I was working behind a hypothetical bar the other night, changing the hypothetical station on a hypothetical flat screen TV. A hypothetical couple sat directly under the TV, occasionally glancing up at it while eating their hypothetical dinners.
As a courtesy, I asked the couple what they would like to watch. Here’s where things get interesting… hypothetically speaking.
The male resoundingly replied “Anything but the NFL!!!” I initially thought the man must have missed football so much that he found watching replays a tease. That’s the reason I don’t watch the NFL right now. With the upcoming season uncertain at best amidst this global pandemic, while I miss the game, I haven’t tuned in to replays of games I’ve already watched either. Knowing the outcome ruins the experience for me.
That’s when the man further expressed his disdain for the NFL. His explanation was as white as day and one I did not see coming.
“I don’t wanna watch the NFL,” he continued “because they agreed to play the black national anthem.”
That was this man’s reason for not wanting to watch football, he said as he scoffed down his French fries. A song, a minor gesture from the league to alleviation tension, a three-minute deviation from the norm, essentially an outright refusal for change.
Now, first of all, I didn’t even know there was a black national anthem, unless he was referring to Marvin Gaye’s 1983 NBA All-Star Game rendition or Whitney Houston belting one out at Super Bowl XXV. Now THOSE were national anthems! Pretty sure that’s not what he talking about though.
As far as I can recall, we all grew up singing one national anthem in this country, as well as reciting, one Pledge of Allegiance. You remember, the one that ended with the line “and liberty and justice for all.” Perhaps the reason some are upset with our anthem is that others didn’t hold up their part of the bargain.
I left this fellow’s steadfast comments alone, knowing better than to get into a discussion (while at work, hypothetically) with a person who had already made up his mind about this pre-game, set change. For the record, I’ve been to countless Bucs games and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” both right before and after our national anthem. You don’t see me all up in arms about an acid-taking, bat-eating Brit getting more face time than our rockets’ red glare.
As you may recall, not so long ago in a galaxy that closely resembles this one, millions of fans grew distaste for a league (that is 70% black) because one of its players felt the national anthem no longer applied to him. He found the song antithetical, if not hypocritical.
Not long afterwards, many of us found his gesture antithetical and that started this whole ball rolling, pretty much leading us to where we are today.
We have each formulated our own opinions of what went down, ostracizing both the man and his message in the process, making Colin Kaepernick, as Howard Bryant describes him “the martyred conscience of a generation.” The problem, from knee one, stems not from any message but rather from the fact that people, in my humble opinion, weren’t listening to why any of this was happening in the first place. We became so offended to a change in our agenda that our own noise deafened what those who were kneeling were trying to say.
Years later, we’re still not listening and all the protests in the world aren’t going to change that. You can’t listen and speak at the same time.
I’m trying really hard to not make one white man’s protest of a black national anthem a Kaepernick thing but isn’t he essentially doing the exact same thing? Does anyone else see the irony in white Americans feeling it’s okay to protest the NFL for playing a black national anthem (which, by the way, it is) yet in the same breath blasting black players for taking a knee? Look no further for better definitions of both irony and white privilege.
We tense up when cheers, mascots or team names, things we’ve known to be forever, are deemed offensive because their foundation is rooted in oppression. Just because we never knew that doesn’t make it any better. Ignorance is no excuse. On the other side of the equation, those in favor of enlightened change fail to understand the position of those opposed to it. Perhaps some healthy conversation is in order.
After DeSean Jackson’s recent inflammatory comments, as a litmus test, I posted a few comments on social media, just to see what kind of reaction they would elicit. Wouldn’t you know, even my most level-headed friends still flipped their shit. It’s yet another example of the defensive posture we’ve retreated into.
Race is a social construct created to divide and define rather than unite. I don’t consider Desean Jackson a “racist.” I just consider him a fucking idiot, woefully uninformed just like the rest of America. That’s right people, I’m talking about you. This is where you take a deep breath and tell yourself that you are not as smart as you think you are. I have no problem saying it. It doesn’t offend my delicate sensibilities to say “SportsChump, you might not have all the answers.” In fact, it’s quite cleansing. You should try it some time.
Now that you’ve completed that exercise, I want you to ask yourself two questions and I want you to answer them honestly and with an open mind. First, why do you think people are so up in arms about statues and national anthems and such? Second, why are you so upset that they’re upset?
My beloved girlfriend and I argue on occasion. It’s only natural. However, it wasn’t until I (and she) truly learned how to listen to each other that we started to see the other’s point of view, what we were doing that bothered each other, what we felt was unfair, what we felt the other was not sacrificing and vice versa. These things help immeasurably on a micro, and most certainly macro scale. The problem right now is none of this is taking place. Dialogue is dreadfully non-existent. And before you go pointing fingers at Agent Orange, or as one of my friends calls him “Mango Mussolini,” if you really feel whoever’s President of this nation affects your day-to-day, I have front row tickets to an upcoming football game to sell you.
We, in America, are so far away from any sort of healthy communication that we’re going off a cliff in reverse faster than you can say Thelma & Louiiiiiiiise.
Writing about these issues is as complicated as talking about them which is a complicated as listening to them, constructively, which what we’re still not doing.
On a considerably brighter note, in same said hypothetical restaurant, on another night prior to this one, five people sat around and discussed the goings on of the day. All were of different backgrounds and skin tones. They held a conversation that was healthy: no shouting, no blaming, no pointing of any fingers, just a rational understanding of viewpoints. It was as if the heavens had opened up and the grand ideal of what was once to be the United Nations sat down over a pint and actually talked shit out. Shocking in these times, I know.
I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings but all the protests and institutional reform we can muster is not going to salvage this mess unless people start to listen with an open mind and attempt to understand why there’s a need for any of this in the first place.
Until then, it looks like we have two anthems to protest.