Texas Red v. California Blue

By: Bill Whaley
23 October, 2017

Jerry Jones (white) v. Colin Kaepernick (black)

Sports: the Paradigm of Protest

Despite having fallen from their previous status as Super Bowl winners and contenders, I am very proud of my 49ers. A life-long fan I grew up listening to the Niners on radio, as I did listening to the S.F. Giants and the greatest and most exciting ball player of the age, Willie Mays. Willie’s presence at away games generally raised attendance by 20% at other ball-parks, where fans were colorblind in Willie’s presence, who played the game with joy. Willie, in effect, was the quiet precursor of Muhammad Ali, wherein one man changed the way Americans and world-wide fans can appreciate a great athlete and a man of principle. The Niners today represent a principle of social justice.

On Sunday while Dallas Cowboys stood for the anthem seven Niners knelt in solidarity with the exemplar Colin Kaepernick, whose knee means “look at me and see how cops shoot us because we’re black,” pointing out the failed practice of American idealism embodied in the flag and the anthem, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Contrary to “disrespect” the knee represents a greater reverence for truth, the truth of idealism for which soldiers, allegedly fight and die. Once removed from the homeland, in reality soldiers fight and die for each other as a brotherhood.

The knee in effect represents how Americans and our current system of economic exploitation means we are failing to provide equal opportunity for the victims of literal and figurative White Supremacy, a product of the corporate divide and conquer techniques.

For the multicultural working class are all victims of power abuse, whether women, black and brown, opioid and heroin victims who are also denied health care, or victims of fire, flood, and hurricanes, the environmental catastrophe wrought by deniers, elite billionaires and power mongers, who compete for worldwide domination by screwing the hoi polloi.

Yesterday, on Sunday, the Niners of the 90s celebrated their past under the watchful eye of Eddie DeBartolo, whose benign ownership turned on the genius of Bill Walsh. Walsh transformed a third round draft choice Joe Montana and tenth round Dwight Clark into the symbol of the under dog who claws his way up the ladder to success by capitalizing on brains and quickness. One is reminded of the Warriors and Giants, whose recent success in NBA championships and World Series victories recognize the human potential unleashed by a variety of individuals, whose hard work and teamwork overcomes those other athletes with superior gifts.

Jones’s Self-Interest

In the following excerpt from The Guardian, the headline says “Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says anthem protests are damaging the NFL”

“Seven 49ers players knelt on Sunday. Their former team-mate, Colin Kaepernick, started the anthem protest movement last season. He is currently without a team, a situation many believe is down to his decision to kneel, and the quarterback has filed a grievance alleging that NFL owners have colluded to keep him out of the league.” (Editor: See Curt Flood below)

The Cowboys beat the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. None of the Dallas players knelt during the anthem, although defensive end David Irving raised his fist over his heart at the end.

“Jones’s Cowboys are valued at around $5bn, and he said he had heard from concerned sponsors. “Our ability to be substantive is based on having a strong NFL, a league that people are really interested in and want to watch and want to watch the games,” Jones said. “At all times, if I am anything, I am first and foremost a proponent of making the NFL strong. Making us have as many people watching the game as we can and watching in light of what we are doing and that’s playing football. If all this makes you stronger to represent messages, let’s don’t do it in a way that tears down the strength of the NFL.”

Jerry Jones is concerned first, like the NFL, about the profits that fund the continuing capitalist system. Like Donald Trump, who he supported, White Supremacy and economic supremacy are joined at the hip. The latest convert, General Kelly, Trump apologist, attacked a duly elected black House of Representative, Frederica Wilson, for calling attention to Trump’s shortcomings or lack of appreciation for a fallen soldier.

Political Manipulation of the Masses

Jones, Trump, Kelly: the three muskeeters who represent the triumvirate of economics, politics, and the military, the way the flag, anthem, and Constitution represent diabolically opposed interpretations of the uplifted ideal and the down-home practice of the real goal of “market capitalism,” a system aimed at economically indentured servitude of individuals and control of the masses in a reversal of average American expectations of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Yet the NFL represents “dead men walking.” The slide in Sunday TV ratings means the league has sold out to broadcast media while the awakening of the populace, means fans see the dangers of long denied “head injuries” as well as the mechanical and formulaic nature of today’s game. Once the sport emulated warrior ethics but today practices the art as a chess match in which Bill Belichick of the Tom Brady Patriots has no equal. It’s Achilles v. Odysseus but like the Homeric heroes, the sport is losing its influence.

The NFL in comparison to either the more traditional MLB or the fast-paced NBA, not to mention world wide enthusiasm for Soccer, represents an America that is failing to keep up with historical change. The NFL is a dinosaur, like cable and network TV that praised Trump and ignored Bernie. The fans are headed for the exits even as they watch the death throes.

The Power of Symbols and Messages

Kaepernick, like John Carlos and Tommy Lee of the 1968 Olympics, has shown that a symbolic gesture can shake a bulti-billion dollar system to its knees. For all athletes, especially black athletes and their supporters, Muhammad Ali is the avatar, the man who stood up and said no to the immoral Vietnam War. Like M.L.K., Ali embodied the argument from personal conscience that there is a better way to live among each other as human beings.

Curt Flood’s case against MLB introduced free agency or economic independence for all athletes, controlled by professional sports, sports that began as ways of keeping the working classes diverted from depressed wages and unfair labor practices.

If mass shootings in Las Vegas, the wholesale revolt of the weather gods can’t convince leaders to look into the mirrors or into their hearts then nothing can. Currently Kelly and Trump have flipped off the Puerto Ricans the way George Bush ignored New Orleans: as Kanye West said of Bush, they “don’t like Black People.” Kelly and Trump sure don’t like Representative Frederica Wilson, the former school principle, who has seen thugs up close. She questioned Trump’s tone in response to the fallen black soldier and asked what he and his comrades were doing in Africa?

Schemes aimed at foreign surveillance and assassination or torturing enemy combatants underscore the messages meant by our white overseers to us citizens: “Get out of line and we will crush you because we can.” Kaepernick threatens Jerry Jones’s Billion-dollar investment the way Curt Flood threatened MLB. Flood lost the battle and won the war.

But Muhammad Ali, a humanitarian, beat the man both ways. The establishment confirmed his conscience and the athlete, who floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee, won the battle and the war, becoming the most beloved athlete in the world. Kaerpernick’s protest may not reach the heights of once-in-a-lifetime Ali but his star has gained ascendancy into the rarefied air of the firmament along with Jackie Robinson, Tommy Lee, John Carlos, and Curt Flood.

Yesterday, David Irving of the Dallas Cowboys eloquently stood for the anthem with a fist on his heart. Other NFL athletes have stood in solidarity, arms linked. The NBA’s Lebron James has called Donald Trump, a “bum.” Kaepernick rang the bell and Trump responded as proxy for the country-wide white supremacists, referring to Kap as that “son of a bitch.” In the Owen Wister novel, The Virginian, the cowboy says with an understated threat,  “When you call me that, smile.”

The virus of social justice is spreading and the NFL can’t put the genie back in the box.

From Wickepedia:

Curtis Charles Flood (January 18, 1938 – January 20, 1997) was an American baseball player. He was a center fielder who played 15 seasons in the major leagues for the Cincinnati Redlegs, St. Louis Cardinals, and Washington Senators.

Flood was an All-Star for three seasons and Gold Glove winner for seven consecutive seasons. He batted over .300 in six seasons. He led the National League (NL) in hits (211) in 1964 and in singles, 1963, 64, and 68. He also led the National League in putouts as center fielder four-times and in fielding percentage as center fielder three-times. Flood retired with the third most games in center field (1683) in NL history, trailing Willie Mays and Richie Ashburn.

Flood became one of the pivotal figures in the sport’s labor history when he refused to accept a trade following the 1969 season, ultimately appealing his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Although his legal challenge was unsuccessful, it brought about additional solidarity among players as they fought against baseball’s reserve clause and sought free agency.

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