporting the stigma against people of color which has existed forever. If a fading Payton Manning would have taken this action in his last year as a Denver Bronco, the voices screaming about patriotism and distraction would have barely been a whisper. There is a political distraction in sports. The distraction had been successfully enacted by the Pentagon the second they started to parade nationalism and market militarism and war in front of crowds at sporting events, and it is wholeheartedly supported by the leagues and the owners not due to their patriotism but due to the advertising dollars the Pentagon contributes to their coffers – dollars that should be spent on those whose lives have been adversely affected by the actions of the Pentagon.
I am a lifelong New York Giants fan. I attended my first game in 1960, when the likes of Frank Gifford, Rosie Grier, Sam Huff, and Pat Summerall wore the Blue. All my winter jackets are emblazoned with “Giants” in one form or another. I pull my money and cards from a Giants wallet every day. But I will not be watching the Giants, or any other NFL team, this year. There are many reasons for this. I find the suppression of studies regarding CTE by Goodell to “protect the brand” despicable, just as I felt Big Tobacco was criminal in suppressing studies regarding smoking and lung cancer. This is exacerbated by the hyper-competitive nature of football, where players feel they must stay on the field despite obvious or unseen injuries or risk being cut. I feel uneasy supporting a sport where a player is injured on every other play – a modern-day “Rollerball”. I am uncomfortable with Goodell being omnipotent as he doles out judgement as he sees fit instead of following a template which his vision of “the brand” does not allow to exist. Most importantly, I will not watch due to the fact the NFL, Goodell, and the owners are supporting racism (despite 67% of the players being black) by blackballing Kaepernick due to his quiet protest.
I am a veteran. I served so that citizens of the United States could have the freedoms the Constitution provides. One of the most important rights we have is the right to protest – it distinguishes us from many other countries and forms of government. To deny this to any citizen is simply un-American. I understand that freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences. However, in my view, the collusion between Goodell, the owners, and the Pentagon to market militarism and war is a much more objectionable statement than that which Kaepernick chose. I also greatly resent the use of NFL, and all professional and college, players as assets instead of human beings affected by current events. If Colin Kaepernick gets a job, I will think about watching. Until then, the NFL has lost a lifelong fan. I realize the impact of this will be less than miniscule. I just can’t support an organization that willingly advocates for violence and war while taking money that should be used to assist victims of violence and war, and I just can’t support an organization that could be a significant voice in difficult discussions about racism but chooses to not participate. Thanks.