When Colin Kaepernick first began quietly sitting on the sidelines during the national anthem, and later, quite visibly, taking a knee in protest, he made clear what his reason was.
As he explained:
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Now, the national anthem protest, in which dozens of players have taken part, has taken on a life of its own — growing in scope way beyond Kaepernick’s original, albeit amorphous, reason.
The issues have become so far-flung and murky that they now read like a political party platform in their aspirational tone and scope.
And now, people are getting confused.
Here are the many reasons why NFL players and their mouthpieces have given for kneeling:
1. Housing Discrimination
Former wide receiver Donté Stallworth told CNN recently that players have told him housing discrimination is a big issue that needs to be confronted by the NFL.
2. No ‘Equal Opportunity’
Despite working in an industry in which more than 70 percent of the players are of a minority race and living in a country in which there’s an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Cleveland Browns tight end Seth DeValve said he supported the kneelers because “the issue is that [the country] doesn’t provide equal opportunity to everybody. I wanted to support my African-American teammates today who wanted to take a knee.”
3. Ending the ‘Cycle of Poverty’
Ending the cycle of poverty is a very big issue and has been a topic of discourse in every political conversation since President Lyndon Johnson started a “war on poverty” in the 1960s. Over to you, NFL.
4. Ending the ‘Money Bail’ System
This add-on issue by Malcolm Jenkins and Anquan Boldin is one that has been kicking around for the past couple of years. Some law enforcement officials and others believe that requiring poor criminal suspects to come up with 10 percent bail unfairly punishes the poor.
5. Sealing Misdemeanor Nonviolent Court Records
The belief is that a person who has been in trouble with the law has a tougher time getting work and is given poor treatment in future encounters with law enforcement. As Jenkins and Boldin said, “Clean Slate legislation in the state of Pennsylvania seals nonviolent misdemeanor records after 10 years.” These players want the NFL to address this issue as well.
6. Police Accountability
Each police department has its own training, rules and regulations and, like everyone else living here, must adhere to existing laws and statues. That said, Jenkins and Boldin seemed to call for a macro approach to what is usually done by the citizenry in each city, town or burg. They said it would “rebuild trust.”
7. Racism in Law Enforcement
Kaepernick and other players accepted as fact that police have intentionally, and with malice aforethought, sought out black men to murder, accepting the fiction, for example, that Michael Brown was murdered while raising his hands and begging a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer to “don’t shoot.”
The Obama Administration’s phalanx of lawyers and investigators, as well as two other investigations, proved that story to be a lie. In another well-known example, an officer in South Carolina was fired and charged in the shooting of a black motorist as he ran away. An officer who shot Philando Castile, a concealed-carry handgun owner, was fired but did not face criminal charges in his death.
What’s less understood is that officers are given wide latitude to use force when they feel their lives are threatened.