Last year, towards the end of August, Colin Kaepernick drew national attention for choosing to sit during the National Anthem in protest of police brutality. It was around this time, in response to the vicious criticism of bourgeois journalists and pundits, Kaepernick and Eric Reid chose to kneel at every game for the entire football season. In response, Kaepernick was blacklisted.
At the start of the 2017 pre-season, it is said that about 12 players were continuing Kaepernick’s style of peaceful protest, to the slight irritation of the capitalists who turned American football into the national sport of US imperialism, replacing baseball. The Superbowl is the most watched event on television with about 172,000 average viewers and $5m/30second for an advert.
The capitalist owners of the big teams, largely supported their fellow capitalist Donald Trump during his election. But on September 20th , while hurricane Maria was making landfall on the colonial island of Puerto Rico Trump in typical opportunistic fashion; lashed out at an Alabama rally against the handful of black NFL protesters. He lashed out against the players as a whole by advocating that the game should be as harsh as it used to be in wake of a new medical study concluding that 110 out of 111 of players brains studied showed signs of CTE, serious brain damage. Pro football players have a 99% chance of getting brain damage and no amount of money is going to repair that. When the players are too broken to play any more after being battered in the modern gladitorial arenas, they will be cut off from NFL healthcare. The average football career is less than four years, with many NFL players retiring young, physically and financially broken. Moreover, there is reason to believe that the pattern of trauma dramatically affects their personalities which may help to explain the common patterns of violence by players. Trump knows all this, but his capitalist callous opportunism drives him.
Trump’s disgusting comments came after months of police carnage, racist rallies and incendiary speech. With Trump’s latest comments, the annoyance of the #TakeaKnee protests set off like wildfire and became a full blown crisis for the capitalists who own the NFL teams and use the NFL for its extremely lucrative audience for advertisement.
And so the following Sunday on September 22, every single team in the league playing in Sunday morning football joined in protest. Entire teams boycotted the anthem, sat, locked arms or kneeled. Anthem singers kneeled and raised fists. Players raised fists after touchdowns. The first baseball player took a knee. The owners themselves were compelled to accept the mass action and show their opposition to Trump. Racist fans swore against their own teams, the NFL and their favorite players. Racist fans booed, heckled and shouted profanities at the New England Patriots and the Colts as players protested.
Of course, the capitalist owners had little choice but to feign support. Regardless of whether or not they were personally irritated by Trump’s arrogant comments telling them what to do, it was in their direct interests to ensure that the players would not turn against them as well. The blacklisting of Kaepernick was already a sore spot for athletes in the NFL and other leagues, but coupled with the recent CTE studies and the racist comments by Trump; if the owners were not careful they could incite a serious player action that wouldn’t be satisfied with a protest to the national anthem but an attack on their profits at the start of the football season. For that reason, nearly every capitalist is going into the classic damage control mode of employers before a union action.
Even if it meant holding hands with the players on the field in common protest—the capitalists had to do whatever they could to avoid a strike or any escalation. For the past week, the players have continued protests. The owners have replied that they would not punish or retaliate for those protests, but they are still coordinating an effort to turn the unity of the players against the wealthy capitalists into a calls of unity with the wealthy owners themselves despite having opposing interests. Liberal journalist Shuan King obfuscated this fake owner’s solidarity by suggesting the owners lack the “courage of their convictions” when it came to standing against racism. The owners however do not have any anti-racist convictions, or pro-player convictions. Their convictions are capitalist convictions, and there is no lack of courage there.
The attempts at de-escalation by the owners may be too little too late. While they may temporarily soften the protests, the genie is already out of the bottle. Colin Kaepernick, the Jackie Robinson of the 21st century has already injected working class politics into a sport that is more holy and sacred to capitalists than any church. How many times have we heard the bourgeois line, “Keep politics out of football” or “Keep politics out of sports?” This of course has never been a possibility, as it is simply meaning to keep only bourgeois politics in sports. This is a part of the sacred compact between the bourgeois media and the owners of the leagues. It is good for the players and the masses to split the capitalists in this way, even if such a split was temporary or for show since ultimately it is a concession. Despite that, we shouldn’t forget what side the capitalist owners will always be on—their own side.
It can be no coincidence that Kaepernick was so viciously attacked and blacklisted for more than just taking a knee, or speaking out about police brutality, or speaking in favor of black people in the US. Kaepernick combined his protest with the target of the American bourgeois state itself by choosing to make his protest during the national anthem, which exposed the hypocrisy and lie that the bourgeois state serves everyone of all classes and thus deserves our support and devotion. Even Kaepernick’s attempts at remaining respectful in protest were not good enough—and the result is that he is out of the job.
In the bourgeois campaign to de-escalate, the legendary liberal bourgeois sports commentator Bob Costas remarked,
“The idea of linking protests, no matter how legitimate the issue you are protesting, directly to the national anthem is not just offensive to the love it or leave it crowd, It actually causes ambivalent feelings, at best, among many people who are sympathetic to the issue, but see the anthem as representing a lot of different things including the country’s ideals and aspirations. So, to me, perhaps the most effective thing to do would be to stand for the national anthem, but the second the last note is struck, take a knee.”
In an earlier interview, Costas said,
“Virtually every player who knelt in the initial stages of this was black, and the initial impetus from it or for it came from Colin Kaepernick and it was about police brutality and mistreatment of African Americans. You can’t separate those two things.
Now, if you want to make the point that the national anthem is about something more than the nation’s flaws and shortcomings, it’s also about its ideals and that people can see some texture to what the national anthem means, and you might prefer that people protest or make their point outside of the national anthem, that’s something to be argued.”
This attempt by the bourgeoisie to divorce the attacks on the state from the protests against police brutality should be exposed and resisted. Costas speaks for the most liberal capitalists and liberal NFL owners—who may be willing to let protests slide, but want to see an end to the delegitimizing of their state and their military. In the coming weeks ahead, there will be attempts at watering things down. Costas comments were two-fold, one to preserve the patriotism of the masses to the bourgeois state, but later in his CNN interview he turned his sights to discredit Kaepernick’s politics since they contain shreds of working class politics:
“Kaepernick, whether people know it or not, has raised and/or donated millions and millions of dollars to worthy causes. He’s walking the walk, he’s involved in the community. But Kaepernick himself was an imperfect messenger. He’s given to saying things like I don’t vote because the oppressor will never let you vote your way out of your oppression. So I guess it doesn’t matter to him who wound up being president of the United States. It doesn’t matter that when he first knelt Barack Obama was president and now someone who many of his fellow African-Americans and importantly many of his fellow citizens of all races and backgrounds object to. It doesn’t matter to him.”
“Sometimes what Colin says when he does speak makes it sound as if, and I say this with great respect for his intentions, and for what he has done beyond kneeling on the field. Sometimes he sounded like someone who took one semester from a radical professor when he was a freshman and that’s all he knows about the world. “
“So I think it’s better that additional voices here from multiple backgrounds weigh in, because Colin Kaepernick, despite what some people want to say, is not the natural heir to Muhammad Ali or Arthur Ashe or to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who continues to be a public intellectual. He’s not. He’s tried to do a good thing from his heart. I don’t know if he’s equipped to carry that baton.”
For the bourgeois journalist Bob Costas, Kaepernick’s challenge to the legitimacy of the state itself is where he draws the line—but that is what makes his protest so powerful. Like the owners themselves, the liberal and progressive bourgeois journalists are fine supporting a short lived anti-racist protest so long as it doesn’t build to challenge the class power of the bourgeoisie.
But aside from Bob Costas, a new kind of liberal bourgeois journalist has emerged over the years the “progressive,” the Shuan Kings, Dave Zirins, Juan Gonzalezes and Amy Goodmans give plenty of words for racial justice, racial equality, an end to police brutality and all kinds of other progressive causes. But they avoid the crucial conclusion that one who is truly concerned with those things must arrive to. There will be no racial justice or any of these other progressive ideas realized to their full most potential until there is first a political revolution against the capitalist class. So we can support Kaepernick, and the players protests, and we can even share the exposure of these liberal journalists—but our duty as Marxists is to expose their limitations which are restricted by the interests of the class they represent!
Expose the capitalists in their entirety.
Expose the state in its entirety.
Expose the bourgeois media in its entirety.