The NFL is NOT Unpatriotic or Racist

We’ve loved the game of football for as long as can be remembered.

Michael Wood Jr.
President Veterans Stand — USMC Sergeant 0351 ‘97–01 FAST

What we do not love is these allegations on the character of the NFL. There are plenty of individuals in the NFL who say and do ridiculous things, of course, but those are just bad apples. For instance, it’s an insult to anyone with football knowledge when Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll states that Colin Kaepernick deserves to be a starter in the league (a top 32 quarterback), but not good enough to be the backup on his team. Seattle, a team with a similar style starter, Russell Wilson, making Kaepernick ideal.

There are 32 teams in the NFL, each with at least 2 quarterbacks and Pete Carroll’s career depends on winning as many games as possible. So Pete’s argument is that the Seattle Seahawks will be in a better position to win by NOT having two top 32 quarterbacks, but rather one top 32 quarterback, backed up by some dude nowhere close to that, is nonsensical. Additionally, we seem to remember Aaron Rodgers backing up Favre, Tom Brady backing up Bledsoe, and interestingly, Colin Kaepernick backing up Smith and then leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl, but anyway…

A bunch of articles have been written critical of the NFL over their treatment of Kaepernick, but an additional odd subject was the intro music. The NFL and ESPN are bringing back Hank Williams Jr, a man well known for racist rants, and whose previous introduction performance the NFL & ESPN pulled from the Monday Night Football broadcast in 2011 because he compared then President Obama to Hitler. In 2017, it is hard to just move past that without pause.

As for ESPN’s part, there are some other odd collusions with the NFL. ESPN is the same television network that, just weeks before the release date, pulled its support for the League of Denial documentary. The film exposes the NFL’s complicity in knowingly downplaying the seriousness of concussions and head trauma. The documentary reveals that Commissioner Paul Tagliabue actively corrupted scientific literature by funding a bogus research group, the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury committee, to publish research hiding the brain injuries caused by playing football.

Modern studies have forced the NFL to file documents in federal court showing that they expect nearly a third of all retired players to develop some form of long-term cognitive problems — such as Alzheimer’s or Dementia — in their lifetime as a result of head injuries suffered on the field.

The NFL didn’t care one bit about the human beings, the players and their families who paid the price until forced to do so by a court settlement. The plaintiffs in these settlements and countless others who have suffered similarly are mourned by the families who love them:

#JovanBelcher #ForrestBlue #LewCarpenter #LouCreekmur #ShaneDronett #DaveDuerson #RayEasterling #FrankGifford #CookieGilchrist #JohnGrimsley #ChrisHenry #TerryLong #RobLytle
#JohnMackey #OllieMatson #TomMcHale #EarlMorrall #AdrianRobinson #JuniorSeau #TylerSash #KenStabler #BubbaSmith #JustinStrzelczyk #MosiTatupu #KevinTurner #AndreWaters #MikeWebster #RalphWenzel

Our first look at the data reveals a similar pattern of cover-ups and denials, despite irrefutable evidence. In 2015, 182 concussions were reported during the regular season; whether due to increased awareness or increased occurrence, this figure reflected a greater than 50% increase over 2014. And it took until 2016 for the NFL to admit that there was a correlation between head trauma and traumatic brain injuries.

This lack of concern for the well-being of people and reluctance to address the facts, despite a public rhetoric of compassion, is something that veterans know all too well. The NFL’s denial of the long-term neurological effects of repeated head trauma reminds us of how the US Government denies the severity and refuses access to treatment for cumulative traumatic brain injuries for service personnel. These denials and refusals represent just the latest episode in the federal government’s storied history of treating soldiers like athletes of death, mere bodies performing a service of spectacle for the elite to be discarded when that service is deemed no longer useful.

And when the game is over, the NFL refuses to be held accountable, just like our government refuses to accept responsibility. Example: 22 veterans from the Spokane area succumbed to the internal war of trauma and committed suicide in one twelve month period. 15 of those veterans were in the VA system — but not being treated.

Like the football players who have been used and discarded by the system, the names of our veterans who have been thrown away have been reflected in tears and condolences for your neighbors, coworkers, and friends. Those tears staining the photo of their child in a uniform that previously evoked pride. The trauma is not limited to the victim, it extends to all of humanity in a far reaching ripple effect. Maybe the whole point of the government denial, media blackouts, lack of funding, and so forth, is to insulate the rest of us from the reality of what’s being done in our name and what happens to veterans home and abroad. Just reading the stories from parents and loved ones while researching, has left a dark cloud hanging over me that still remains.

#EduardoBojorquez #RayBurnside #HoldenScottCorzine #EdwinFuentes #CurtisGearhart #JacobGeorge #AmonGift #AnthonyHill #ClayHunt #JustinHunt #JamesJennings #ShawnJensen #UfranoRiosJimenez #BrandonKetchum #ChrisKyle #MichelleLanghorst #JeffLucey #JanosVictorLutz #JoshuaMarkel #RichardMcShan #BrandonMeyers #JamesMorris #NoahPierce #EddieRayRouth #EliasReyesJr #MarinnaRollins #JustinRopke #JerrySerrato #IsaacSims #DanielSomers #PatTillman #ChristopherStewart #DanielWolfe #ThomasYoung #RyanYurchison

In discussions with us, Gay Culverhouse, the former President of Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Founder of the Gay Culverhouse Players Outreach Program, noted the comparison between service military members and football players, stating that:

The symptoms related to head trauma experienced by veterans of both the NFL and the Armed Services are identical. WE need to support these injured warriors as they reabsorb back into society, and look into how we can prevent this issue from repeating itself.

Part of that prevention is the NFL being accountable. The NFL doesn’t just bear responsibility for the long-term brain damage and early deaths of its players — the NFL also plays a critical role in driving policies that lead to the loss of life and long-term physical, mental and emotional damage done to the nation’s soldiers.

As the VA has reported:

In Fiscal Year 2011, 476,515 Veterans with primary or secondary diagnosis of PTSD received treatment at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers and clinics.

What many football fans may not know is that the NFL is paid to help put a positive face on all that suffering and those vets’ deaths. Those planes fly overhead and cannons salute to glorify the casualties of our children, friends, sisters, fathers, mothers…and all of it paid for by the United States Government.

The general narrative that has been built around the Kaepernick controversy would have us believe that his exercise of free speech to protest American inequality by kneeling down silently during the National Anthem was in conflict with the NFL’s inherently patriotic nature and support for our Armed Forces. This is a lie that Kaepernick has exposed many times himself. The NFL’s staged patriotic displays are paid for with millions of dollars from the Department of Defense.

Yes, the NFL is PAID to play patriotic; unless patriotic is defined as honoring the lives of the veterans, Kaepernick was drawing attention to; those who lost their lives to police brutality after returning to the states. Veterans like India Kager, Walter Scott, Kenneth Chamberlain, Mark Salazar, James Brown, Parminder Singh Shergil, Stanley Gibson and many more. 29 veterans were killed by police in 2015 and at least 8 of them were diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Colin Kaepernick: We certainly thank you for speaking up for those veterans.

All by itself, the National Guard spent $49.1 million on professional sports sponsorships in 2014. These programs are given names such as the “True Patriot” program that pretends to “honor” the veterans but are really just live action advertisement spots. This exploitation of our service as a recruitment program that helps mask the horrors of veteran treatment sheds light on the reality of how much value is placed in the lives of veterans and that should change our perspective.

Did the NFL and Department of Defense not care at all how the actual veterans felt about their exploitation of service members? Did anyone even bother to ask veterans how they feel about Kaepernick kneeling? After all, it did not take an in depth explanation for 35% of military veterans to say they believe anthem protests like Kaepernick’s are not disrespectful, according to an HBO RealSports Marist Poll and as evidenced by Twitter hashtags like #VeteransforKaepernick.

Knowing the staged manipulation, how does this feel now?

Feels like nostalgia, right? Seems like the good ‘ol days. But we’ve been duped. NFL players did not regularly appear on field for the national anthem until the late 2000s. After choosing a life in service, it is being used as a stage prop when:

The Jets needed to be paid to honor their hometown troops;
The Seahawks needed to be paid to allow a pregame re-enlistment ceremony;
The Falcons needed 879 thousand dollars to hold military appreciation ceremonies;

In 2014, the NFL brought in $9 billion in gross revenue;
And spent $44 million on Roger Goodell’s salary;
$26 million to the NFL’s Executive Vice President for Media; 
$8 million to General Counsel Jeff Pash; 
$16 million in legal fees; 
And $1.2 million for their top lobbyist.

Roger Goodell

Yeah, that’s a ton of money, and maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. From 1966 to 2015, the NFL was a tax-exempt organization until the public pressure became too much and did not pay a penny in taxes while the cost of going to a game has skyrocketed for the rest of us.

But it is worse than just that because the Department of Defense then puts the taxes you paid to the federal government into the pockets of the NFL, all to promote the kind of pro-war propaganda that results in devastated communities and people like us being killed or being tormented by the experience of war. An agony that results in 7 thousand veteran suicides every year, when all we want is peace.

Now, this is Walter Byers. Walter was the first executive director of the NCAA. In 1951, he laid out the plan which helped the NCAA rise to prominence.

Walters Byers

What does the NCAA have to do with this?

The NCAA is where the NFL gets its players, fittingly, known as a farm system, but it appears startlingly similar to an auction. In his 1995 memoir, Walter looked back on his creation, lamenting that the NCAA was:

Firmly committed to the neo-plantation belief that the enormous proceeds from games belong to the overseers (the administrators) and supervisors (coaches). The plantation workers performing in the arena may receive only those benefits authorized by the overseers.

As Byers himself recognizes, the NCAA essentially replaced the term “Jim Crow” with “student-athlete,” traded in the hoods for business suits and pom-poms, and continued to exploit black bodies for elite (.01%) gain.

To further support this assertion, in 2014, journalist Brando Stakey concluded that:

The Fifteenth Amendment prevented Southern states from passing laws explicitly disenfranchising blacks. Unencumbered by such restraints — the Constitution affords no special protection to “student athletes” — the NCAA implemented a far cleaner solution to the same problem. The NCAA simply denies college athletes a voice in rule-making, thereby leaving them, like blacks, without a role in the making and enforcement of rules. Voiceless, both groups had the value of their labor fleeced.

Not only does the NCAA prevent student-athletes from making money from their likenesses during their tenure at the schools, but they also own the rights in perpetuity and continue to profit from the players long after they leave.

This is not some ancient history either. The NCAA is actively fighting lawsuits that would compel schools to pay their football players, and recently argued in court that they cannot pay athletes because the schools do not make any money from the sports programs.

Well, of course, they don’t. The schools are not-for-profits — they are supposed to have a zero balance. The NCAA also argued that paying athletes would mean fewer scholarships as if scholarships are tied to economic income from schools. Never have scholarships been linked to the revenue generated by sports teams. We thought the schools were there to teach, not make money, seems the NCAA feels otherwise.

Just recently, the NCAA boasted about a program called the College Football Playoff fund, where they finally began helping the players’ parents get to playoff games to support their kids. Yes, seriously, they just now thought of helping poor parents be able to help their students.

This stuff all sounds crazy to us, too. We grew up in the same America you did. But the bottom line is that the American values we were taught in the Marine Corps were to fight for the exercising of Constitutional Rights, even if that means to be willing to die so those in the land of the free can stand up by kneeling down.

And our government, and any other institution that owes its existence to we, the people, should be held accountable for its actions, especially when those actions end up negatively impacting our communities and lives.

Which brings us back to Kaepernick and our call for our fellow veterans, friends, and supporters to join us in a Veterans Stand with the NFL Ban. It does not have to be some big attention getting fanfare, just an ethical one. It has long been said that the NFL, and its shameless exploitation of people that hints at servitude or really, slavery, will have its day of reckoning.

Maybe that day has come. You know, we would rather spend the day with our daughters anyway. We’ll never get that day back, and time with our loved ones is much more important.

Whether it is marginalizing Colin Kaepernick, offensive theme song performers, masking the harm inflicted on players, the gross faux patriotism, tax evasion, or an overtly corrupt recruitment system, we just…. We just can’t support this…

The NFL is unpatriotic and racist after all. Take a stand and ban the NFL until its values align with what we serve for….

By: Michael Wood Jr.; Anthony Diggs

Special Thanks to:
Contributors: Malcolm Fleschner; Chuck Modiano; Aaron Maybin

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