TMZ, the popular investigative reporting service on celebratory life within the U.S., has reported that the National Football League’s (NFL) Baltimore Ravens franchise was all prepared to offer Colin Kaepernick a contract last year when their starting quarterback, Joe Flacco, went down with an injury. The report indicates that Ravens coach John Harbaugh, the brother of former San Francisco 49ers and Kaepernick coach Jim Harbaugh, was very high on signing Kaepernick and initially had the ok from the team owners to move forward. According to the report, what stalled the process was the influence of a “high ranking U.S. military official” who dissuaded Harbaugh and the Ravens organization from signing Kaepernick because of his leadership in initiating player protests against institutional racism and police terrorism against African people.
The TMZ report is worth discussing for several reasons. First, it makes sense that the U.S. military would lobby against Kaepernick ever wearing an NFL uniform again, and not just because of some reactionary kneejerk patriotism. The U.S. military’s own “Recruitment and Representation” study for 2015 speaks to the challenges facing the military in recruitment. According to the study, “an improved economy spells trouble with future military recruitment.” Translation: Young people are generally finding the influx of low paying service jobs with little future more preferable than joining the military and inflicting physical violence against innocent people around the world. The military study references increased resistance to U.S. military recruitment and presence on high school and college campuses as a major problem since those institutions have historically served as primary recruiting grounds for the military. In recent years, the military has turned to bribing young people through millions of dollars of advertising during NFL (and National Basketball Association broadcasts, as well as NASCAR, and other sports) games. Obviously, Kaepernick’s leadership and courage in carrying out these protests since September of 2016 is a major concern to the military. They are worried that their core demographic – 18 to 35 year old people – could be influenced by this dialogue about state sponsored terrorism, U.S. imperialism abroad, etc. In the eyes of the military, the decline in recruitment could be the writing on the wall so for them, Kaepernick being denied employment and the NFL’s subsequent “deal” with the Player’s Association to quiet the protests, is the best way to make the controversy go away before multitudes of youth, particularly European youth, start paying closer attention.
Another reason the report is worth noting is because if true (and there is absolutely no reason to believe it isn’t true), it completely invalidates former Ravens player (and noted uncle tom) Ray Lewis’s bold faced lies that he was working behind the scenes to ensure that Kaepernick “could be brought in” only to be stymied because, according to Lewis, Kaepernick’s partner criticized the Raven’s owner as a “slave master.” Look, racists of all stripes and all their apologists can pretend to be intellectual around this issue all they want, none of us are confused. Kaepernick’s career and lifetime stats as a quarterback are much, much better than every back up quarterback who was signed in front of him last year and that fact is ill refutable. In fact, no quarterback who led his team to a Super Bowl, and then the National Football Conference title game (the game to get to the Super Bowl) the following year, just three and four years ago, has ever been denied employment this long in the NFL’s entire history. So, the slow brained racists who are working overtime to justify game related reasons for Kaepernick’s continued unemployment only maintain any steam because this society is built on anti-intellectualism. Truth in this society is not objective reality, its whatever you can convince people it is.
And, none of this is about focusing specifically on Kaepernick’s job future anyway. Whether he plays football again or not. The man said in 2016 that he knew when he started his protests that he could be ending his football career. So, like everyone before him who took a principled position against this backward society, he knew the sacrifices he would have to make. So, this discussion isn’t about Kaepernick’s job situation. Its about understanding that every institution within this society is controlled to benefit multi-national corporate interests. Those interests are the direct reason for every conflict the U.S. military has been engaged in from Korea in 1950 all the way up to their threats against North Korea today. As more and more people become conscious of this reality, which will make them reject the insane suggestion that the U.S. military is fighting for anyone’s freedom and democracy anywhere on Earth, Kaepernick’s brave act underscores how what has happened to him is an example of modern day slavery and oppression of African people who dare stand up for justice. No, he’s not making the same sacrifice Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Fred Hampton, Assata Shakur, and others have made. No, he’s not impoverished, despite his long unemployment, but none of that is central to the core issue. African people are oppressed as a nation, not as individuals. That means there are many different methods in which the system can silence and demobilize us. Economic oppression, silencing of our voices, frame ups, imprisonment, murder, all of these things are tactics used by this system against us. Its important for us and any true friends to African liberation that we recognize this because it will help us understand how important these actions and movements are. We will hopefully do whatever we can to fan the flames of this activism and that will hopefully influence other people to take stands.
Or, we can forget about Kaepernick and just melt into the next NFL season, forgetting about the protests and doing nothing to support further efforts to raise these critical questions. That’s why we continue to talk about this to prevent people from forgetting. And if it disturbs you that we do, we hope your discomfort causes you as much difficulty as is humanly possible.