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NFL players take action against Trump and police brutality

Commentary by Michael Sampson |
September 26, 2017
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Jacksonville, FL - This past Sunday and Monday, Sept. 24 and 25, NFL football players numbering in the hundreds took a knee during the national anthem at different NFL games. This comes just days after Donald Trump, at stump speech in Alabama, called for owners to fire any NFL player who took a knee during the national anthem.

The tactic of taking a knee during the national anthem was started by African American quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started the 2016 season by taking a knee during the national anthem to shine light on widespread police crimes, police brutality and the racist national oppression of Black people. Throughout last season, different football players took a knee, raised a fist or other symbolic actions at the start of games.

Those actions have been met with much hostility and hatred from right wingers, reactionary football fans and commentators. However, Sunday and Monday's actions at different NFL football games have sent a large message to the Trump administration and police departments nationwide that NFL players are no longer sitting on the sidelines when it comes to using their platform to raise awareness around police brutality. These actions also show that players understand and demand their right of to political expression without retaliation from the NFL owners.

People represent ideals. Colin Kaepernick represents the fight against police crimes and racist discrimination in many ways. On the flip side, Donald Trump and his presidency encapsulates a lot of reactionary and bad ideas. Trump ran on being the law-and-order, pro-police brutality and overtly pro-imperialist aggression candidate.

In Huntsville, Alabama, when he called Kaepernick a "SOB" and demanded that the NFL owners fire players who didn't stand for the anthem, he choose the path of feeding his right-wing base the red meat of being pro-boss rights, having the right to fire a worker for anything, but as well equating anti-police brutality protests with an attack on the flag, vets and cops. This was a very strategic line of communication from right-wing forces to deter from the actual struggle against police violence that the NFL player actions had advocated for.

NFL players protesting and others on this day taking a knee against Trump's comments are protests against police violence and for the right of workers, especially majority Black workers in the NFL, to not want to be fired for expressing their views against racism. The actions Sunday and Monday were met with much hostility from Trump supporters and Fraternal Order of Police presidents nationwide.

These protests were progressive and very impactful for the players and as well as those in the black liberation movement. Conservative forces and political action committees have already started boycotts of the NFL for the actions that players have took. We should salute the NFL players and the NFL players union for standing up to Trump as well as their right to use their platform to protest against police brutality.

This past Sunday and Monday, we saw NFL owners being forced to support the players’ protest to avoid labor unrest. If anyone understands the NFL then you understand that each team is owned by a member of the ruling class. For example, the owner of the Seattle Seahawks franchise is Paul Allen, co-founder along Bill Gates of Microsoft. So to see NFL owners and billionaires in most cases defend their players right to protest over that of Trump's comments is shocking. Shad Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, supported ruling class member Hillary Clinton in the general election but then donated to Trump's inauguration. However, he joined with his team on the field in London, locking arms with players in protest of Trump's comments. This should shows us a sense of chaos within the ruling class, a lack of unity amongst the bourgeoisie with billionaire owners siding with their players over that of Trump.

In 2014, Trump sought to purchase the Buffalo Bills, another NFL team but was rejected from acquiring it. According to NFL team purchasing rules, owners must approve the purchase of a franchise. Trump even sued the NFL in the 1980s to benefit a professional football league he led, the USFL which he eventually bankrupted. So no love is lost between Trump and the other billionaire owners who once rejected his bid to join their ranks. However, their break against Trump mostly shows that even the owners know where the power lies. That power lies with the NFL players who are unionized workers. The ruling class can plainly be seen as still in a state of chaos over the Trump presidency. Actions taken by the people's movement and their organizations can continue to help exploit those contradictions for the betterment of workers everywhere.

Throughout our history, professional athletes standing up for justice have had a profound effect on our society. We can't forget Muhammad Ali, who spoke out against the Vietnam War and refused the draft and was punished by the U.S. government for it. In the 1968 Olympics, African-American athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith, during the 1968 Olympic medal ceremony, each raised a black-gloved fist as they turned to face the U.S. flags during the national anthem. Black athletes have historically played positive roles in uplifting the struggle of the Black liberation movement.

We should continue to support black NFL players and other professional athletes who stand in solidarity and take action against the oppression of African Americans.

Salute to Colin Kaepernick and other athletes who raise their voice against police brutality and racist national oppression.