Let me be clear — Black Americans suffer discrimination in many ways. My family, such as Robert A. Lower, has been fighting for their human rights for generations. Yesterday, NYC Mayor, Bill De Blasio, directed police to stop arresting people for using cannabis in public. The city nabbed 17,880 people last year for “low-level” marijuana possession. Some 86 percent of those detained were People of Color. Across the city, Black people were jailed at eight times the rate of White offenders over the past three years.
In Manhattan, the gap was even wider — Black people were apprehended at 15 times the rate of White people. I’ve already discussed the unacceptable number of Black males who have been shot during routine traffic stops and non-violent offenses or the pattern of White women who call 911 Emergency on Black poeple over minor issues. If you are WOKE, you’re aware of these racial disparities.
There are many challenges in America. At the same time, all of us need respite from politics and protest. Sports have served as our national pastime and escape. Fans want to come together to cheer their team or boo the opposition. It’s a small slice of time in their hectic, crazy weeks when they can release emotion and frustration, while laughing and enjoying friends and family. A majority of Americans and ticket holders are united — they do not approve of political action interrupting their leisure in stadiums.
Liberal publications such as Huffington Post don’t respect boundaries of sport.
Liberal publications such as Huffington Post don’t respect boundaries of sport. They want to turn Hollywood award shows, athletic competitions and other public events into portals of protest. This drama feeds their newspapers, magazines and talk shows, while increasing their profit margins. At the same time, protests divide fans and families. Competition loses its magical luster, as negativity dominates individual and team performance. I documented how protests tarnished last year’s winter Olympics. Many experts believe TV and arena attendance has fallen due to the protests.
Can Workers Be Fired Protesting at Work?
Most Americans believe the First Amendment protects an employee’s right to protest in the workplace. Jeannette Cox, writing for the America Bar Association, quoted Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. He stated in 1891:
“A employee may have a constitutional right to talk politics, but he has no constitutional right to be employed.” In other words: to keep your job, you often can’t say what you like.
As a union representative, I’ve always taught my bargaining unit employees to use restraint while at work. Football players are employees. They wear the uniform of their employer. When they walk onto the field, they are no different than a guy or gal at Walmart or McDonalds — although paid much better!
As an athlete, coaches instructed us not to engage in political protests while in uniform or when representing the program. My high school teammate, Dirk Koetter, is currently a head coach in the NFL. Knowing him, I discussed how CK is not banned by the NFL. His father, Big Jim, was clear with players like me. Football is life (he coached me in basketball). He discouraged time with girlfriends and extra-curricular activities. He expected us to do well in the classroom, but our athletic goals took priority over studies.
More importantly, any energy one devoted to pursuits off the field was taking away from athletic excellence. The Koetters have an amazing win/loss ratio. To succeed, they expect 100 percent from all on the team — players, managers and coaching staff.
Black Males Take a Knee
As I wrote last February, students across the nation organized an effective, powerful march in protest of gun violence. They stood together, they marched together, and they demanded action from state and national leaders. They have utilized their First Amendment guarantees beautifully. While millions might disagree with their political objectives, the students earned respect for their civil behavior and collective strength.
On the other hand, I have a fundamental disagreement with millionaire athletes “taking a knee” before the U.S. flag and anthem. First, kneeling is a sign of submission. Those who dumped tea in the Boston harbor certainly would have failed had they instead kneeled before corrupt King George. They stood and fought!
Second, protesting during the anthem confuses their action. Yes, Americans have stumbled in their effort to ensure racial equality — and gender equity — for all. But it’s not the flag or anthem that failed. It’s not the fault of those injured or killed during war or in service to the nation, such as our grandfather, Ray Larribas. The flag and anthem represent what we should be. These icons constitute the ideals of America. Stand and protest at police stations or legislative chambers. Activist athletes have the resources and public support to mount highly effective campaigns.
For example, why not refuse to compete? Boycott the 2018-2019 season and use that time to demand politicians act on issues important to the players and their communities. Their refusal to stop play exposes the hypocrisy in the athlete protests. They are willing to take a convenient stand — or knee — but will not put their salaries on the line. They instead disrupt the spirit of competition and turn fans against each other, and nothing changes politically. Those protesting create clouds of darkness over arenas and stadiums, while failing to make a difference for People of Color on the streets.
Some readers will likely criticize me, “What have you done?” I’ve done plenty! I fought the good fight all my career. Although I ultimately lost, I stood up for students to coworkers. I’ve been fired from a number of jobs. I put my life, career and money on the line. I won most of the cases. The only battle I lost was the one to save myself. I’ve failed over and over and over … and that’s why we succeeded!
To CK and privileged athletes: get off your knee, take off the uniform, take a stand. I and millions will be honored to walk with you.
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