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Local Voices: Denying NFL Players’ Their 1st Amendment Rights Is Racist

I have experienced overt racism many times in my life especially during the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. Racism did not disappear, in the 60s, as many people of color hoped it would, but it did mostly go underground which made it a bit harder to detect. Since Donald Trump became President and showed his support for racist behavior by white nationalists and Ku Klux Klansmen, the monster is overtly raising its head everywhere again. White racists are speaking out without worrying about impunity or making any excuses.

People of color can see that they are still fixed or set in a box. On a day-to-day basis folks of color see that progress has been made socially, but at the corporate level very little progress has been made. When people of color look around the country all they see in corporate board rooms for big companies are mostly white males.

When people of color look around the political scene all they see in political decision-making positions are mostly white males who, by the way, make decisions that are mostly inconsiderate of, or racist against people of color. But minorities, including women, have been taking strides to rid the system of racists and sexist behaviors whenever they can by speaking out and protesting.

One of the most recent and foremost examples is the protest by Colin Kaepernick, a professional NFL football player who simply expressed his First Amendment rights by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem at the start of NFL football games. It brought outrage among fans who cheer when Kaepernick is on the football field entertaining them by passing the football and scoring touchdowns.

Kaepernick was trying to get the attention of the fans and others to make them aware of the unjust treatment that people of color suffer by law enforcement, especially brutality by police officers which is well known by people of color.

Kaepernick has been “Black balled” from the NFL and not allowed to play football for trying to get attention for the way minorities are treated by law enforcement in this country. Instead of querying Kaepernick and taking some actions to help society get rid of these biased behaviors Kaepernick is now unemployed and the owners are still enjoying the big paydays the Black football players provide and fans continue to enjoy the entertainment that the players of color give to them.

Trump did not help by flaming the fumes, and telling the owners they should fire players who do not show patriotism toward the country by not standing for the flag during the national anthem. He should be the last one to utter comments about patriotism when he got deferments to avoid going to the military to fight for the flag that he pretends to love so much now.
Trump’s influence on the owners is so prevalent until Bob McNair, the owner of the Houston, Texas football team, in an NFL owners meeting, reportedly told the owners they “can’t have the inmates running the prison,” referring to the football players. That showed the owners were not interested in the concerns of their players just the amount of money they could make for them. If the owners were interested in the well-being of their players, kneeling during the nation anthem saga could be over.

To do the right thing, NFL owners should make commitments to investigate the concern of their players. Football players make millions of dollars playing football, but that doesn’t mean they should lose their constitutional rights of expression. They have a right not to stand for the national anthem if they feel that they are treated unjustly by our nation which is represented by the flag. I have seen much worst so-called abuses of the flag than not standing, and not a word was uttered. What kind of country is this in which people of color live? Let’s get real! The white men who own the NFL are among the richest people in the world and can’t, or don’t want to understand what football players are protesting. If the owners don’t side with the football players in the fight against police brutality and other racist behaviors, then all races and ethnic groups of people of color are in jeopardy.

Shedrick Byrd is a frequent contributor to the New Journal and Guide and author of the book entitled: “The Mississippi Byrd, from Rural to Urban to Suburban and Beyound.”

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