As the Philadelphia Eagles closed in on the team’s first Super Bowl victory in franchise history, you could literally feel the city filling to the brim with excitement. Before the final buzzer had sounded (and before I had the chance to finish my drink), thousands of ecstatic fans were already piling into the streets to celebrate.
Boy, was it something. Drunk college students flipped over cars, climbed oily light poles, jumped turnstiles, burned everything in sight, and trust-fell from the top of two-story buildings into crowds of outstretched arms. People from all walks of life—rich and poor, black, brown and white, old and young—jubilantly traded high fives in the closest thing I’ve seen to a benevolent anarchy. The poorest major city in America collectively lost its shit over the victory. It was madness. It was amazing.
But as I laid my head on my cool pillow hours later, my two minutes of downtime reminded me: we’d forgotten about Colin Kaepernick. I’d willingly boycotted the NFL in the weeks prior—which was easy enough since I’m not a huge football fan. Kaepernick, a proven quarterback who went the duration of the season without being signed to a team, identified a worthy cause and has laid his career on the line for it: black lives.
However, today’s 24-hour news cycle and social media dependency has reduced protests to trends, desensitized us to injustice, and overloaded us with distractions. Even our outrage now has a time cap (which is about three weeks, at most). And honestly, many NFL fans were simply unwilling to make the sacrifice—which is understandable. Playoff football is a huge priority—dangerously close to religion—for many fans across the country.
But yesterday, the NFL made it clear that the feeling isn’t mutual. The League announced that teams would be fined if their players participated in the protest act of kneeling during the National Anthem next season. By attaching financial repercussions to silently, peacefully expressing one’s own opinion, the NFL—like many American institutions—has prioritized symbolism over lives. Many Americans have traded their human compassion for patriotism—too triggered by an “insult” to the flag that means so much to them to listen to the people whose lives do not. Somehow, theory (the majority’s love for “the flag”) outweighed practice (the minority’s right to free speech) in terms of upholding American values. Was this truly what NFL fans wanted, or were they manipulated into wanting this by a small group of wealthy, powerful shareholders?
The answer is complex. It is completely plausible that a portion of fans simply wanted an end to the necessary chaos and to “get back to football,” but this is also about suppressing black resistance. Due to the fact that almost 70-percent of NFL players are African American, we can surmise that this new fine is a containment strategy. The way the league has handled Kaepernick’s protest resembles fear tactics imposed upon black people in this nation overtime.
Blackballing Keapernick this past season, team owners have sought to “make an example” of him in the same way public displays of violence deterred resistance in earlier decades and centuries. Police brutality is a living remnant. Though Stephen A. Smith seems to be disgusted by the comparison, one also can’t help but think of how the World Heavyweight Title was stripped from the legendary Muhammad Ali.
After deterring players by essentially threatening their livelihoods, the League has now doubled down and given team owners incentive to keep their players “in check.” The combination of the mental (blackballing of Kaepernick) and policy-oriented (imposing fines) strategies of restricting movement is the crux of modern institutional racism.
Thinking back to the night of the Super Bowl, the majority of the people causing the joyful carnage were white. That night, police officers stood by and only remained vigilant—obviously prioritizing public safety over containment. The vandalizers’ white privilege transformed the officers’ purpose for being present. As a black person, this scene made it even more evident that black lives are devalued; protection without control was doable.
Next season, African American players will face yet another situation in which their blackness could potentially endanger them. We shouldn’t expect any kneeling protests though. After all, the lack of solidarity around Kaepernick’s protest is what allowed him to be isolated and eliminated. The League has now hired a firm to poll fans about Kaepernick being unsigned—anxious to see if its profits will be impacted.
As the former San Francisco quarterback travels the world speaking about police brutality, other players and athletes should be weary; their Constitutional rights are slowly being pried from them. If the players are not able to realize their immense leverage, their movement will continue to be contained until standing perfectly still is all that’s acceptable.
More by Raheem Veal:
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Below, our gift guide highlights some of our favorite Walmart finds for anyone in need of a home refresh.
On Oct. 10, Walmart unveiled a brand new, state of the art creative studio on the campus of Central State University.
The Walmart HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour made its final stop at Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) and left a lasting impact on students and alumni alike.
“REVOLT Black News” correspondent Kennedy Rue counts down the top five moments from the 2023 Billboard Music Awards, including surprising wins, historic firsts, and dope performances. Sponsored by Amazon.
After unveiling their state of the art creative studio on the campus of Central State University, Walmart brought the HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour to Virginia State University (VSU) on Oct. 13.
Walmart HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour brings attention and wisdom to North Carolina Central University
On Oct. 17, Walmart brought the third stop of the HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour to North Carolina Central University (NCCU).
Check out our gift guide that highlights some of our favorite Walmart finds in time for Black Friday.
In October, Walmart unveiled a brand new, state of the art creative studio on the campus of Central State University. The HBCU located in Wilberforce, OH was the first stop on Walmart’s Black and Unlimited HBCU Tour.
Groovey Lew on hip hop style, Johnell Young's industry secrets, BGS salon's wig mastery and more | 'Black Girl Stuff'
Fashion King Groovey Lew on masterminding hip-hop’s most iconic looks. Actor Johnell Young reveals the secret to breaking into the entertainment industry. Celebrity hairstylist Dontay Savoy and got2B ambassador Tokyo Stylez are in the BGS Salon with the perfect wig install. Plus, comedian Lauren Knight performs.
On this all-new episode of “On In 5,” multitalented Nigerian artist Pheelz opens up about waiting for his opportunity to fully express himself through music, his inspirations and emotions, and the musical icons he grew up admiring. Watch!
Kareem Cook talks growing up in The Bronx, studying at Duke & networking | 'The Blackprint with Detavio Samuels'
On this all-new episode of “The Blackprint with Detavio Samuels,” the host and REVOLT CEO sits down with Kareem Cook. Throughout the introspective episode, Cook talks growing up in The Bronx, studying at Duke and being nervous to be in the South at the time, network vs. education, taking advantage of your opportunities, and connecting with Debbie Allen. Watch!
Tiffany Haddish on therapy, wild fan interactions & the upcoming 'Haunted Mansion' movie | 'The Jason Lee Show'
On this all-new episode of “The Jason Lee Show,” the one and only Tiffany Haddish sits for a must-watch conversation about wild interactions with fans, her new movie ‘Haunted Mansion,’ bringing her therapist on dates, and being present. Watch the hilarious interview here.
For this all-new episode of “On In 5,” singer-songwriter BNXN discusses his journey from IT to music, finding his voice and originality, linking up with Wizkid for their hits “Mood” and “Many Ways,” and what fans can expect from him this year — including a new album. Watch the full episode here!
This is the inspiring story of Karen Washington, a pioneering urban farmer who has been revolutionizing urban spaces by transforming them into vibrant community gardens and educational hubs. Sponsored by State Farm.
Lauren London sparks conversation on how Black parents unintentionally give kids negative outlook on money
At the live taping of “Assets Over Liabilities” at REVOLT WORLD, Lauren London opened up about how witnessing the financial decisions adults made during her childhood fueled her outlook on money.
“Every time I’m in trouble, it’s been Black men that have come to my aid,” Madam DA Fani Willis said at REVOLT WORLD while speaking on the stereotype that they are not dependable or worth dating.
Black media leaders stress the space's importance because we're always antagonists in mainstream's storytelling
“I definitely feel those ‘heavier is the crown’ moments. But I also believe that Black entrepreneurs are uniquely positioned to be successful in the future,” Detavio Samuels said at AfroTech.