Photo: Wilfredo Lee (Getty Images)

Sunday marked the official beginning of racist plantation NFL owners touting how well they can get their black players to abandon their community and “toe the line,” more commonly called “professional football.”

While the season actually began with the Thursday night flagfest debacle between the Atlanta Falcons and the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday marked the first full day of games, where players would have the opportunity to officially disrespect the troops, the country and the flag by kneeling during the paid displays of patriotism.

On the heels of Nike trolling the NFL by using whiteballed former quarterback Colin Kaepernick as the face of their 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign, and the news that the NFL would not be implementing a moratorium on the haphazard and rushed protest ban, players should’ve been ready to bend the knee during the anthem; a symbolic measure of protest for the over-policing of black communities.

Although the number of players who chose to protest would make a decent hand of spades, it makes for a terrible display of unity and protest. So how many players of the 1,696 NFL players protested injustice and inequality during week 1?

Four and a possible.

The rating’s for CBS’ and Fox’s daytime regional matchups were up from last year, according to USA Today. If you check out your social media timeline from yesterday and see how many of your friends still watched NFL games, you might understand why the lone player to protest on Thursday was Michael Bennett, who sat during the playing of the national anthem. Bennett is one of the few players who has been vocal about social justice issues, yet remains employed by the NFL.

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Bennett’s teammate, Malcolm Jenkins, a whitewashed voice in the NFL player push for the Movement for Black Lives had his toes on the line, despite being one of the most vocal players in NFL.

“At this point, I think it’s important for us and for the movement to continue to change and adapt to the context of the situation,” Jenkins said after the game, according to The Washington Post.

“I think there’s a huge need for us to turn the attention towards the issues and not only the issues, but what players actually do in their communities to effectuate change. We’re trying to move past the rhetoric of what’s right and what’s wrong and all that. We need to focus on these issues that pertain to our communities.”

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This sounds like a man who turned his back on Harriet Tubman to do the good work of making sure he can effect change from inside the plantation. Please stop calling Malcolm Jenkins the face of Colin Kaepernick’s movement. That would be like saying Ben Carson is doing the work that Malcolm X started. Jenkins has been a vanilla version of what half-assed corporate protest looks like from the very beginning. While Jenkins didn’t protest, he’s working from the inside, which makes him the possible. He’s a jack of hearts who hopes he can skate as long as his opponents aren’t cutting.

To be fair, I don’t know much about the slaves that sat at the table with master and worked out cotton-picking agreements because not many books were written about those folks.

The men with real backbones and spines that point directly to the North Star are Miami Dolphins receivers Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson, who didn’t leave any doubt as to where they stand on the issue of police killings of unarmed black men, women, and children when they took a knee during the national anthem. They were joined by defensive end Robert Quinn who raised his fist.

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Here’s the list compiled by Sports Illustrated of all the other players from around the NFL who protested.

Bills vs. Ravens

All players stood for the national anthem.

Giants vs. Jaguars

All players stood for the national anthem.

Patriots vs. Texans  

All players stood for the national anthem.

Saints vs. Buccaneers  

All players stood for the national anthem.

Vikings vs. 49ers

All players stood for the national anthem.

Colts vs. Bengals

All players stood for the national anthem.

Browns vs. Steelers

All players stood for the national anthem.

Let’s be clear about the this: by moonwalking back the policy that looked to punish players for protesting during the anthem, the NFL basically punted the issue back to the individual teams, meaning each team could decide if players would be punished for kneeling during the anthem.

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Yet, since the apex of player protests, each week, fewer and fewer players have participated in the demonstrations against injustice. Something is up and I know it can’t be that men who risk their lives every Sunday, who make up nearly 80 percent of the league, simply decided on their own to not protest.

Logic dictates that there are only three possible scenarios.

  1. All of the players who participated in the demonstrations at the beginning changed their minds.
  2. Teams explicitly or implicitly threatened the players who formely protested.
  3. The players just don’t care.

No matter what their reasoning consists of, the players who chose to protest and then stopped, ultimately decided that their careers, the backlash or the national anthem are all more important than black lives.

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Although that might seem like an incendiary remark, there is one more possibility.

Maybe someone convinced them to stop protesting by presenting inarguable proof that their protests don’t matter, and the players took note. And while you might expect me to say something about conservatives’ distaste of any form of black protest, Trump’s hate for anything with melanin or white people who masturbate to images of old glory, that’s not the case.

Maybe it was black people.

Maybe the Malcolm Jenkins and the rest of the NFL athletes have abandoned Kaepernick’s cause because black people have abandoned it, too. Because, while we were laughing at white people for burning their shoes and crying about the troops, black people still sided with the owners.

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We wrote Facebook posts about Kaepernick’s bravery, but only during halftime. We promised to buy Nikes, but not until our check for the Sunday Ticket cleared. We kept watching. We never stopped cheering for the Cowboys or tuning in to the games.

We supported the owners. If you tuned your cable box to an NFL game, you supported the owners. If you streamed the game, you increased the television advertising revenue, thereby stuffing more money into the pockets of the people who banned Kaepernick. Black America might support Kaepernick on Twitter and in the polls, but they have sided with the owners when it comes to viewership and advertising dollars.

Maybe the NFL players don’t give a damn about black lives because we don’t.

The NFL owners have never cared about black lives, they care about money. Maybe NFL players stopped protesting because they see what the franchise owners did to Colin Kaepernick and they value their careers over black lives. They are all willing to dismiss the moral injustice of inequality because the players, the owners and the white troop-loving, flag-embracing detractors fans have all reached the same inarguable conclusion:

If black people don’t care, why should they?

Or, as Harriet Tubman never said:

“I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more... But the game was on.”