*In the NBA, Black athletes are free as men in what to think and treated as such by franchise ownership/fan base. Subsequently NBA owners, own their franchises but also respect players when they disagree and occasionally when they agree join players and fans in protest of civil injustice.
This fact was recently on display in Sacramento when NBA Kings ownership decided to partner with “Black Lives Matter” after the shooting of an unarmed Black male named Stephon Clark by city police (http://www.sacbee.com/sports/nba/sacramento-kings/article207256604.html ). Star players such as LeBron James protested only to be criticized by Fox News’ Laura Ingraham in a slave era directive to “shut up and dribble” (http://www.sacbee.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/ailene-voisin/article207183894.html ).
Ms. Ingraham is not known to be an NBA fan or owner. Her demeanor is a social throwback where Black NFL athletes are directed in what to do and think by a master class ownership. This in essence is the NFL plantation as legacy of a modern-day slave system. Subsequently, NFL owners, own both their franchises and presume to own the Black athletes who play for them. Presumed to be slaves, any attempt on the part of Black athletes in the NFL to protest against what they see as injustice in the senseless killing of unarmed Black men will be met in various ways with the master’s political wrath.
Spurred by elements of a disgruntled fan base known to have racist leanings Black athletes are regarded by them as well paid but like slaves, less than men. Perceiving Black athletes as less than men, NFL owners and an Ingraham-like fan base then reject the notion of players’ right to speak on their own behalf absent permission. Hence, in his book noted sports journalist William C. Rhoden calls Black athletes of the modern era Forty Million Dollar Slaves.
Slavery in the Slave Era
In 1829, a Black man named David Walker wrote an essay protesting the injustices of slavery in the United States. Word of his protest spread in the Black community reaching one Jacob Cowan. Like Walker, Cowan was a Black man who hailed from Wilmington, North Carolina. Upon Walker’s instruction, Cowan distributed the essay known as David Walker’s Appeal to the town’s local Black residents. Eventually word of Cowan’s activities reached White slave owners who immediately arrested and then sent him to jail. As a common practice for slaves who got out of line by protesting injustice, Cowan was sold to a slave owner in far-away Alabama where he would be affectively silenced. Other slaves in possession of Walker’s Appeal, or known to have read it were also punished. In the process, one was murdered and another sent north to New York in chains (https://www.biography.com/people/david-walker-9521982 ).
Politics as Slavery in the Modern Era
In the present era NFL, franchise owners operate like a modern-day slave system that Walker challenged in the way players who protest are treated. Black athletes in particular when their protests are out of line are character assassinated and denied due process in earning a living. Doing so, owners exemplify the traditions of a Civil War Southern plantation in how Black athletes presumed slaves are denied the right to respectful political protest evident via counter-productive NFL political contributions. According to the 2016 presidential election campaign
NFL franchise owners were the most Conservative of all major sports enterprises (NBA, MBL, NHL). As documented by Federal Election Commission records owners contributed $8,052,410 to conservative Republican causes and $189,610.72 to progressive Democratic causes. This is an astounding 40 to 1 ratio! What’s more, Bob McNair as owner of the NFL’s Houston Texans franchise donated a whopping 7 million dollars in 61 installments to conservative political groups. Conservative political groups are notoriously racially insensitive and otherwise hostile to racial equality. The political leanings of their Conservative ideology has thus facilitated the NFL’s presumption of Black athletes as slaves by franchise owners. Their misgivings are on display by media’s demonization of Black athletes who protest injustice absent the master’s permission (https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/nov/11/sports-team-owners-make-huge-political-donations-where-does-their-money-go ).
A Right to Protest: Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid
Without NFL ownership permission, a Black athlete named Colin Kaepernick protested civil injustice aimed at Black and Brown people. His refusal to be a slave in protesting like a free man, is best described by a likewise supporting teammate. He is number 35 who plays safety for the San Francisco 49ers named Eric Reid. Reid is also a Black athlete and of strong Christian faith who could not sit idly by in the wake of civil injustice aimed at Blacks and other men of color. After consulting his Bible Reid decided that he was obligated to protest. He then joined Kaepernick in what became a national event at NFL games where two players kneeled during the national anthem. They chose to kneel as the most respectful way to protest the injustices that they had witnessed. In a short span of time, Reid and Kaepernick became the focus of displeasure expressed by the NFL’s plantation ownership and racially intolerant fan base. Reid and Kaepernich’s protest actions were characterized by the NFL’s modern-day slave system as disrespectful to the country, disrespectful to the flag and disrespectful to the military. This contradiction of the players’ intent was a confrontation between two Black NFL athletes who saw themselves as free and equal as men and an NFL ownership/fan base who presumed them slaves having no right whatsoever to political protest of their preferable choice.
Fully aware of the political implications, Reid is distressed by the president who equates White neo-Nazis in a Charlottesville, Va. protest as “very fine people.” About this biased remark, the NFL ownership remained silent. The presumption of Black athletes i.e.: Black people presumed to be slaves, lacking any right to protest independent of master class permission whatsoever was never more evident (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/25/opinion/colin-kaepernick-football-protests.html ).
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. contended that “A time comes when silence is betrayal” (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/25/opinion/colin-kaepernick-football-protests.html ) Dr. King is one among a long line of Black men descended from David Walker and Jacob Cowan who as free and equal men insist at whatever costs upon their rights to freedom and dignity in political protest. The Colin Kaepernicks of the NFL’s plantation system are a modern-day manifestation of the Black men that preceded them and whose thirst for justice cannot be quenched by a few trinkets of athletic wealth and fame. Dr. King in his day was no less denounced as disrespectful to the country, the flag and the military. However, today we honor him with a national holiday and a street in every major city in America. That’s because his fight against injustice was true and of the highest moral arch. NFL Black athletes who protest injustice today are on a similar moral arch. Just as Dr. King, they too labor in contribution to perfect moral objectives that unfortunately may only be acknowledged in years to come.
David Walker and Dr. King as Colin Kaepernick are exceptions for their uncommon bravery. Like the majority of slaves who did not rise up during the slave era, their modern-day counterparts submit to the NFL plantation slave system for fear of the master’s political whip. They submit to his whip for fear of losing their wealth, their fame and their idol status. They are well aware of the costs that will be paid by those like Kaepernick currently unemployed and who assert a moral consciousness, assert their right to protest while rejecting any notion that they are 40 million dollar slaves. They are then content as slaves to stand idly by while the master’s political whip is taken to those who get out of line. They delude themselves in the belief that they are free and equal as men. The realization that they are not will begin the second Emancipation Proclamation when they kneel against civil injustice that will direct the NFL plantation as legacy of a modern-day slave system to the dustbins of American history.
As an internationally known scholar, Dr. Ronald E. Hall testified as an expert witness in the nation’s first skin color discrimination case involving African Americans i.e.: Morrow vs. IRS. Shortly after he co-authored the widely read Color Complex: The Last Taboo Among African Americans. In 2003 Dr. Hall received the Adele Mellen Prize for Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship for Skin Color as a Post-Colonial Issue Among Asian-Americans. Because of his expertise, Dr. Hall has been sought after by various agencies for lectures at home and abroad including Stanford University (Palo Alto), McGill University (Montreal), Pennsylvania State University (State College), Oxford University (United Kingdom), and the U.S. Congress (Washington, D.C.). Dr. Hall’s work has been featured by numerous media such as TIME, The Boston Globe, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Detroit News, The Chicago Tribune, Essence, The Sally Jesse Rafael Show, Oprah, and BET. In January 2015 Dr. Hall appeared in the Oprah Winfrey documentary “Light Girls” regarding skin color and African-American women. Additionally, Dr. Hall has worked as project associate for a number of urban education school projects focusing on issues related to school reform primarily in the state of Michigan. His role included oversight in the collection of qualitative data and conduct of focus groups. He has also served in the capacity of grant assessment for the National Science Foundation. Contact Dr. Hall via: [email protected].