The NFL and Trump: players who kneel and the pettiness of our president.

(Baltimore Ravens players kneeling during the national anthem following president Trump’s comments. Courtesy: AP)

By now we’ve all heard president Trump’s comments about NFL players who choose to kneel during the national anthem.

“Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired! He’s fired!”

In response, players are kneeling, and coaches, team executives, and even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell have responded with condemnation. This is of course, off the heels of Trump’s spat with the Golden State Warriors, saying the NBA champs are not invited to the White House.

But something is missing here.

Yes, NFL players — like all Americans — have the right to freedom of speech and protest. Yes, our president is an asshole. And yes, he’s most certainly a racist, as ESPN’s Jamele Hill pointed out not long ago.

However, what the whole controversy actually reveals is how petty and reactionary one side of our national politics have become.

Because when Colin Kaepernick started kneeling more than a year ago, he was doing it to call attention to the injustice African Americans experience at the hands of police. The numbers don’t lie: black people in the US are more likely to be pulled over, arrested, and killed by police than white people.

Fact.

And the most basic message of the kneeling players and #BLM is: let’s fix that.

Let’s train officers to recognize implicit racial bias and de-escalate violent situations.

Let’s ask police departments to focus on equity and reach out to the communities they patrol.

And God forbid if there’s an incident where a black person is hurt or killed at the hands of the police, let’s have justice for that individual — not the biased system we have in which district attorneys are heavily incentivized to protect police officers charged with a crime.

That’s it. At the end of the day, black people just want to be treated like everyone else. They don’t want to fear for their lives, or the lives of their friends and family, every time they get pulled over. That’s not anti police. It’s pro civil rights.

Black people want to be treated like everyone else — and right now, they are not. That’s why they kneel.

And what’s the response of the right — of conservatives, of Republicans, of Fox News, of our president, all of whom are mostly white?

How dare you interrupt my football game. How dare you take two minutes of my Sunday to ask for equal rights. How dare you exercise your Constitutional freedom. You’re ruining football.

Think about how petty that is. And racist.

Because when it comes to the white “Christian” baker who doesn’t want to make a cake for a gay wedding, or when Kim Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, Republicans and conservatives are all in.

“Religious freedom!” they cry. “The First Amendment!”

Keep in mind, we’re talking about someone’s marriage — a massive, life-changing event.

But interrupt their football game by kneeling — not screaming or yelling or caring signs — just kneeling for two minutes during the national anthem?

How dare you call attention to injustice. How dare you ask for civil rights. How dare you, black man.

This shouldn’t be a political issue. It should be something we all agree on.

I mean, if you’ve watched some of the videos — Eric Garner comes to mind — with the knowledge that the officers involved didn’t spend any time in jail, and in many cases are still working in those communities, it’s horrifying. Especially if you’re black. Because you know that the exact same thing could happen to you.

The reason it is a political issue, however, is that right wing media has spent years demonizing black people. “Black on black violence,” they argue every time a black person is killed by a police officer. Or: “He was a criminal.” They compare #BLM to the KKK, calling it a terrorist organization. They seize on the few examples in which irresponsible people who happen to be black do something stupid, with the implication that this is how all black people act. They’ll do anything at all to avoid talking about the actual incident or to obfuscate the fact that a black man is dead and he shouldn’t be.

No, the truth is that at it’s core, the Republican Party has become a racist party. It has become a party that tacitly or explicitly, is pro-white and anti-black.

Please understand, I’m not saying all Republicans are racist. I would certainly hope that many, if not most, are not.

But if you call the Washington Post, NY Times, and CNN “fake news,” preferring to get your information from Fox, along with a heavy dose of conservative talk radio and visits to sites like Breitbart or The Daily Caller (who’s currently calling this episode a nightmare), you probably harbor negative feelings toward black people.

And this is to say nothing of Trump’s cry for a wall on the Mexican border, his ridiculous decision to rescind DACA, or the actions of his justice department on immigration, all of which smack of a hatred toward people who are non-white and might speak a language other than English.

If you understand all of this — if you simply view it for what it is — it’s easy to understand why Steph Curry and Kevin Durant don’t want to go to the White House. It’s easy to understand why so many NFL players are protesting. It’s easy to understand why so many of us are pissed off that this guy is president and that the people who voted for him refuse to wake up to what’s going on in the conservative movement and today’s Republican Party.

Because this isn’t about politics. It’s about civil rights. It’s about receiving equal protection under the law. It’s about the First Amendment.

And for God’s sake, it’s not ruining the football or the NFL.

It’s saving it.

#BlackLivesMatter

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