The National Football League’s first preseason game is getting more attention for what happened before the game than for what happened during it.
During Monday night’s national anthem performance, 12 Cleveland Browns players kneeled together in a circle, with their heads bowed before taking the field against the New York Giants. Other players placed hands on kneeling players back to show solidarity while remaining standing.
Some Browns who participated in the protest were: Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson, Jabrill Peppers, Christian Kirksey, Seth DeValve, Jamie Collins, Kenny Britt, Ricardo Louis and Jamar Taylor. Seth DeValve, who is white, is the first player to kneel since Colin Kaepernick first took a knee and initiated such protests in August of 2016.
Michael Bennett of the Seattle Seahawks has called for white athletes “to join the protests and bolster the effectiveness of the movement,” according to CNN. Three players reponsded to that call last week by putting their arms around black teammates during the national anthem.
Malcolm Jenkins’ of the Philadelphia Eagles raised his fist during the anthem at another preseason game and his white teammate Chris Long held his arm around Jenkins’ shoulders. While many activists and Internet users have been frustrated that Long has gotten more publicity for his support of Jenkins’ protest than the protest itself, Long is frustrated because he has long been “active in the community and vocal about social issues” according to an interview on nfl.com. “No one gave a shit, frankly, until I put my hand around Malcolm,” he told a reporter for NFL. “That just goes to show you the power of symbolic protests,” he added, stating that people suddenly paid attention to him like they never had before about social issues.
Long attended the University of Virginia in Charlottesville where recent White Supremacists rallied resulting in dozens of injuries and one woman’s death when a neo-Nazi plowed his car into a group counterprotesting the ralliers.
His response is similar to one Heather Heyer’s cousin had; Heyer was the woman killed by neo-Nazi James Alex Fields when he drove his car into a group of protesters she was a part of.
In an article written for CNN Diana Ratcliff, Heyer’s cousin, wrote: “Why is it that the death of a white woman at the hands of a white supremacist group has finally gotten the attention of white folk? Why have we been turning our heads the other way for so long?”
Colin Kaepernick is a man of color who drew both criticism and praise last year as he held an ongoing protest during the national anthem. Even though Kaepernick, a quarterback, 16 touchdowns and only had four passes intercepted as part of the San Francisco 49ers, he has yet to be signed to a team.
Donald Trump stated at a rally in late March that “NFL owners don’t want to pick [Colin Kaepernick] up because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump.”
Kaepernick was protesting police brutality originally and showing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement; last month, Trump made statements to Long Island police officers seeming to encourage more brutality and mistreatment of suspects and arrestees.
Further, the Guardian has reported that “NFL owners donated 42 times more cash…to Republican causes as compared with Democratic ones in 2015 and 2016.”
The Daily Beast has reported that 7% of Donald Trump’s $107 million inauguration funds came from NFL associated financiers.
In February Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, and his family decided not to go through with purchasing the Major League Baseball team the Miami Marlins. The Marlins are owned by Jeffrey Loria who was, at the time, being considered for the Ambassadorship to France, which many saw as a quid-pro-quo situation trading a government position for profit.
Loria has since sold the Marlins to another group which includes baseball icon Derek Jeter, for $1.2 billion, significantly profiting off of his initial investment; he took ownership of the Marlins in 2002 after swapping them for the Montreal Expos which he had initially paid $30 million for.
Instead of this baseball owner, Trump has chosen a different one to be the Ambassador to France; Jamie McCourt and her husband owned the LA Dodgers for 8 years. Something both potential-ambassadors/baseball owners have in common is being unpopular with fans. Loria is considered the most disliked owner in the MLB, possibly in history, because of the shady way he took ownership as well as his seeming to bleed Miami of hundreds of millions of dollars and not improve the team in the meantime. McCourt, too, raised park prices when taking over the Dodgers without adding any new talent, drawing understandable disdain.
If this is any example of the type of people Donald Trump prioritizes it makes sense that Colin Kaepernick is likely being “blackballed” by the NFL. Trump and his team-owning buddies are more focused on profit and their own superiority than social issues, change or benevolence.
The Browns are just the latest in other athletes showing solidarity both with Kaepernick and with the Black Lives Matter movement, especially in the wake of the events in Charlottesville.
Chris Long was adamant when it came to Kaepernick: “[He] should have a job. Point blank.”
Browns’ linebacker Christian Kirksey reportedly led the anthem protest Monday as well as leading his teammates in prayer as they knelt. “We did it out of respect,” he said. “No disrespect for anyone, we just felt like it was the right time and the need to do it.”
Seth DeValve, a tightend for the Browns, is married to a black woman and said that that partially came into play in his decision to kneel with his teammates. “I myself will be raising children that don’t look like me, and I want to do my part as well to do everything I can to raise them in a better environment than we have now.”
According to Tom Pelissero, a reporter for NFL.com, there have been “more players participating in some form of national anthem demonstration already this preseason than all of last season combined.”