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NFL Commissioner Goodell Bans Anthem Protest in Memo

NFL Commissioner Goodell Bans Anthem Protest in Memo

Kaepernick's former 49er teammates  Eli Harold, left, and Eric Reid, right
Credit: TED S. WARREN/AP

In the biggest show of cowardice of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's tenure, on Tuesday afternoon, Goodell penned a memo to the league demanding players stand on the field during the playing of the national anthem. In a letter touting the importance of 'unity and ending divisions', Commissioner Goodell elected to rubber stamp the bullying of the most divisive person in the civilized world (current White House occupant). When the opportunity to promote justice, and equality presented itself, Goodell cowered. 

In this moment, the only right thing do involves supporting players of color that kneel in recognition of a struggle unique to their community. By retreating and adopting a white supremacist's rhetoric, Goodell gave credibility to the notion that bigot whisperer Donald Trump, is the ultimate puppet master. 

Below is the full transcript of Goodell's memo:

"We live in a country that can feel very divided. Sports, and especially the NFL, brings people together and lets them set aside those divisions, at least for a few hours. The current dispute over the National Anthem is threatening to erode the unifying power of our game, and is now dividing us, and our players, from many fans across the country.
 
"I'm very proud of our players and owners who have done the hard work over the past year to listen, understand and attempt to address the underlying issues within their communities. At our September committee meetings, we heard directly from several players about why these issues are so important to them and how we can support their work. And last week, we met with the leadership of the NFLPA and more players to advance the dialogue.
 
"Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem. It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us. We also care deeply about our players and respect their opinions and concerns about critical social issues. The controversy over the Anthem is a barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues. We need to move past this controversy, and we want to do that together with our players.
 
"Building on many discussions with clubs and players, we have worked to develop a plan that we will review with you at next week's League meeting. This would include such elements as an in-season platform to promote the work of our players on these core issues, and that will help to promote positive change in our country. We want to ensure that any work at the League level is consistent with the work that each club is doing in its own community, and that we dedicate a platform that can enable these initiatives to succeed. Additionally, we will continue the unprecedented dialogue with our players.
 
"I expect and look forward to a full and open discussion of these issues when we meet next week in New York. Everyone involved in the game needs to come together on a path forward to continue to be a force for good within our communities, protect the game, and preserve our relationship with fans throughout the country. The NFL is at its best when we ourselves are unified. In that spirit, let's resolve that next week we will meet this challenge in a unified and positive way."

This letter comes on the heels of Dallas Cowboys slave owner Jerry Jones threatening his players with benching if they participated in any future anthem demonstrations. 

From the blackballing of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick to the silencing of ESPN broadcast journalist Jemele Hill, this nation has reached an unprecedented 21st century Civil Rights crossroads. Do all people have a right to voice concerns about their community, or don't they? The powerful institutions that either employ Kaepernick and Hill or previously employed them, have taken an official stand on the side of hate and supremacy.

For context, Kaepernick is now a household name not only for leading a bad team to falling just one play short of winning the Super Bowl three years earlier, but also for his courageous stand against racial injustice. It was Kaepernick's attention to the issue that started the pattern of players (in several sports) demonstrating during the anthem. Kapernick started off by sitting on the bench during the pre-game playing of the anthem. He thought wiser of the optics, and thought it more respectful to take a knee (as done during prayer and when showing deference to a coach addressing the entire team). Thus, the #TakeAKnee era, led by Kaepernick, began.

Throughout the previous NFL season, Kaepernick took a knee during the anthem. In post game press conferences, reporters asked Kaepernick about various football stratagem, including: the anthem protests, the kneel, taking a knee, and whether he'll continue to take a knee. There was no nuance to the central question, but sadly, there was also no critical analysis explaining why this protest was necessary in the first place.  

It is a failure of journalistic duty to not explore the main reason Kaepernick was taking a knee. Kaepernik kneeled for one simple reason - the United States of America continues to embrace racial injustice.  Kaepernick wants to bring awareness of this plight to help end it. Kaepernick was not just paying lip service to the cause. He demonstrated his legitimate concern for the cause by donating over $1 million of his own money then he led fundraising efforts for similar causes. Now, Kaepernick is responsible for cultivating the accumulation of millions more in donation dollars to help uplift less advantaged communities. 

If Goodell genuinely wanted to show his support for all communities and work towards ending the divisions he wrote about, he would have taken a knee beside his black and brown players who take a knee as a cry for help. Instead, the NFL's chief plantation owner designed a method for 32 pseudo slave owners to threaten the crack of the whip in the form of wage loss for anthem demonstrators. In 400 words, Goodell explained: black players must stand and show appreciation for their masters' benevolence, or risk ending up unemployed like Colin Kaepernick. 

Here's a thought - no player should be compelled to stand for an anthem that doesn't stand for them!

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