The NFL has not been able to beat him or shake him. Yet they won’t allow him to join them. Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, has somehow managed to maintain his relevance at the beginning of each NFL season despite not being on an NFL roster. And he did it again — with a little help from Nike — when it was announced that his commercial with Nike won the Emmy for outstanding commercial at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards.
Last September, Nike launched the celebration of the 30th Anniversary of their “Just Do It” slogan with Colin Kaepernick as the face of the ad campaign. Nike, the official sponsor of the NFL, and Kaepernick released a very inspiring commercial as a part of the ad campaign. In the commercial, Kaepernick charges everyone to “believe in something even if it means sacrificing everything”.
That is exactly what Kaepernick did. The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback sacrificed everything when he began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality. As a result of his protest, he lost his job as he has yet to sign with another NFL team. Last year, the commercial sent the sports community into a frenzy. There were those who supported the commercial and praised Nike for acknowledging Kaepernick’s courage. There were those who were vehemently against it and burned their Nike products to show their disgust.
However, the majority of people clearly loved the commercial as it won the award. It is Nike’s first time winning an Emmy since 2002. The commercial is certainly a deserving recipient of the award. Nike and Kaepernick surely inspired many with the commercial. Kaepernick is the embodiment of standing up for your beliefs even it means sacrificing everything else. Colin Kaepernick has got another major win in the midst of the NFL season despite not being on an NFL roster.
What a week it has been for the NFL and hip-hop mogul Jay-Z. Last Tuesday, it was leaked that the newly minted billionaire entered into a partnership with the NFL. The following day, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Jay-Z held a press conference at the Roc Nation New York office to formally announce their partnership.
Roc Nation will now serve as the NFL’s official Live Music Entertainment Strategists. As a part of the partnership, Roc Nation and the NFL has committed to nurturing and strengthening the community through music and the NFL’s Inspire Change initiative. Upon the initial announcement and after the press conference, the sports and hip-hop community went into a frenzy. Critics immediately began calling Jay-Z a sell-out, leading to days of debate about Jay-Z’s handling of the deal. Here we are yet again focusing on the wrong issue in regards to Colin Kaepernick’s protest.
Every season, Kaepernick’s message and general-purpose gets co-opted by something. In 2016-2017 it was overtaken by those who wanted to make his protest about the United States flag and military and use it for political capital. Last year, it was the rift between Eric Reid, Malcolm Jenkins, and the Players Coalition. This year it is Jay-Z’s partnership with the NFL. While Jay-Z may deserve some criticism, calling him a sellout is going a bit far. People should not rush to judge this partnership, let’s see how it plays out. There is likely to be a lot of good that comes out it. Most importantly, people should not allow Kaepernick’s message to get lost in the noise over this partnership.
Colin Kaepernick’s Sacrifice
Three years ago, Colin Kaepernick began protesting police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem. Kaepernick began his protest in the wake of the brutal deaths of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and countless others who lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement. Kaepernick stated clearly that his protest was about police brutality. However, many viewed his protest as disrespectful to the United States flag and military. As a result, the country became very divided on the issue. Kaepernick was subsequently blackballed from the league. Kaepernick still does not have a job with the NFL.
Why Some Are Calling Jay-Z a Sellout for Entering into the Partnership
As a result of Kaepernick’s protest and some other issues, the NFL’s image has been suffering. The NFL is fighting concussion cases in court. The league continuously has to address its poor and inconsistent handling of domestic violence cases. Perhaps the thorniest thorn in the NFL’s side is Colin Kaepernick. Although the NFL settled the collusion grievance with Kaepernick, the NFL still cannot shake the effects of his protest. Players are still kneeling, which angers a certain demographic of the NFL’s fan base. Countless artists turned down the invitation to perform during the Super Bowl half-time show in solidarity with Kaepernick. One of those artists was Jay-Z.
Jay-Z was one of the Loudest Critics of the NFL
Jay-Z has been one of the most vocal critics of the NFL for their blackballing of Colin Kaepernick. He wore a Kaepernick jersey on Saturday Night Live in 2017. Last summer, Jay-Z famously criticized the NFL in the Carters hit single ApeShit. Jay-Z stated, “I said no the Super Bowl, You need me, I don’t need you. Every night we in the end zone, Tell the NFL we in stadiums too.” Jay-Z also reportedly encouraged other artists to “say no” to the Super Bowl. It is for these reasons that some have called Jay-Z is a sellout for creating this partnership. It is for these reasons that many were baffled by the partnership and wondered how it came to be.
Labeling Jay-Z a Sellout is Going a bit Far and the Debate Runs of the Risk of Co-Opting Kaepernick’s Movement
While Jay-Z may deserve some criticism for this deal, labeling him as a sell-out is going a bit far. He has done a lot for the black community. Jay-Z has been a major proponent of criminal justice reform. He created a platform for the Trayvon Martin docu-series. Jay-Z tried to help Kalief Browder, a teen who was incarcerated in Rikers Island for three years after being wrongfully accused of robbery. Browder spent a great amount of his imprisonment in solitary confinement. He ultimately committed suicide after he was released. Jay-Z made sure everyone knew his story. He has demonstrated a commitment to social justice and criminal justice reform. Jay-Z should have to answer questions about the deal, particularly what changed his mind about working with the NFL. However, labeling him as a sell-out is going a bit far.
It is true that Jay-Z should have handled the optics surrounding the announcement of the partnership better. He certainly should have found a better way to answer the question about if he would kneel. He should not have said that “we are past kneeling.” Doing that only fed into the narrative that the NFL wants to create. That narrative is that players should be past kneeling. Look we have this deal with Jay-Z to promote social justice, so there is no need to kneel. However, that view is wrong and should be dismissed.
Police brutality is still an issue. There is certainly still a reason to kneel for any player who chooses to protest in that way. Jay-Z also stated in the press conference that he supports any protest that is effective. There is no question that Kaepernick’s kneeling has been effective. It certainly has. However, the media did not focus on that. Again taking the focus from why Kaepernick kneeled in the first place. Focusing on Jay-Z’s words has allowed the message of the movement to be co-opted yet again.
Let’s Refocus on the Issues Kaepernick Gave his Career for
Focusing on whether Jay-Z is a sellout is giving the NFL what they want. Instead of talking about police brutality and other issues that plague minority communities, everyone is debating if Jay-Z is a sell-out. These are the wrong questions to focus on. The focus should be on police brutality and what this partnership is going to do to combat the issue. This partnership should be held to a high standard. The partnership must produce tangible outcomes for the betterment of dealing with police brutality and other social causes. In the end, that is what Jay-Z stated he wants with this partnership to do in the press conference.
Jay-Z had to know that this deal was going to be met with the exact criticism that it has received. With that knowledge, it is likely that he is working towards something greater that has yet to reveal itself. Perhaps his greater plan could be in the reports that he may acquire an ownership interest in an NFL team. Having minority ownership could go a long way in the NFL. If that happens, perhaps Jay-Z could help Kaepernick get on a team.
At the very least, Jay-Z could bring a perspective to NFL ownership that has never been there. He could tell them that it is not tolerable to refer to NFL players as inmates. Perhaps as an owner Jay-Z can help make sure that the next player who takes a stand like Kaepernick does not lose his career for it. Let’s not rush to judgment. Let’s see how this partnership plays out.
Serena Williams may have been defeated in the Wimbledon finals, however, that did not minimize her victory during the post-match press conference. A reporter asked Williams a very insensitive and narrow-minded question. In a nutshell, the reporter asked Williams how does she respond to comments made by others suggesting that she stop being a celebrity and fighting for equality and focus on tennis? Williams tackled the question head-on with the perfect answer. She eloquently responded by stating: “The day I stop fighting for equality and for people that look like you and me will be the day I’m in my grave.” With that response, Williams reaffirmed her unrelenting commitment to fighting for equality.
The reporter’s question is filled with undertones of a narrow-minded belief that his held by many sports fans.
The Shut-Up and Dribble Mentality
Many sports fans have the “shut up and dribble mentality”. They believe that athletes should simply stick to sports and essentially shut up and dribble. Such fans are against athletes using their athletic platforms to shed light on societal ills or political debates. They contend that athletes should simply focus on providing entertainment for fan viewing pleasure. These contentions may sound familiar as they were repeated over and over by dissenters of Colin Kaepernick’s protest during the national anthem.
Some go as far as to contend that an athlete’s celebrity status shields them from the stereotypes and systemic prejudices of being a part of the demographic group(s) of which they belong. They spout out ignorance like what can a multi-million dollar athlete have to complain about. Serena Williams is a multi-million dollar athlete with 23 Grand Slam Finals wins. According to this logic, what could she possibly have to complain about? What issues could she possibly feel the need to be so vocal about? There is no way that she could possibly be a victim of discrimination or inequality. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Serena Williams has plenty to be vocal about.
Serena Williams has Every Reason to Champion for Women’s Rights
Throughout her career, Serena Williams has dealt with negative commentary about her body. She has been shamed because of her muscles with comments from people saying that she was “born a guy“. Serena and her sister Venus have been referred to at the “Williams brothers“. Serena Williams’ body has even been compared to a monster truck. In 2018, Williams was arguably singled out when the French Tennis Federation announced their ban on catsuits shortly after Williams wore one to the FrenchOpen. Serena Williams wore the catsuit for health reasons from complications she suffered during childbirth. However, the Federation stated that players “must respect the game and the place.”
With all of the criticism that Williams has endured during her career, it should come as no surprise that she is a champion for women’s rights. Her celebrity status and her seven-figure salary was no shield for the incendiary comments from critics and tennis fans throughout her career. Her celebrity status was certainly not a shield to protect her from the blood clot issue she suffered during childbirth. All of the criticism Williams has endured coupled with the general struggles she as endured as a woman makes the reporter’s question all the more insensitive and her answer all the appropriate.
However, this assumption could not be further from the truth. This assumption is certainly not true for Serena Williams who has endured much criticism for being a superior black female athlete.
After all, professional athletes make millions of dollars. What could they possibly have to complain about?
In 2017’ just as LeBron James was embarking on his seventh straight trip to the NBA Finals, a racial slur was spray-painted on his home in California. King James is regarded by many as the greatest basketball player ever and by some as one of the greatest athletes in the world. He has three NBA titles and has represented the United States on Team USA three times. However, all of his accomplishments was not enough to shield him the prejudices that are often directed to black men in this country. How is an athlete supposed to stick to sports when racial epithets are spray-painted on their home?
Megan Rapinoe Refuses Any Notion of White House Visit
Just a day after the USWNT victory against Spain, Megan Rapinoe firmly opposed the idea of visiting the White House. If the USWNT repeat, she refuses to step foot on White House premises. And though she regrets the use of an expletive in her statement, Rapinoe holds the same stance.
This Isn’t Anything New for Megan Rapinoe
Like her protest of a White House invitation, Rapinoe has stood for justice for years. Just days (not weeks) after Colin Kaepernick kneeled for the first time during a national anthem, Megan Rapinoe did the same. It was a nod to Kaepernick and support to the protest. She’s been at the front of this movement, helping lead and bring awareness to the cause.
“it’s important to have white people stand in support of people of color on this.”
In kneeling, Rapinoe sparked heavy backlash from many. The majority of that negativity came from those both straight and white. Fortunately for her, she wasn’t blackballed like Kaepernick. Although the U.S. Soccer Federation did attempt to silence her efforts by requiring standing during the national anthem, she still has her job.
As a refresher, here are the lies that surrounded Colin Kaepernick’s blackballed, NFL career.
Like Kaepernick, there are so many misguided ideas surrounding Megan Rapinoe. She is not anti-American, against our country and out to ruin the lives of our children and military. Instead, it’s quite the opposite. Rapinoe is speaking for the marginalized and oppressed. Police brutality and racism still intertwine themselves in our country. Like this ridiculous and obscene behavior from Phoenix Police Officers:
“I’m gonna f***ing put a cap right in your f***ing head.”
Officer Christopher Meyer, Phoenix Police
It’s 2019 and cops are still willing to threaten and shoot unarmed persons of color over seemingly anything. Officer Meyer threatened to “put a cap” in a mom’s head in front of her children over a stolen Barbie from a dollar store. A dollar store! He equated a black person’s life to one dollar. That’s how much worth he gave her. A single dollar. He was willing to murder her over a dollar Barbie. It’s sickening.
It’s a Long Road Ahead
This country is certainly not perfect and we still have volumes to discuss. Because of this, Megan Rapinoe protests during the national anthem or refuse invitations to the White House. She’s not alone either. A multitude of athletes have joined this opposition to President Trump. Food goodness sake, the last NBA team to visit the White House was the Cleveland Cavaliers, during President Obama’s second term. So why is everyone so outraged by Megan Rapinoe? Rapinoe believes that the president is “sexist, misogynistic, small-minded, racist and not a good person.” She has every right to protest the power. In fact, it’s incredibly American and Patriotic to rise up against injustice. That’s how our country was founded in the first place. Through protest and the restructuring of power.
This shouldn’t be a big deal anymore. Regardless, Rapinoe and her protesting are still bringing light and discussion to our country’s inadequacies. And for that, we should be thankful.
Unexpectedly, Colin Kaepernick officially ended his collusion lawsuit against the NFL today. The former NFL quarterback has withdrawn his collusion complaint against the league and will take no further action in his case. Kaepernick had alleged the NFL owners conspired to keep him out after he began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016. The final hearing in his case against the NFL was set to take place this month. So, the timing of this withdrawal is a strong indication that the league reached a significant financial settlement with Kaepernick. People within his circle had previously spoken off the record that he would withdraw his lawsuit if the league compensated him significantly. The terms of the deal are subject to a “confidentiality agreement”.
The NFL and its owners would have been tremendously motivated to make this lawsuit go away if they believed it could be proven Kaepernick had in fact been blackballed. There is a provision within the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the NFL and NFLPA that could have voided the deal if the league was found to have colluded against players. An immediate work stoppage and a legal battle would have ensued that could have put the 2019 season and future of the NFL in jeopardy. This begs the question, how much money did it cost to make Kaepernick go away?
His protest against social justice and racial inequality issues started alone, but many other NFL players and athletes from all sports have picked up the torch. NIKE stated a campaign with Kaepernick as the spokesman.
Will Kaepernick Ever Play Again?
The end of this lawsuit likely marks the end of Kaepernick’s career. If a team was unwilling to sign him to prove he was not colluded against, then why would they sign him after they likely paid him to end the lawsuit? Commissioner Goodell said at the Super Bowl, “I think if a team decides that Colin Kaepernick or any other player can help their team win, that’s what they’ll do,” he added. “They want to win, and they make those decisions individually in the best interest of their club.”
“I think if a team decides that Colin Kaepernick or any other player can help their team win, that’s what they’ll do,” he added. “They want to win, and they make those decisions individually in the best interest of their club.” -Roger Goodell, 1/30/2019
It is January 2019 and Colin Kaepernick being unsigned continues to be a misrepresented. In his January 30th press conference, Roger Goodell was asked why Colin Kaepernick has remained unsigned for the past two seasons. His answer was not only false and misleading, but he dodged the proceeding questions inquiring about Kaepernick.
Colin Kaepernick is an NFL-caliber quarterback and the stats back it up every time. Maybe Goodell is trying to keep his story straight for his deposition in the collusion lawsuit.
Before we go repeating arguments, narratives and facts about Colin Kaepernick, please note the following UnafraidShow articles from 2017 and 2018:
“The Truth and Lies of Colin Kaepernick”
Quick Refresher: 5 common lies that surrounded
the Kaepernick controversy were dispelled quickly. The lies were that:
*Lie #1: Kaepernick sucks and can’t play anymore
Kaepernick is still a younger quarterback that
led his team to 2 NFC Championship Games, 1 Superbowl, and ranked 11th in
career Quarterback Rating among active quarterbacks (as of July, 2017)
*Lie #2: Kaep is a bad guy
Kaepernick donated over $1 million of his own money to inner city programs and charities. He hasn’t gotten a DUI, committed domestic abuse, beat his kid, violated the league’s drug policy, been surrounded by rape or murder investigations, or plead guilty to insider trading. All he did was exercise his right as an America to protest. Too bad that makes people uncomfortable.
*Lie #3: Our military is offended
We fight to protect freedoms from everyone. But
if people are still worried about offending military, they should call their
congressman, volunteer, or raise money to help the many servicemen and women
that are homeless, unemployed, and struggling.
*Lie #4: Sports are not for protests
Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Billie Jean King, Venus Williams, and many more have protested. The NBA, MLB, and NFL have all gone on strike. This isn’t something new.
*Lie # 5: Kaepernick needs to clean up his image
Calls for Kaepernick to clean up his image are
ridiculous. He donated his own money, sacrificed his time and energy to
community service, and stood up for the rights of others. Then the arguments
for changing his hair to look better come from those with racial-bias against
black athletes. Cornrows date back to 3000 BCE. The afro dates back to the
1860’s in America. However, because they are not white hairstyles, they are not
clean-cut. Ryan Fitzpatrick gets praised for his large beard, but Kaepernick,
whom has almost always kept his facial hair neat and stylish, is looked at
“Colin Kaepernick and Nike – Did Nike Just Do It
or Just Blew It”
Quick Refresher: There were many protests and
proposed boycotts of Nike when they announced that Colin Kaepernick would be
the face of their 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign. People claimed Nike
would be hurt and the NFL would drop them. Has the NFL dropped them? Nope. Are
they hurt? Well, they did just sign a new contract with the MLB. Nike is now the
official uniform supplier for the NFL, NBA, and MLB, in addition to countless
collegiate programs. It appears that they are thriving and anyone that wants to
boycott them will have to go through a lot of trouble to do so.
So the NFL hasn’t dropped Nike, why haven’t they
picked up Kaepernick yet? As Goodell stated earlier today, he thinks that teams
would have signed Kaepernick if they thought he could help them win. With that
being said, let’s go ahead and review the two seasons Kaepernick has been absent
to see if he could have helped teams win more games.
In Kaepernick’s most recent season (2016), he had
an average to below average season for an NFL starter. Per numberFire’s NEP
(Net Expected Points) metric, his Passing NEP per drop back was only
0.04. That may sound low, but it actually still ranked 28th of the 39 qualified
passers. This might not make him Tom Brady or Drew Brees, but it still makes
him a starting quarterback. But we all know that Colin Kaepernick isn’t a
one-dimensional quarterback because he can always win with his legs. He was
8th-best in quarterback Rushing NEP per attempt in 2016, which ranks his Total
NEP per opportunity 22nd of 39 qualified quarterbacks. Again, that is a
starting quarterback. But, this becomes even more compelling when you review
the target leaders for the 2016 49ers: Jeremy Kerley, Quinton Patton, Garrett
Celek, Torrey Smith. He played above replacement-level without receiving
threats to help him.
Continuing with Ron Yurko’s EPA (Expected Points
Added), Josh Hermsmeyer of FiveThirtyEight closely reviewed why “The Stats Say Washington Should Have Signed Colin
Kaepernick”. In his post-week 14 article, after Mark Sanchez was
benched for Josh Johnson, Hermsmeyer highlighted the mistake(s) of Washington.
Looking at their careers, Kaepernick was superior to Sanchez in EPA. He also
outperformed Josh Johnson, whom had a staggeringly low EPA as a quarterback.
According to Hermsmeyer, “Plays with Johnson under center have resulted in
negative value for his teams.” These stats and analytics are not hard to find,
yet Kaepernick remained unsigned in 2018 as Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson
recorded just 1 win in 4 starts.
Last, why don’t we strictly look at wins? If you
don’t believe in any other stat and you are a football guy (or girl) that
believes it all comes down to wins, wins, wins, this spot is for you. As was
stated earlier, Kaepernick not being signed to any team is a refusal to believe
that he is even worth a backup quarterback roster spot. As Nick Foles proved,
having multiple competent quarterbacks is very, very valuable. In 2017, 56
different quarterbacks started a game in the regular season. In 2018, there
were 54. I examined every backup quarterback that started 1-9 games in 2017 or
1-9 games in 2018. Their combined record was a dismal 48-85. If we remove 4
quarterbacks (Patrick Mahomes, Nick Foles, Jimmy Garoppolo, Lamar Jackson) from
that list, the record drops to 30-82. Yikes. Kaepernick’s record is 30-28.
Granted, that’s not great, but it’s certainly better than 30-82. However, keep
in mind that Kaepernick boasts a 4-2 post-season record and led his team to 2
consecutive NFC Championships and was 5 yards away from a Superbowl title.
Colin Kaepernick is not being overlooked based
off of his talent or experience. He is plainly being blackballed. His stats
show that he is, at worse, a low-tier starting quarterback or an elite backup
quarterback. Kaepernick boasts the ability to throw over 3300 yards and 21
touchdowns, while also rushing for 600 yards and 5 touchdowns. His NEP or EPA
career statistics show that he is valuable to an NFL team. If NFL teams truly
believe that Nathan Peterman, Jeff Driskel, Mark Sanchez, and Josh Johnson,
they are locked in denial that has and will cost them wins.
The Super Bowl, America’s most anticipated and exhilarating sporting event of the year is rapidly approaching. It is also one of music’s most anticipated and exciting events of the year. Everyone waits to see who will headline the halftime show, just as everyone waits to see what two teams will face off for the Lombardi Trophy. Being asked to perform for the Super Bowl is one of music’s greatest honors. Such a request is symbolic of “making it” as a music artist. Being asked to perform at the Super Bowl carries a certain level of prestige. Some of the greatest entertainers of all time have graced that stage. Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Prince have all performed during Super Bowl halftime. It would seem that any and every artist would jump at the opportunity to perform for the Super Bowl. Right?
“I said no to the Super Bowl…You need me; I don’t need you.”
Perhaps before 2016, any artist would have jumped at the opportunity to perform at the Super Bowl. However, things have changed. Ever since the NFL blackballed former San Fransico 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for protesting racial injustices, there has a been a growing trend amongst the hip-hop community to “say no to the Super Bowl.” Hip-hop mogul Jay-Z reportedly declined the invitation to perform during Super Bowl LII last year. He confirmed the story this summer in the hit Apes**t. In that song, he stated: “I said no to the Super Bowl/You need me, I don’t need you/Every night we in the end zone/Tell the NFL we in stadiums too.” In the video, he had men kneel signaling to everyone that he declined the offer in support of Kaepernick.
This year’s Super Bowl halftime performance was met with the same trend. Various artist including Rihanna and Cardi B reportedly declined the invitation to perform. Accordingly, declining the invitation to perform at the Super Bowl has become a showing of solidarity with Kaepernick. However, is saying no the Super Bowl the only way to show support for Colin Kaepernick and the cause he sacrificed his career for? Apparently, some think so given the reaction to Travis Scott and Big Boi agreeing to perform in this year’s halftime show. The rappers have been called sellouts for their willingness to perform for the league that is continuing to blackball Kaepernick. However, when all things are considered surrounding their agreements to perform labeling them as sellouts is an incorrect assessment.
It is Foolish to Call Big Boi and Travis Scott Sellouts
Before this question can be answered, it is important to understand some of the context surrounding this year’s Super Bowl halftime performance. Super Bowl LIII is going to take place at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta is and has been a hotbed for hip-hop for the last 20 plus years. Given this prime location, musicians and fans alike expected the halftime show to be a who’s who of Atlanta hip-hop royalty.
Unfortunately, those expectations were crushed when the NFL announced that the Calfornia native pop group Maroon 5 would be Super Bowl LIII’s headlining act. First and foremost, Maroon 5 is a deserving act. However, fans were rightfully outraged as they could not understand how the NFL could overlook all of the musical talents that have come out of Atlanta. Therefore, fans were outraged that artists such as Usher, Ludacris, Jermaine Dupri, and a host of other Atlanta artists were snubbed for the halftime show.
After the outrage regarding the lack of Atlanta artists, it seems that they tried to make it right by asking Big Boi to join the show. Big Bio is an Atlanta native and is one half of the legendary group Outkast. Once Big Boi accepted he became the subject of unfounded criticism. He accepted the opportunity to perform at the same Super Bowl that everyone was initially upset had no Atlanta representation. Then all of a sudden everyone was upset with him for accepting the bid.
Big Boi was immediately regarded as a sellout for accepting the very opportunity that everyone was upset was not given to an Atlanta artist. In what world does that make sense? It cannot be both ways. One cannot be mad that no Atlanta artists were initially represented and then be mad when an Atlanta artist takes the opportunity to represent the city. Perhaps that is the very reason Big Boi decided to perform, to represent his hometown and all of the musical greatness that has hailed from Atlanta.
There is More Than One Way to Show Support
How can someone who garnered a donation to a social justice cause in exchange for their performance be deemed a sellout? Before Travis Scott finalized his agreement to perform, he made the NFL agree to donate money to a social justice cause. Specifically, he made the NFL agree to match his $500,000 donation to Dream Corp. This donation is proof that “saying no to the Super Bowl” is not the only way an artist can show their support for social causes.
Opting out of performing for the Super Bowl is a great way to show support for Colin Kaepernick and the causes he sacrificed his career for. It is nice to see some members of the hip-hop community come together and refuse to do the Super Bowl performance as a sign of solidarity with Kaepernick. However, that does not mean that is the only way to show support. Travis Scott supported social justice issues with his donation. Big Boi is representing Atlanta for all those who wanted to see Atlanta represented on the stage. With all things considered Travis Scott’s and Big Boi’s willingness to perform doesn’t make them a sellout.
Most importantly, you have no right to call anyone a sellout if you watch the Super Bowl or have watched one single second of NFL football since Kaepernick has been blackballed.
King James has done it again! He has once more shown the world why he is “More Than an Athlete.” For the first three Saturdays of November, he blasted the airways of millions of Americans with his new documentary – “Shut-up and Dribble.” The documentary aired on Showtime. The must-see documentary is a three-part docu-series detailing a reality about sports that many fans refuse to acknowledge. The “Shut-up and Dribble” documentary forces sports fans to acknowledge that sports, politics, and social justice have always been intertwined.
The relationship between sports, politics, and social justice is a point of contention for many. This point of contention reemerged in 2016 when former Sanfransico 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality. Kaepernick’s protest sparked a national debate about whether athletes should use their platforms to advocate for social justice issues. Some fans believe that sports are no place for politics and should be devoid of social justice issues. However, others see sports as the perfect stage to address the ills of society.
The former viewpoint has led to the seemingly popular view that athletes should stick to sports. In fact, the documentary gets its title from Fox News pundit Laura Ingraham who earlier this year told James to “shut-up and dribble” after James made unflattering comments about President Trump. Unfortunately, many sports fans agree with her and believe that athletes, particularly black athletes, should simply stick to sports. However, athletes have never simply stuck to sports, which is exactly what “Shut-up and Dribble” proves.
Athletes Have Never Simply Stuck to Sports
Fans who believe athletes should stick to sports contend that athletes are not qualified to make political statements or advocate for social justice issues. However, the opposite is true. Athletes are uniquely situated to advocate for social justice issues, and throughout history, athletes have done just that. Since Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball, sports have been used to break racial barriers and improve race relations.
The documentary starts with the story of Bill Russell, who completely revolutionized basketball and broke racial barriers in the sport. Russell, who dominated the NBA during the Civil Rights Movement, wasted no time pushing civil rights issues in the NBA. He questioned the NBA’s racial quota that limited the number of black players on a team. Russell and his teammates made an unprecedented move to boycott a game in Kentucky after a local restaurant refused to seat him and his black teammates. Russell became the first African American head coach as a player-coach of the Boston Celtics. Bill Russell’s story proves that sports have never truly been devoid of social justice issues. His story further shows that issues of race have always been embedded in sports, rather overt or subtle.
While it May be Unpopular, Athletes Have to Stand-up for Themselves
Athletes must stand up for themselves because no one else will. The documentary proved this to be true when it highlighted the story of Oscar Robertson. Oscar Robertson is the first NBA Player to average a triple-double for an entire season. However, Robertson’s greatest accomplishment is leading the path to the creation of the NBA’s free agency system. While serving as the President of the Player’s Union, Roberston sued the NBA. Robertson argued that “the draft, option clause and other rules restricting player movement were violations of antitrust laws.”[i]
In the documentary, Robertson is seen before Congress arguing that it is wrong to limit what a man can make. Robertson knew his worth and the potential worth of other players and fought for it. In 1976, the suit was settled, and the NBA introduced the concept of free agency where players can negotiate with other teams while giving their current team the right of first refusal.
Robertson’s Spirit is Visible in Current Athletes
NFL running back Le’Veon Bell is an example of an athlete who is unafraid to stand up for what he believes he is worth. Bell is sitting out this NFL season because he and the Pittsburg Steelers could not come to an agreement for a long-term contract. Bell refused the Steelers offer of a franchise player contract that would pay him the average salary of the top five running backs. However, Bell feels he deserves a contract valued at roughly $17 million per year with much of it guaranteed upfront. He may be right because he is arguably the best running back in the league who sometimes performs as a wide receiver. It remains to be seen if Bell’s holdout will benefit him in the long run. However, it is likely to benefit future NFL players like Robertson’s actions benefited future NBA players.
“Shut-Up and Dribble” is a Must See for Every Sports Fan
“Shut-up and Dribble” is a must see for all sports fans. In addition to the aforementioned stories, the documentary highlights the stories of other athlete activists. From Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Muhammad Ali to Craig Hodges and Colin Kaepernick the documentary reveals that sports have never truly been devoid of athlete activist. After watching the documentary, fans will hopefully have a greater appreciation for athletes activist. Fans will realize the sports that they love would not be what they are today if not for athletes activist.
[i]Ron Flatter, Oscar Defined the Triple-Double, ESPN https://www.espn.com/sportscentury/features/00016428.html.
If there is one thing that social justice movements have proved, it is that there are multiple ways to successfully effectuate change. The Civil Rights Movement is certainly proof of this. Everyone contributed something that was instrumental to the betterment of the movement. Multiple groups and individuals emerged to push the movement forward each in their own unique way. The same can be said of the contributions that North Carolina Panthers’ (Panthers) safety Eric Reid and Philadelphia Eagles’ (Eagles) safety Malcolm Jenkins have made to the movement started by Colin Kaepernick in 2016. While they differ in approach, each has made invaluable contributions.
However, on Sunday their contributions were overshadowed. The attention was turned away from their contributions and was diverted to the escalating rift between Reid and Jenkins. Immediately following the pre-game coin toss, Reid approached Jenkins, and the two had an unpleasant exchange.
This rift is an unfortunate distraction from the greater purpose of the movement. In the midst of this feud, people may lose sight of the issues that Kaepernick sacrificed his career to bring light to. Kaepernick started the movement to shed light on the injustices of minority communities and to offer solutions to combat police brutality. It is important to make sure that this feud does not overshadow the purpose of the movement.
What Led to the Dispute between Eric Reid and Malcolm Jenkins on Sunday?
It would have been better for their differences to be worked out in private and for the protesting players to present a united front. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The rift between Reid and Jenkins is no secret. It stems from Colin Kaepernick’s protest and the establishment of the Players Coalition. In 2016, Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and lost his job as a result. Eric Reid was the first to join Kaepernick in the protest. Reid appeared to suffer the same fate as Kaepernick until the Panthers signed him in late September.
Other players eventually joined the protest. Among those to join was Malcolm Jenkins, who protested by raising his fist during the national anthem. Jenkins along with Anquan Boldin founded the Players Coalition (Coalition) in 2017 to combat social justice issues and racial inequality.
Initially, Reid was a member of the Coalition, and he and Jenkins stood together in their protest. Unfortunately, their union ended when Reid left the organization. Reid left due to a difference of opinion on what should be the Coalition’s primary focus and who should lead the organization. Reid wanted one of the Coalition’s goals to be getting Kaepernick back into the league. However, other members did not think Kaepernick’s employment should be a primary goal. With Jenkins at the helm, the Coalition struck a deal with the NFL without ever putting the Kaepernick issue on the table. After making the deal, Jenkins stated that he would no longer protest. After that, Reid left the Coalition. On Sunday after the game, Reid called Jenkins a “sell-out” and accused him of “co-opting” the movement.
The Feud Cannot Takeaway From the Movement
The public division amongst the protesting players puts the purpose of the movement at risk of getting lost. It is easy for dissenters of the movement to focus on the spectacle and use it to discredit the movement. The optics of the spectacle affirms what many dissenters think, which is that the movement is disorganized and fueled by protestors who cannot even agree amongst themselves. While this is not true, this is exactly the type of ammunition that opponents of the movement will use to discredit it.
Furthermore, the optics on Sunday affirms the contentions that NFL games are not the time or place for protesting because it distracts from the game. After Reid and Jenkins’ exchange, it is hard to argue that the protest does not distract from the game. Therefore, the feud between Reid and Jenkins could “co-opt” the movement.
What Reid and Jenkins Could do Differently
To keep that from happening, the protesting players need to demonstrate unity. They need to remind the public of the issues that they are fighting for. Although Reid and Jenkins have different approaches, they are both working for the betterment of minority communities. They both want to see improved police relations in minority communities. Both Reid and Jenkins have taken steps to move the movement forward and effectuate real change. This is what Reid and Jenkins need to keep in the headlines instead of their rift.
Jenkins has already taken a step in that direction. On Wednesday, Jenkins reminded everyone that Kaepernick started the movement and that it cost him his career. He also stated that Kaepernick should have a job in the NFL. While this is a step in the right direction, all protesting players need to make sure their actions do not distract from the greater purpose of the movement.
David Tepper is the key to making the NFL a progressive league. On Thursday, David Tepper and the Carolina Panthers made a bold move to be on the right side of history when they signed free-agent safety Eric Reid. David Tepper is the new owner of the Panthers, who took ownership in May of this year. Eric Reid was Colin Kaepernick’s teammate on the San Francisco 49ers. He was the first football player to join Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality. Once Reid’s rookie contract expired, he was not re-signed by the 49ers or any other team. This left many to question why no team had picked him up.
Reid was a 2013 first round draft pick who lived up to the expectations and became a Pro-Bowl safety. He dominated his position each season he played and was injury free. There was no football-related reason for Reid not be signed. Since there was no football-related reason, many believed that Reid’s continued free-agency was due to his activism. Kaepernick had already been “blackballed” from the league for his protest. It appeared that Reid was suffering the same consequence. Reid, like Kaepernick, filed a grievance against the NFL for collusion. The grievance alleged that the league and/or the team owners conspired to keep Reid out of the league.
All of this changed on Thursday when the Panther’s announced that they signed Eric Reid. In the midst of his grievance against the NFL, Reid’s signing came as a shock to many. Reid was overlooked the entire summer and preseason. This leaves one question. What changed to lead to Reid’s signing on Thursday?
David Tepper is What Changed to lead to Eric Reid’s Signing
In just these short months since taking over the Panthers in May, David Tepper has already asserted himself as probably the most progressive NFL owner. From the beginning, Tepper made small changes that he knew Panther’s fans had long awaited. He removed the NFL shield at center-field and changed the logo to a panther. Also under Tepper, the team unveiled a new uniform. With these changes, Tepper alerted everyone to the fact that change was afoot in the Panthers organization.
While those changes were bold statements, Tepper took it a step further early in September when he stood up for players who participate in the national anthem protest in an interview on CNBC. Tepper called the players patriotic and acknowledged that the protest was an effort to seek “justice for all.”
On Thursday, Tepper put those words into action when he signed Eric Reid to replace the recently injured Da’Norris Searcy. Instead of overlooking a clearly qualified Eric Reid and attempting to make unfounded football-related excuses not to sign him, Tepper and the Panthers did the right and most sensible thing and hired the best man for the job.
Moves such as speaking out in support of the players right to protest and signing a player who was arguably being “blackballed” by the rest of the teams and the league are what makes Tepper the league’s most progressive owner. Tepper may be just what the league needs to finally become a more progressive and inclusive entity. He listened to the wants of the players and fans when he changed the center-field logo and unveiled new uniforms. Accordingly, Tepper showed the ability to put football first when he signed Eric Reid.
Was Reid Signed as a Defense to the Collusion Grievance?
Some may argue that Reid was signed to help the NFL battle their collusion grievance against him and Kaepernick. However, Reid being signed is not likely to help the NFL’s defense in the grievances. To be successful Reid only has to show “that there was an agreement or formal understanding between at least two teams or the NFL and one team not to sign him.”[i] Therefore, the Panthers signing him does not negate the possibility that other teams and/or the NFL may have agreed not to sign him.
The Future of Athlete Activism and the NFL
Tepper is just the kind of owner that the NFL needs moving forward. In this new wave of athlete activism and athletes seeking to establish an identity separate from their athletic prowess, the NFL has to decide how to adjust to these trends while maintaining viewership (which should not be a huge problem if willing; the NBA has somehow figured it out). With LeBron James‘ success with the I Promise School, and as a film producer and the reverence of NFL Players like Kenny Stills to continue to kneel in spite of what happened to Kaepernick, it seems that the “more than an athlete” movement is here to stay. Tepper’s actions so far have shown that he embraces these trends and is just what the NFL needs to become more progressive.
[i] Michael McCann, How Eric Reid Can Win His Collusion Grievance Against the NFL…and How the NFL Can Win, Sports Illustrated (May 2, 2018), https://www.si.com/nfl/2018/05/02/eric-reid-nfl-collusion-grievance.