On Friday, Colin Kaepernick took a stand by taking a seat. He said enough with black death and quietly sat as “The Star-Spangled Banner” played.
When asked after the game about his stance, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback eloquently explained: "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
America has always had a weird relationship with black athletes. They love them as long as they run, jump and score. But it's better for America if they just don't talk about black issues.
The weird duality of praising black athletes while mistreating African Americans is so American that when Kaepernick said, "Hey, everyone, black lives matter to me," America said, "You're un-American." And burned his jersey. And hates him, now. And isn't that just like America?
But there's another tradition that's rooted in American history, and it's as American as the flag, racism and apple pie: the black hype man.
The role of the black hype man is twofold: First, it's to keep the crowd engaged and on message. The second, and this is the most important, it's to make sure the song doesn't skip a beat. If Busta Rhymes ever gets winded, Spliff Starr is there to make sure the song keeps going.
America's rap of racism, violence and incarceration is consistent, and there is no shortage of black hype men willing to keep us on point. Kaepernick bumped the table that scratched the record at the party.
Below is a list of black hype men who want to get us back on beat:
Uncle ‘All Lives Matter’ Hype Man
Jerry Rice slid his old ass into the conversation like the uncle who knows all the dance moves from the 1960s but insists on being on the dance floor in 2016. Not only did he come in off the beat with his "All lives matter" tweet, telling Kaepernick not to disrespect the flag, but he even ended it with a Rodney King "Can't we all get along?" just to clear up all doubt.
Pastor Tiki Barber and the Church of ‘Come on, Son’ Hype Man
The last time I heard this guy's name was after he left his eight-months-pregnant wife for a 23-year-old woman, but he didn't let the moment pass for him to hype America's faux patriotism by coming for Kaepernick. And Pastor Barber, now a radio host, told his radio listeners recently, "I agree with his desire to continue the narrative. There are issues in this country. That, you have to commend him for. But I don’t commend him for sitting and not honoring this country and our flag."
Light Skin vs. Dark Skin Hype Man
I don't blame Rodney Harrison because this one has permeated throughout black culture for years, so you knew this one was coming, but the former New England Patriots safety is questioning Kaepernick's "blackness."
During an interview with iHeartRadio, Harrison said that Kaepernick is not black and doesn't understand the experiences that real blacks face.
"I tell you this, I’m a black man. And Colin Kaepernick—he’s not black," Harrison said. "He cannot understand what I face and what other young black men and black people face, or people of color face, on a[n] every single [day] basis. When you walk in a grocery store and you might have $2,000 or $3,000 in your pocket and you go up into a Foot Locker and they’re looking at you like you about to steal something.
"You know, I don’t think he faces those type of things that we face on a daily basis," he continued. "I’m not saying he has to be black, but I’m saying his heart is in the right place, but even with what he’s doing, he still doesn’t understand the injustices as a black man, or people of color; that’s what I’m saying."
Harrison has since moonwalked away from these statements, claiming that he didn't know Kaepernick was mixed.
Stephen A. Smith Can’t Stop Stephen A. Smithing Hype Man
Man, this guy just can't stop dancing. In fact, I haven't checked, but I would guess that he does most of his broadcast in soft leather tap shoes because this dude can't stop placing the blame on black people. In response to Kaepernick's protest, Smith started off defending Kaepernick's right to demonstrate and slowly devolved into his "We need to look ourselves in the mirror" diatribe.
"If there is any problem that I have with this," Smith said on ESPN's First Take, "is that just as you are willing to bring attention to brutality on the part of police officers, I hope that all of these athletes, all of us in the media and beyond, are willing to bring just as much attention to black-on-black violence."
Stephen A. Crockett Jr. is a senior editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.