#022 Where Have You Gone Colin Kaepernick?

Where Have You Gone Colin Kaepernick?

Colin Kaepernick’s protest has been silenced by the noise  from the latest media frenzy. Kaepernick is out of football, blackballed from the NFL not because of his ability to quarterback but because of his “unpatriotic” sit/kneel during the National Anthem. The fact that he is not Tom Brady or Cam Newton does not help his cause but two years ago he was a starting NFL quarterback and last year he ranked 17th of 30 in quarterback ratings.

Kaepernick began his protest before the August 26, 2016  preseason game between the San Fransico 49ers  and the Green Bay Packers. The protest was in response to unfair treatment of blacks by the police.  “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” said Kaepernick explaining the basis of his protest to reporters.

The NFL and team owners appears to have concluded that the league is better off without him. Just like the Boxing Associations shunned Mohammad Ali for his protest in the 1960’s. Removing Kaepernick from the NFL did not stop the protest that he had started. Earlier in the season some NFL players continued the protest with little media coverage.

The intensity of media coverage changed drastically after President Trump made some remarks challenging those players’ patriotism, the owners tolerance and their inability to control the player’s actions. Trump, being Trump, created a divisive environment in which both the owners and players believed that their character, actions or motives were attacked by the President.

A protest that started as a response to police treatment against blacks has morphed into a patriotic litmus test. This controversy has come to fuison over the traditional ritual of playing the National Anthem before sporting events.

Forced “patriotism” and blind “patriotism” are the catalyst for the latest media over exposure. The President’s suggestion to fire SOBs that refuse to stand for the National Anthem has exposed a bigger issue, an increasingly hostile nationalist agenda.

 History – The National Pastime and Patriotism

In Chicago, on September 5, 1918, during Game 1 of the World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs the Star Spangled Banner was introduced to American sports. What began with an active duty soldier saluting the flag grew into a tradition that is common in professional, college, high school and youth sports.

The US had just entered  World War 1 a year and a half before that day. More than 100,000 U.S. soldiers had died fighting in the war overseas. A day before Game 1, a bomb had exploded in Chicago killing four people and injuring dozens more. The U.S. government had recently announced that it would begin drafting major league baseball players to go to war.

During the seventh-inning stretch, the U.S. Navy band began to play the Star Spangled Banner. As the song began, Red Sox infielder Fred Thomas—who was in the Navy and had been granted furlough to play in the World Series turned toward the American flag and gave it a military salute. Other players turned to the flag with hands over hearts, and the already-standing crowd began to sing. At the song’s conclusion, the fans erupted in thunderous applause.

The song would be played at each of the Series’ remaining games, to increasingly rapturous response. It was “patriotism” that started this American tradition., The Red Sox continue the patriotic spirit by honor wounded veterans and giving them free tickets. In Boston, for the decisive Game 6, the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner was moved to the start of the game.Thus, the association of sports, the flag and patriotism was hatched.

In 1931, President Hoover made the Star-Spangled Banner officially the U.S. national anthem. By the end of World War II,  NFL Commissioner Elmer Layden ordered that it be played at every football game. “The National Anthem should be as much a part of every game as the kick-off. We must not drop it simply because the war is over. We should never forget what it stands for.” Influenced by post-war patriotism the tradition quickly spread to other sports

The NFL Goes Over the Top

The NFL discovered that patriotism was good for business, and nothing is more patriotic than supporting our troops—especially when they are overseas at wartime. The league doubled down on the military and support for its mission both home and abroad.

“It was a conscious effort on our part to bring the element of patriotism into the Super Bowl,” Pete Rozelle, former NFL commissioner, said about the past Super Bowls that he reigned over. 

In the 1960s, Pete Rozelle continued to align the NFL with the military even thought there was a political and generational divide caused by the Vietnam War. His loyalty to the military paid off in the 1990s with the rebirth of “patriotism” mustered by the Middle East invasion. The 1990’s also brought a tremendous increase in TV revenues.

In the 1981 Super Bowl, during the Iran hostage crisis, the NFL wrapped the entire Superdome in one giant-sized yellow ribbon. The league handed out smaller ribbons at halftime to facilitate the singing of “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree,” a song about loved ones coming home that has long been synonymous with bringing those loved one’s home during times of crisis.

Tracing the history of all of this, it seems that the fork in the road for the NFL and patriotism began in post 9/11 America. The NFL supersized patriotism. A corporate brand of patriotism found its way into all walks of life and into the NFL’s broadcast and corporate partners.

The NFL became the standard-bearer for what many of us believe to be patriotism. “We’ve become the winter version of the Fourth of July celebration,” said another past commissioner of the NFL, Paul Tagliabue.

Patriotism Becomes Mandate

It’s the kind of patriotism that gets warped into needing to exhibit patriotism not as a choice, but by mandate. An example of this can be found in the actions taken by a CBS’s broadcast crew after 9/11. One of CBS’s broadcasting crews voluntarily wore flag pins on their lapels. The network like that patriotic symbolism so much they made it a requirement for all their NFL broadcasting crews.

In 2009, due to timing concerns for the television networks, the NFL changed the protocol for the National Anthem. The players’ location for the primetime games was moved to the field during the anthem. In all other games the players had already been stationed on the field for the national anthem. This change afforded the NFL, the networks and their sponsors a national audience for “the show.”

At about the same time that the players were told to stand for the National Anthem, the Department of Defense (DOD) was ramping up its recruitment for support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The DOD began paying sports teams millions in U.S. tax dollars for what amounted to “paid patriotism,” for mega-military spectacles on the playing field before the game.

Do I Really Have to Give Credit to Senator McCain?

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a veteran and considered by many as a patriotic man and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) headed a congressional investigation into the DOD funding of professional sports.

Their investigation found that between 2012 and 2015, the DOD shelled out $53 million to professional sports—including $10 million to the NFL—on “marketing and advertising” for military recruitment. The report labeled many of the ceremonies honoring heroes and flyovers as federal funded propaganda.

Their report revealed that the DOD could not accurately account for how many contracts it awarded or how much money was spent. Their official response was that the NFL secured 62 percent of its 122 contracts with major league teams and 70 percent of the more than $10 million. The DOD indicated that the purpose of these contracts was to support recruiting.

The NFL’s is one of the DOD’s top cheerleader and recruiter for the warfare state. The national anthem has been used as a prop in this near-religious convocation from soldier parading, flag-waving and flyovers by Blue Angels fighter jets to jumbo Tron shout-outs to warriors deployed around the world protecting the United States’ Empire.

The NFL became a promotion tool of the DOD. The defense contractors use the media to hawk their billion-dollar war wares as the DOD actively recruits patriotic men and women (not cross genders) to “defend democracy, freedom and justice”.

Il Duce – Italian for the ” Leader of a Movement”

Does the President have the authority to dictate policy and procedures of a “private” corporation? Why not?  After all the governmental expects some sway from Crony Capitalism! (notice the “Crony”)

When a company takes money from the government it become beholden to them. Mussolini called it Fascism or “The marriage of corporation and state.”. Trump calls it “Make America great again.”

When the government subsidizes a “favorable” company, it can exert a strong influence over the company’s internal and external workings. Money encourages a regulatory role and makes private property and private initiative contingent upon their service to the state.

Standing or kneeling for the National Anthem should be the policy of the private corporation and their ownership, not the Federal Government. The line of sovereignty becomes blurred when governmental “contracts” are involved. The NFL created a relationship by shilling for the warfare state and using Americans patriotism to cash in on the gravy train that governmental contracts bring.

Accepting federal funds is an endorsement for the increasingly paternalist role of the Federal Government. From public education to health care “we the people” have become subservient to Washington DC. Taxes, regulations and directives are not only expected of the favorable but have become requirements to maintain a privilaged status.

“Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore” john prine

Standing for the National Anthem might be a symbol of patriotism for many but there are dozens of things that are more patriotic than standing for a song about a flag. Real patriots take a stand, speak out, kneel, protest and challenge the government whenever it steps out of line.

There is nothing less patriotic than a mandate to do so, patriotism has become overexposed. Forced patriotism is a bastardization of the intended purpose. Forced patriotism is alive and well in the NFL. Patriotic displays will continue to be calculated and designed to unite rather than divide.

Kaepernick’s protest was not designed to be unpatriotic but it upset a sterilized version of patriotism.  It was a challenge to the NFL’s homogenized, “one size fits all” patriotism. Colin Kaepernick was a victim of propaganda and the ratings game.

Today’s NFL cannot afford to offend half of its audience to please the other half. Even the current unified stand against Trump’s comments has that collective fuzzy feeling. Standing up to the President for calling NFL players SOBs. Really, as US bombs and drone murder civilians it is name calling that hurt our feelings?

Patriotism in Perspective

The Commander and Chief orders, supports and initiates sanctions and blockages used to starve Yemeni and North Korean civilians of food and medical supplies as US bombs kill civilians in Syria and Afghanistan. It is comforting to know that our perspective of patriotism is well directed.

A United States Patriot should be a person who regards himself or herself as a defender of the Constitution, especially of individual rights against the interference by the government. It is anti-American to be anti-freedom.

A “Nationalist,” is a misguided patriot, with a zealous and aggressive enthusiasm for governmental support over individual rights. It is a blind obedience to what an authority dictates. It is the first step towards creating an authoritarian regime.

There is nothing patriotic about nationalism. When Americans allow the government to dismantle the Constitution we will watch as a democratic republic becomes a police state protected by a standing army.

That was Colin Kaepernick’s original message? “I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed.” The national television audience, the NFL, the flag and patriotism may be overwhelming opponents but the message is crystal clear.


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