Knowledge Drop May 27, 2018 – Social Conscience Edition* (#27)
Fantasy sports will never be the most important thing in anyone’s life. We owe it to our league-mates, our neighbors, our family and people we’ve never met to at least be aware of important societal issues around us. The NFL’s new “anthem policy” is the perfect time to reflect on some important current social discussions. Our “regular” newsletter will be back on Tuesday, but we want to devote this holiday-weekend edition of the Knowledge Drop to topics larger than all of us. We welcome your (respectful) voice in the comments or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*From Wikipedia: A social conscience is “a sense of responsibility or concern for the problems and injustices of society.” While our conscience is related to our moral conduct in our day-to-day lives with respect to individuals, social conscience is concerned with the broader institutions of society and the gap that we may perceive between the sort of society that should exist and the real society that does exist.
TOP KNOWLEDGE — WHAT YOU NEED TO PAY ATTENTION TO RIGHT NOW
THE NFL “ANTHEM POLICY” HARMS US ALL
By Thomas J. McFeeley
Surely you heard about the new NFL policy on kneeling during the national anthem. Players may stay in the locker room during the anthem, but if any team personnel or players kneel on the field the league will fine the team. Teams are also allowed to set their own rules around the anthem. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, in announcing the new regulations said “(t)his season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.”
This sentence was the one that prompted this special edition of The Knowledge Drop. It infuriated me and I can’t, in good conscience, be silent on the issue.
The issue, the only issue, is unequal treatment of black people in America. Police brutality against African-Americans is at the heart of these protests. This is the issue the players are protesting. Colin Kaepernick sought the advice of a U.S. Veteran, a Green Beret, about how to respectfully make a statement. He was told to kneel, out of respect, which would resemble the actions of a soldier kneeling beside a fallen colleague. Many of Kaep’s colleagues have fallen, at the hands representatives of his country. He doesn’t hate his country. He hates inequality in his country. The same inequality a flag and an anthem guard against.
I’m not here to debate police brutality, or the black experience in America. I’m talking about the extremely dangerous actions of the NFL.
Back to Goodell. “(s)tand and show respect for the flag and the anthem” stated another way is “when you kneel you disrespect our flag and our anthem.” For lack of a better word, this is horseshit. And it intended to divide us.
Not one player who kneeled was disrespecting our flag, or our anthem. In fact, according to the U.S. Flag Code, stretching out a giant 100-foot American flag and holding it parallel to the ground is disrespecting the flag because it is not flying free. Using the flag as part of a product, logo, or clothing (see beer cans and the New England Patriots uniforms and countless “patriotic clothing”) is prohibited under the Flag Code. So why aren’t we upset at these violations?
The answer to that question is the issue. Because the protests are about the treatment of minorities in America, we (generally white men) dismiss these, and most other forms of protests. Instead of listening to them, we see it as an affront to us (our country, our privilege as white people, our power) and we point our fingers at their supposed lack of patriotism.
I have news for you: the protesting athletes ARE the patriots.
Seventy percent of NFL players are black; 100 percent of owners are not black. Those with the power and the payroll have moved to squelch those who were doing the most American thing you can do – peacefully protest. These actions are intended to divide us and to disguise this division as a discussion about love of country. That is about as dangerous a thing as you can do in America. It’s shameful.
Again, I’m not talking about the details of the inequality in question. I’m talking about how we (as a country and as football fans) treat those who are different than us and who have something to say. The issue, the president fanning the flames, the cable networks that cry patriotism – they are all hurting us because what we’re not doing is saying “tell me more about this issue, and how we can work together to make it better.” Can you name one person who opposes the protests but has asked this question?
The issue makes us uncomfortable and the “noise” around the protests threaten the economics of the NFL. If fans leave, the league and its teams are hurt. But if the league comes out and says kneeling is unpatriotic, as it essentially has, it furthers a false narrative about the those who are protesting a very real, and an extremely unamerican notion of inequality.
Again, 70 percent of the players are black, and their bosses have all said shut up and play. But what if they prayed about the issue mid-field after the game? We would celebrate these men of faith, without knowing what they are praying for.
But kneeling during the anthem makes us uncomfortable. Not because someone is actually disrespecting a flag, or our troops or the country and what it stands for – but because the system we control and they don’t is hurting them in every way and in every corner of America. That’s what’s uncomfortable for us. And to fix that system means looking inward and admitting our shortcomings, biases and terrible actions.
Think about this: What if JJ Watt kneeled during the anthem to protest the lack of mental health services for returning vets, the low wages of teachers in America, or a slow response to hurricane relief in Houston. What would we say about that silent statement of support by the league’s most popular player? Be honest – what would you say?
We are not actually upset at any disrespect of the flag that’s the company line created for us by rich white men in power. We are upset the black people are (silently) speaking out at all. That is the issue, and the only issue, at play here.
Shut up and work is what we once told slaves to do in this country. It’s 2018 — how far have we really come?
WHAT WE WATCHED THIS WEEK:
Related to the above topics, here are two powerful videos. First is Golden State Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr putting the NFL anthem policy in perspective of the NBA stance on the same issues:
Here is the police body cam video in the arrest of Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown, referenced by Kerr. This is why players kneel:
CHARITY SPOTLIGHT: KEEP PLAYING BASEBALL
@BatFlipCrazy’s borther heads up an important not-for-profit organization designed to help bridge the gap for high school baseball players to keep playing baseball in college. For this game we love, let’s consider helping out some worthy athletes to improve their lives through baseball. We asked the organization to submit some information. Please give the below your time and attention:
Keep Playing Baseball: Player-to-Player College Baseball Information + Motivation
Keep Playing Baseball (KPB) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring all high school baseball players have affordable access to the information and resources they need to play college baseball, succeed as a collegiate student-athlete, and graduate from college. Using a player-to-player approach, KPB provides free information and advice on the college baseball recruiting process and what it takes to play college baseball through its two websites, www.KeepPlayingBaseball.org and www.KPBrecruiting101.org, and outreach projects. KPB’s resources are free to anyone who wants to use them, no sign-ups, no fees, no strings attached.
At the heart of KPB’s mission is the desire to use baseball as a vehicle for improving lives and providing educational opportunities for youth players from all different backgrounds. The rising cost of youth baseball participation and the monetization and safeguarding of recruiting specific information are pricing many qualified and capable players out of the college game. At KPB, these resources are provided for free in an effort to push back against this disturbing trend. By empowering college baseball prospects and their parents with the information needed to make informed decisions throughout the recruiting process and college search, KPB aims to use baseball as a vehicle for opportunity, rather than a barrier.
If you would like to support KPB’s efforts to level the playing field and create more affordable pathways to college baseball for all youth participants, visit their website: https://keepplayingbaseball.org/donate/ or follow them on Twitter (@keepplayingBB), Facebook (Keep Playing Baseball), and Instagram (@keepplayingbaseball)!
WHAT WE HAVE CONSUMED, AND YOU SHOULD TOO:
There are dozens, if not hundreds of books, movies, articles, songs, poems related to social justice and social consciousness. Here are some of the more poignant and moving examples we’ve seen. Descriptions from Wikipedia:
Movie – Loving: Loving is a 2016 biographical romantic drama film which tells the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, the plaintiffs in the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia, which invalidated state laws prohibiting interracial marriage.
Movie – 12 YEARS A SLAVE:
12 Years a Slave is a 2013 period drama film and an adaptation of the 1853 slave narrative memoir Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup, a New York State-born free African-American man who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C. by two conmen in 1841 and sold into slavery. Northup was put to work on plantations in the state of Louisiana for 12 years before being released.
12 Years a Slave was named the best film of 2013 by several media outlets. It proved to be a box office success, earning over $187 million on a production budget of $22 million. The film won three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress for Nyong’o, and Best Adapted Screenplay
Book: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness is a book by Michelle Alexander, a civil rights litigator and legal scholar. The book discusses race-related issues specific to African-American males and mass incarceration in the United States, but Alexander notes that the discrimination faced by African-American males is prevalent among other minorities and socio-economically disadvantaged populations. Alexander’s central premise, from which the book derives its title, is that “mass incarceration is, metaphorically, the New Jim Crow.”
Movie – Mudbound
Mudbound is a 2017 American period drama film directed by Dee Rees and written by Rees and Virgil Williams, based on the novel of the same name by Hillary Jordan. The film depicts two World War II veterans – one white, one black – who return to rural Mississippi each to address racism and PTSD in his own way. At the 90th Academy Awards, the film earned four nominations: Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Song for Mary J. Blige, as well as Best Adapted Screenplay. It also earned a nod for Best Cinematography, making Rachel Morrison the first woman ever nominated in the category and Blige became the first person to ever be nominated for an acting and song award during the same year. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xucHiOAa8Rs
Movie: Strong Island:
Strong Island is a 2017 true-crime documentary film that centers on the 1992 murder of Ford’s brother William, a 24-year-old African-American teacher in New York, who was killed by a white mechanic. An all-white jury declined to indict his killer, who claimed self-defense. The film premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.It received a Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Documentary in 2017 and was nominated for the 2018 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
Book: Between The World and Me
Between the World and Me is a 2015 book written by Ta-Nehisi Coates. It is written as a letter to the author’s teenage son about the feelings, symbolism, and realities associated with being Black in the United States. Coates recapitulates American history and explains to his son the “racist violence that has been woven into American culture.” Coates draws from an abridged, autobiographical account of his youth in Baltimore, detailing the ways in which institutions like the school, the police, and even “the streets” discipline, endanger, and threaten to disembody Black men and women. The work takes inspiration from James Baldwin‘s 1963 The Fire Next Time. Unlike Baldwin, Coates sees white supremacy as an indestructible force, one that Black Americans will never evade or erase, but will always struggle against.
Novelist Toni Morrison wrote that Coates filled an intellectual gap in succession to James Baldwin. Editors of The New York Times and The New Yorker described the book as exceptional. The book won the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction and was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction.