[Glen Skoler, Ph.D., is a clinical and forensic psychologist who has been retained in false confession, officer brutality, racial harassment, sexual assault and prison rape Federal civil rights cases.] [He is currently writing: A Guide to Huckleberry Finn for Offended Blacks and Guilty Whites: The Masterpiece on the Precipice of the American Racial Divide]
Forget Jon Snow. President Trump's diatribe to purge the NFL of the black "sons of bitches" protesting civil rights injustices is compelling NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to make a fateful decision.
Will he "take a knee" with Colin Kaepernick, or "bend the knee" to Donald Trump?
When the NFL season kicked off this September, Goodell was wrong about the player protests during the national anthem-even though what he said sounded ethically sincere, morally palatable, and politically correct.
The gist of Goodell's position was: 1) that he affirmed redressing American social injustices; 2) that he would not interfere with the free speech of NFL players to stage silent protests during the national anthem; but 3) that he questioned the symbolism of such protests, during a national anthem that could equally serve as an apolitical moment of national unity and patriotism.
Yet, there was something racially insidious about the cultural and political tightrope Goodell was walking. By initially lamenting the national anthem sidelines demonstrations, Goodell facilitated less well-meaning, less understanding, and more racially hostile American voices to "reframe" the civil rights protests (predominantly by African-American men, predominantly about injustices against African-American men) as unpatriotic and anti-American-not pro-American and pro-Constitutional.
Then, on a Friday night, before the third week of the NFL season, along came Donald Trump's rally cry, in the deep South, to "fire" the "sons of bitches"-which prompted Colin Kaepernick's mother to tweet: "Guess that makes me a proud bitch!"
For a brief, insincere moment Goodell publicly stood up to Trump, in an act of apparent courage and integrity. He publicly rebuked the President, by implication, while calling for "unity in our country and our culture" and condemning the "divisive comments" that "demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players..."
However, beyond the safe affirmation of ebony and ivory harmony, Goodell, literally and figuratively, still wouldn't take a knee with his unemployable erstwhile quarterback. Rather, he cautiously, and incredulously, evaded the civil rights issues that his African-American players were actually protesting. Instead, Goodell's brief counter-statement against the President veered off into the all-too-safe, non-controversial, but certainly worthy "causes" the NFL loves to embrace, such as natural disaster relief and the "force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities."
Goodell's "free speech" moral rationales at the time still left the predominantly black players on the socially unacceptable sidelines, kneeling, as Colin Kaepernick did (when he was employable), or sitting, or standing with their arms interlocked in solidarity for the civil rights issues they are actually protesting.
As the President amped up his influence to turn the public, team owners, networks and sponsors against the players, Goodell, pending the renewal of his own multi-million dollar contract, was caught in the middle: as the NFL Commissioner who is employed by the owners, who governs the players, and who frequently squares off against the Players' Association in the Federal court system.
Just a couple weeks after the President's remarks, Goodell was in full-out, submissive, knee-bending mode--to the President and the NFL team owners who employ him.
The NFL commissioner, in a follow-up memorandum, then rationalized, "The controversy over the anthem is a barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues." While his real agenda was to demand: "Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem ... We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us."
However, after placating the President and the NFL owners, Goodell then immediately had to placate the NFL Players Association. Just days later, the NFL and the NFL Players Association released a joint statement that there had been no official change to the league's national anthem policy:
"There has been no change in the current policy regarding the anthem. The agenda will be a continuation of how to make progress on the important social issues that players have vocalized. Everyone who is part of our NFL community has a tremendous respect for our country, our flag, our anthem and our military, and we are coming together to deal with these issues in a civil and constructive way."
On Monday Night Football, following the President's "sons of bitches" harangue that offended so many in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys, along with their owner, Jerry Jones, and head coach, Jason Garrett, morphed the "protest-with-respect" counter-play into a civil rights protest two-parter: First the team kneeled together, with arms interlocked in solidarity, then they stood up for the national anthem. Yet two weeks later, Jerry Jones was indulging the President, missing the point, and threatening to bench players who didn't stand for the anthem, much to the President's delight.
During the 4th week of the NFL season, one week after the President's comments, the New England Patriots, along with their famously taciturn head coach, Bill Belichik, and their famously transcendent quarterback, Tom Brady, stood with their right hands on their hearts and their left hands on the shoulder of the next player--a kind of choreographed chorus line, in eye black and shoulder pads, that was more embracing of ducking the "anti-American" trope, and expressing "solidarity" for each other--versus taking a moral stand on anything specific.
Whereas, also during week #4, the Baltimore Ravens were booed by thousands of fans, despite the announcement: "Before the singing of the national anthem, please join Ravens players and coaches, and the entire Ravens organization, to pray, that we, as a nation, can embrace, kindness, unity, equality and justice for all Americans."
"American" "fans" heartily booing a "prayer" for "justice" and "equality" "for all Americans," before the national anthem?
This ugly incident belied that, for many, it was the substance, not the form of the protests that was "unpatriotic" and intolerable: the assertion of American racial injustices and civil rights violations.
Earlier that week, to little avail, the popular and respected ESPN sports talk team of "Mike & Mike in the Morning" tried to correct the misinformation pouring in on their social media feeds. They clarified that the NFL protests were against law enforcement abuses against minorities, not against the military. But apparently Mike Pence wasn't listening that morning.
By the fifth week of the NFL season, the prejudice and anger against the black NFL players were taken to new heights--or lows--by the Vice President of the United States. Mike Pence openly expressed his disgust for the protesting players, and staged his own walkout protest, during a game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers (Kaepernick's former team).
Would Pence have also angrily labeled as unpatriotic two other African-Americans for literally breaking the law, by sitting down in public: Rosa Parks on a bus, and Dr. King at a diner counter? Some of the Vice President's Indianapolis Colts were wearing black T-shirts with the words, "Stand for equality, justice, unity, respect, dialogue, opportunity." Did Pence, a professed Christian, also find those sentiments morally offensive and anti-American?
The tragic flaw and fallacy in the Vice-President's duplicitous counter-protest reasoning was that those who died for the flag died only for a nationalistic piece of cloth, not for the Constitutional rights of the democratic "republic for which it stands," to quote the Pledge of Allegiance. Months before his assassination, President Kennedy, at the height of the civil rights protest era, in a national television address, countered voices such as Donald Trump and Mike Pence, by "saluting" civil rights protestors and workers, for being as patriotic as the American military--and fighting for the same Constitutional freedoms.
Whereas, the current Presidential administration has successfully goaded a hateful culture of anti-civil rights McCarthyism--literally accusing protesting, predominantly African-American, NFL players of engaging in "un-American activities."
The irony of Kaepernick is that he started kneeling, rather than sitting, during the National Anthem, as a gesture of respect, while grieving and protesting American wrongs.
As the always outspoken, but racially thoughtful, Charles Barkley asserts, the American media (and now the President and Vice-President) have often "hijacked the story," of what began as a legitimate civil rights protest, into a false symbol of racial polarization and anti-Americanism. The media is reduced to giving a civil rights protest box score each Sunday. Which players are sitting? Which players are kneeling? Which players are standing? Which players have their fists in the air? Who is a good guy and who is a bad guy? Are there any white guys with the black guys, or is it just the black guys?
By spuriously recasting the sideline protests as unpatriotic, anti-law enforcement, and anti-military, meaningful discussion of the legitimate civil rights concerns, and the myriad law enforcement violations of the US Constitution become lost and ignored. Americans, like Mike Pence, cast protesting black players as haters of those of who died for their country--yet Pence himself cannot summon one thousandth the courage of the slain military heroes he invokes, to take a public stand on whether there is legitimate civil rights substance to the NFL anthem protests.
The list is long: unethical and deceitful Miranda waiver practices; the rampant problem of false, police-coerced confessions, documented by decades of DNA exoneration evidence; tainted police line-ups and victim identification methods, leading to more false convictions; police stops motivated by racial profiling, leading to shootings over matters as insignificant as a broken taillight; officer brutality ("I can't breathe!"); the unjustified police shootings of many unarmed, innocent minorities; and officers then illegally colluding to falsify police incident reports, now exposed by patrol car and body camera videos. And this list of American ills doesn't even touch upon decades of empirical research documenting racial discrepancies and injustices throughout the American criminal justice system--from the first stop of a defendant, through prosecution, and then sentencing into a correctional system described in the award winning documentary, 13th, at the "intersection of race, justice and mass incarceration in the United States."
It is so-uncontroversial-for the NFL to sponsor its breast cancer awareness campaign during October-which is why coaches and players wear those pink shoes, wristbands and hats. Yet it is certainly important to take a stand against breast cancer and domestic violence. (Both causes in which women, of all colors, are predominantly the victims.) But it takes little courage, risk, or sacrifice to support these causes. It is one thing for an NFL player to wear a pink wristband in October; it is another thing for LeBron James to wear an "I Can't Breathe" tee shirt during warm-ups.
Protests by predominantly black men, about the violation of the rights of other predominantly black men-is a different issue, which is perceived differently, and processed differentially.
As Game of Thrones approached its season finale, just as the 2017 NFL season began, the world was left wondering if Jon Snow, the King of the North, would "bend the knee" to Queen Daenerys Targaryen, in one way or another: either in an act of fealty and submission, or in a proposal of marriage. Would these two decent monarchs of the people unite, to bring peace to the world by fighting together against the forces of darkness?
The United States is not a Kingdom, of course, but it actually is, in this racial metaphor that Wynton Marsalis struggled to articulate, in the Ken Burns series, Jazz:
"Well... race is a...race is like.... for this country, it's like, the thing in the story, in the mythology, that you have to do, for the kingdom to be well. And it's always something you don't want to do. And it's always that thing that's so much about you confronting yourself, that is tailor made for you to fail dealing with it.... The more we run from it, the more we run into it. It's an age-old story. You know, if it's not race it's something else. But in this particular instance, in this nation, it is race."
Roger Goodell should take heart from these words, as he fails to truly meet this moment in history: because the story of race in America is a tragedy that is "tailor made" to force an individual to confront himself-and to fail.
However, just a little risk goes a very long way. On opening day of the 2017-2018 NFL season, 3 weeks before the President's comments, the Seattle Seahawks tried to reclaim the story that the media, and the (predominantly white) public, tried to hijack. During the national anthem, facing the American flag, much of the team, players and coaches, black, brown and white, stood respectfully, locked arm in arm-evolving the movement begun by Colin Kaepernick into a concurrent statement of racial unity, patriotic respect and civil rights protest. As head coach Pete Carroll stood, locked in arms with his "straight outta Compton," Stanford graduate, superstar cornerback, Richard Sherman, he did not diminish himself; he ennobled himself.
In contrast, Goodell wants to walk that fine line: of defending his players' rights, without risking anything, by essentially saying: I acknowledge the concerns, but not the form of the protests; Jerry Jones can take a knee with you, Pete Carroll can lock arms with you, and Bill Belichick and Tom Brady can place their hands on your shoulders, but I can't, and I won't.
Immediately after the fifth week of the season, under intense pressure from the President and the team owners who employ Goodell, it was actually the NFL Commissioner who was publicly dishonoring the American flag, the US Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, by advocating stripping players of free speech (or, in their case, free silence). Suddenly Goodell was doing a complete 180, and claiming that it was the protesting players who were "divisive." Whereas, weeks earlier, Goodell condemned the President's comments as "divisive."
Incredibly, Goodell and some members of Congress further rationalized that suppressing American civil rights demonstrations is justified by the very divisiveness and social attention the public protests are intended to generate.
The Daily Show Host, Trevor Noah, couldn't resist the comedy-gold fodder of this new political hypocrisy. Noah photo-shopped a picture of Rosa Parks sitting at home on a sofa, instead of on a bus, while voicing the mock "realization" that now he finally understood: black people are allowed to protest for civil rights!--just as long as they don't do it in public!
The Daily Show audience may have been yucking it up, but the Papa John's Pizza CEO and stockholders weren't. Papa John's stock plummeted in November 2017 of the NFL season, following the CEO blaming the NFL players for decreased sales--and Goodell for not nipping the player protests in the bud. Meanwhile, in November, an NBC advertising executive admitted that advertisers were threatening, behind the scenes, to pull their ads if NBC kept televising the anthem protests.
This unintentional twist in the story was a necessary reality check, that the myth of one America united against the players--was a myth. Papa John's was forced to publicly apologize:
"The statements made on our earnings call were describing the factors that impact our business and we sincerely apologize to anyone that thought they were divisive. That definitely was not our intention. We believe in the right to protest inequality and support the players' movement to create a new platform for change. We also believe, as Americans, we should honor our anthem. There is a way to do both."
Goodell also tried to recover by walking that complex political tightrope, by recasting his political capitulation to the owners as still standing with the true cause of the players. The Commissioner made the gesture of participating with the Miami Dolphins in a "community event" for police. But can Goodell play on both teams at the same time? the owners allied with the President? and the protesting players?
Well, if you are the 14 billion dollars per year NFL, and have 100 million laying around to up the ante, the answer to that question may be, Yes.
The NFL then elevated social, political, and racial duplicity to new heights, by offering a nearly 100 million dollar bribe--oops, I mean, charitable contributions--to halt the player protests. Sources, of course, asserted there was no "quid pro quo," and acknowledged that some players might continue to protest.
The offer, understandably, evoked dissension within the approximately 40 member NFL Players Coalition of protesting players, which is led by Malcolm Jenkins of the Philadelphia Eagles. Eric Reid, of the San Francisco 49ers, who kneeled alongside Kaepernick during the 2016 season, and Michael Thomas, of the Miami Dolphins, cut ties with the Players Coalition, not only after inquiries whether they would stop protesting for such a "deal," but also over the Coalition's black-on-black segregation and discrimination against the political pariah, Kaepernick.
As the December/January playoff season approached, the NFL moved quickly, with a memo sent to the 32 teams on December 1, 2017, announcing $90 million, contributed over the next seven years, to "social justice" causes.
In another memo, Anna Isaacson, the league's vice president for social responsibility, rationalized, "Social justice may mean different things to different people and organizations....The NFL's work will encompass programs and initiatives that reduce barriers to opportunity, with a priority on supporting improvements in education, community/police relations and our criminal justice system. Additional focus areas include poverty, racial equality and workforce development." More detailed plans were to be announced in March--after the Super Bowl season.
In a clever PR move, the NFL specified that the initiative was in response to the player's anthem protests. Further, the NFL's chief operating officer emphasized that, "In developing this plan, we have taken the lead from our players and are honored to join them in this work."
Yet the intelligent, socially aware, but relatively young protesting players are being played, placated, and pandered to by the NFL, to abandon the protests that are more likely to catalyze true criminal justice reform than the NFL spreading about 13 million a year in "grants" and "awareness" among 32 NFL cities--which would come to about $400,000 per city.
Roger Goodell may be smiling with relief, as he awaits approval of his own multi-year contract renewal (for more than 90 million)--but Dr. Martin Luther King is looking down at the NFL players on the sidelines, and sadly shaking his head.
Dr. King is shaking his head at them, not for protesting, but for not protesting enough, and for their silent submission at literally being "bought" by the NFL owners--an ugly enough metaphor in the history of how "Africans" became "African-Americans" with a silenced "voice."
Dr. King was smart enough, and moral enough, and committed enough, to successfully face down far more powerful anti-protest counter-plays, by far more powerful political forces than the NFL and its sponsors.
The "I Have A Dream" speech was delivered during The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, on August 28th, 1963.
The Presidential Administration of John F. Kennedy, which included then Vice-President Lyndon Johnson, and Attorney General, Robert Kennedy, knew of the planned civil rights march. But somewhat like Roger Goodell, while sincerely believing in the civil rights cause, they feared the D-word, "divisiveness," which, in 1963, entailed the famous civil rights marches of the era, brutal police retaliation, and fears of "Negroes" rioting in the streets.
We are with you and your cause, Dr. King was sincerely told by President Kennedy and his administration--but King was asked not to go ahead with the planned march in Washington.
Yet Kennedy did not simply offer Dr. King the empty rhetoric and money for black communities that the NFL is currently offering to silence the protesting players. In fact, Kennedy offered Dr. King 90,000,000 more substantive reasons not to protest, than the mere $90,000,000 dollars the NFL has committed over seven years.
Two and a half months preceding the "I Have A Dream" speech, on June 11th, 1963, less than half a year before his assassination, President Kennedy delivered a still extraordinary, courageous, heartfelt, and authoritative national television address on civil rights, that left even Dr. King amazed and ecstatic.
Over 50 years ago, the white President understood, as did Dr. King, what today's young black protesting NFL players still don't understand: that true civil rights reform has to come from all 3 branches of the Federal government, not just the U.S. Supreme Court, but from the predominantly white Congress--and a Presidential administration willing to enforce the laws of the land, both through its Justice Department--and the mobilization of troops, if necessary.
The protesting black NFL players could also learn a thing or two from the rhetorical brilliance of both Dr. King and President Kennedy. There is nothing clever, or original, about America's current President and Vice President, Trump and Pence, hypocritically casting civil rights protests by blacks, as "un-American," unpatriotic, and an affront to those who died for the nation. Both John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy had lived through McCarthyism--and they had learned how to hold up the "un-American" mirror to white hypocrites hostile to minorities. Two months before Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech, Kennedy, in his national television address, morally elevated civil rights workers and protestors to the same level of patriotism as the US military:
"They are acting not out of a sense of legal duty but out of a sense of human decency. Like our soldiers and sailors in all parts of the world they are meeting freedom's challenge on the firing line and I salute them for their honor and courage."
Sunday Night Football commentator and former NFL Pro-Bowl player, Cris Collinsworth, rightly notes how bright, educated, socially aware and confident these extraordinary young NFL players can be. Yet they cravenly succumb to defending their patriotism and support for the military, instead of berating those who would attack civil rights protesters, as the real haters of the U.S. Constitution and the American way of life.
The protesting NFL players are not only craven, but politically stupid, if they allow their protests to be silenced for 90 million dollars, over 7 years, about 13 million dollars a year being thrown back, according to the NFL, to "their" "local" "communities"--code word: "black" communities. Not that such programs might not do a little good, but they are not going to redress, at the local level, the civil rights abuses the players are actually protesting.
If the NFL players are too young to remember the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Kennedy, they should at least listen to perhaps the most important and outspoken sports commentator in America today: Charles Barkley.
Barkley, like President Kennedy and Dr. King before him, understands that whether it is right or wrong, it is an American political reality that white support, white understanding and white voices, particularly in the three branches of the Federal government, including the overwhelmingly white US Congress, have always been an important element of modern civil rights reform.
Dr. King, even in his seminal, Letter From Birmingham Jail, written two months before President Kennedy's June 11th, 1963 national civil rights address, also understood this political reality. An intellect and moral voice like Dr. King's did not presume that his letter would change the soul or mentality of a Klanner or Neo-Nazi. Rather, his letter addressed the condemnation he was receiving from the white establishment, including both the Christian and Jewish clergy, for his perceived divisive protests and "law-breaking."
(Dr. King's, Letter From Birmingham Jail, also specifically addressed "police brutality," one of the primary causes of the protesting NFL players. Would Trump and Pence also cast Dr. King as un-American, unpatriotic and dishonoring of the US military for adopting this "cause?")
Any protesting player's acquiescence to the NFL's placating, pandering, PR ploy, is to abandon the actual cause they are protesting. Changing laws is what is needed, not raising "dialogue" and "awareness" at "the local level."
Listen to President Kennedy from the same speech of June 11th, 1963:
"We face therefore a moral crisis as a country and a people. It cannot be met by repressive police action... it cannot be quieted by token moves or talk. It is a time to act, in the Congress, in your State and local legislative body, and above all in all of our daily lives... Those who do nothing are inviting shame, as well as violence."
The NFL's "offer" to the protesting players is antithetical to President Kennedy's and Dr. King's moral and social vision of how true civil rights are established in the United States. The NFL's "offer" is nothing but "token moves or talk," to quote the assassinated President.
The NFL's cautiously, generally worded, and noncommittal statements relied upon phrases such as, improvements in community/police relations and our criminal justice system--while cleverly avoiding mention of the true substance and legitimacy of the player's protests.
The NFL could never politically afford to advocate true substantive change, such as lobbying Congress for legislative reforms and criminal penalties for police and prosecutorial abuses. Or what about adopting the police interrogation reforms utilized in Great Britain, such as taping all interrogations, (and Miranda waivers in the US), and training police to use interrogation for investigative purposes, not to coerce confessions? (The same coercive, deceiving, lying, threatening police, step-by-step "interrogation" techniques condemned and footnoted by Chief Justice Warren in the Miranda opinion, 50 years ago, are still employed and formally taught to police today, and those methods are still permitted by state and Federal appellate courts.)
The NFL's offer is as racially duplicitous as it would have been to bribe Dr. King for not marching, as long as millions of dollars were donated to "his" "causes" and "his" "communities."
Kennedy knew Dr. King would have never gone for that. He knew Dr. King required meaningful and authentic change and leadership, on the Federal level--and Kennedy gave it to him, from the heart, on June 11th, 1963, more than Dr. King himself could have imagined from a white U.S President in a national television address. Yet Dr. King still kept protesting--and he certainly didn't cancel the march on Washington DC. And Kennedy was as admiring of Dr. King's, "I Have A Dream" speech, as King was admiring of Kennedy's nationally televised civil rights address, 2 months earlier.
What Goodell is learning the hard way is the "lesson" explained by Wynton Marsalis: that when it comes to race in America, one must truly confront oneself to "do the right thing," about an issue that is "tailor made" for the self to fail.
It takes an extraordinary leader, a King or a Kennedy, to prevail against the weight of American racism, but the only way they were able to prevail was by taking an unequivocal stand.
In contrast, Goodell, after compromising his integrity, finds that he is still "owned" by the "owners." The Commissioner was reportedly bitter about retaliation in his contract negotiations involving incentive clauses. Not-so-veiled interpretation: if you take any moral or political stands that hurt the extremely wealthy and often politically conservative NFL owners, or their NFL brands, or the NFL sponsors, or NFL broadcast ratings--it will come out of your paycheck.
The first week of December, just days after the 90 million dollar offer to the protesting players, Goodell received his incentive-laden 5-year contract renewal, a compensation package worth $200 million or more, with a reported about $40 million per year base. The incentives, the Associated Press further reported, include continued increases in NFL revenues, stable or rising television ratings, a new labor agreement with the players when the current one expires, and the amount the NFL receives in rights fees when it renews its broadcast contracts.
So now, Goodell literally "pays" if he doesn't effectively "handle" the player protest problem, or if it affects NFL revenues and ratings, as it has this year.
Or has it? It was Trump and Pence, by casting the black protesters as anti-American and haters of the American flag and military--and by mobilizing their base to boycott NFL broadcasts, in order to financially damage the networks and advertising sponsors--that hurt the ratings. The players realized they had a multi-billion dollar platform to silently speak their voice--and Trump, the owners, the networks and sponsors, tried to take that voice away--by financially turning off the TV cameras during the anthem protests.
The ratings numbers, however, don't really represent how much the public supports or doesn't support the players, since even relatively small drops in ratings translate to large revenues that influence networks and sponsors. The Papa John's Pizza fiasco was a stunning reminder that America is not united against the players.
Unwittingly however, Trump and Pence are outlining a protest counter-play for those who support the players: their own boycott of NFL games and/or NFL sponsors.
Meanwhile, will the Alpha of the story become the Omega of the story?
As Sunday Night Football commentator Cris Collinsworth has assessed, Kaepernick may not be at the peak of his career, yet he is certainly not the 65th worst quarterback in America--referring to the typical 2-3 quarterbacks carried on the rosters of each of the 32 NFL teams.
Kaepernick agrees, and this season filed an ongoing collusion grievance against the NFL--essentially alleging a conspiracy by the owners to keep him blacklisted as a free agent--and off of the NFL sidelines, even as a back-up quarterback--during a 2017 NFL season filled with some notable quarterback injuries, and some notable quarterback sub-standard play.
Yet Kaepernick, even if he is not playing, is still the dominant force in the story, more so than Goodell.
In early December of the season, days after the league's 90 million dollar PR ploy to negate Kaepernick's legacy on the sidelines, and days before the announcement of Goodell's 200-million-plus contract renewal, Beyonce presented Kaepernick with Sports Illustrated's Muhammad Ali Legacy Award. In accepting the award, Kaerpernick promised that, "with or without the NFL's platform, I will continue to work for the people." Last year's Ali Award recipient, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, described Kaepernick as a "worthy recipient." "He embraced the risk to his career in order to remind Americans of the systemic racism that was denying African-Americans their opportunities to equal education, jobs, health and even their lives," Abdul-Jabbar said. Kaepernick was also honored with a courageous advocate award by the ACLU, and was named GQ magazine's "Citizen of the Year."
Does Goodell yet understand that by "bending the knee" to the powers that be, he disempowers himself? Whereas, look at the power and respect that has accrued to Colin Kaepernick by "taking a knee," whether he is playing or not.
Goodell is missing his moment in history with a strategy of empty, politically correct, corporate rhetoric; financial condescension towards impoverished black communities, versus lobbying for true social justice reform; and trying to please everyone--on a topic, American racism, that requires courageous choices, and unequivocal stands.
If Goodell has enough lawyers to beat Tom Brady, the NFL's most revered quarterback, in the U.S. Court of Appeals, then he has enough lawyers to draft a statement on the level of Constitutional Law 101: that civil rights violations by law enforcement against minorities are anti-American and anti-Constitutional-and that protesting civil rights violations is pro-American and pro-Constitutional.
If he felt so compelled, Goodell could take a page from the ESPYS statement of Lebron James and fellow NBA stars Chris Paul, Dwayne Wade and Carmelo Anthony: clarifying that the necessary voicing of racial injustices and inequality is not a voice against all police officers.
There are sixteen games in the NFL regular season. If the Commissioner had the courage, for just 1/16 of the season, meaning for one game, to stand locked in arms with his players (if he couldn't abide taking a knee), he would raise the national conversation. Whether he "bent the knee" or not, he would be elevating himself, the league and the nation.
Glen D. Skoler, PhD is a Clinical and Forensic Psychologist with over 25 years of experience in court evaluations and testimony. Dr. Skoler is licensed to practice in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C. He has been qualified as an expert witness in clinical and forensic psychology in several state courts and in Federal U.S. District, military, and immigration courts. Dr. Skoler's clinical psychology practice also provides psychotherapy and psychological testing in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
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