A group of players in the National Football League accepted an offer from NFL owners for $100 million for social justice causes in exchange for ... umm ... we want to use a term that expresses the exact sentiment while still conveying a modicum of journalistic integrity. We think the most precise way to describe what the owners want in exchange for this obscene amount of cash is an Old English term called “Shutting the fuck up.”
Actually, none of the parties involved will say outright that the proposed sum is a payoff for discontinuing the protests against injustice and equality during the national anthem.
A group of mostly black players calling themselves “the Players Coalition” held a conference call Wednesday evening and accepted the offer, according to the Chicago Tribune. The group was started by Malcolm Jenkins of the Philadelphia Eagles and former NFL wide receiver Anquan Boldin. However, the article reports that there are close to 40 players who want to reject the offer, including Miami Dolphins safety Michael Thomas and 49ers safety Eric Reid. Reid tweeted this out on Wednesday:
The money would be donated over seven years—one-quarter to the United Negro College Fund, a quarter to Dream Corps, a social justice accelerator, and half to the Players Coalition for players to put toward individual causes. There are valid arguments on both sides for why players should have rejected the offer or accepted the money from the owners. Staff writer Michael Harriot and Senior Editor Stephen A. Crockett Jr. decided they would each take a side of the issue and debate it.
Both Stephen and Michael are admittedly conflicted about the settlement, confessing that neither is 100 percent on one side of the issue or the other. But they both love
arguing for the sake of argument discussing social issues so much that we decided to allow them to debate it here so we won’t have to listen to them all day to allow our readers to hear their takes.
Stephen A. Crockett Jr.: This Money Will Help a Lot of People
It isn’t often that a revolution can claim a monetary victory, but we out here! From kneeling on the sidelines to standing on a pile of cash, NFL players can say that social justice is going to receive some reparations. Is it a symbolic victory? Of course it is. Let’s be clear that this is absolutely hush money. NFL ratings are down. Way down. And whether that’s due to #NFLBlackout or white folks who couldn’t stand those pesky Negras protesting during the music played during Jesus’ birth, this was always about money. The NFL was losing money and viewership, and they needed a stopgap.
But it doesn’t mean that the money can’t and won’t go to good use. I’ve said before that I don’t believe this revolution was well-organized, and most revolutions aren’t. They usually happen after the oppressed say “Enough,” and most times, that “enough” doesn’t come with a manuscript.
Unarmed black men, women and children were dying at an alarming rate at the end of police pistols, and one player grew tired of standing during an anthem that didn’t seem to include the devastating damage done to his community. So he sat, and like the bus boycott before, a lot was gained from his sitting. Other players took up the mantle, and it appears today that the eggs of social justice reform have hatched.
I’m sure Colin Kaepernick would be the first to tell you that his protest was never going to stop injustice and equality, but it did get a nice lump sum buyout. Because of Kaepernick’s courage to stand (or kneel) up to the injustices that were plaguing the community, he was the tipping point for a $100 million windfall for the black community. If money is the measurement of American achievement, then this protest might be the most effective protest in the history of protest.
Social justice reform was never an NFL problem. The NFL didn’t create it, but the NFL had to account for the fact that the product they put on the field is overwhelmingly African American. Those players come from communities that were and still are impacted by police violence. Because those players took a stand (or a knee) and raised a fist, the NFL, which was never on the hook for solving social justice issues, now has forked over a substantial amount of money that may have a lasting impact on change.
I’m not watching the NFL this season because I, like many of my brothers and sisters, didn’t like the way the NFL handled the career of Colin Kaepernick. But I must admit that when arguing this point with friends who continued to watch professional football, I was always stuck on trying to prove what, in fact, was the endgame to the protest.
Was it just getting Kaepernick signed to an NFL team? Was it getting the NFL to allow all players to protest freely before, during and after games? If the plan was to better low-income communities and increase police-community outreach and to empower youths in low-income neighborhoods, then the money geared toward this is a win. Isn’t it?
I understand that the spirit of the protest feels auctioned off and that the heart of the protest has been gutted. I can understand those who believe that there was a bounty paid in full by owners who no longer wanted their black players bringing their pesky black-death protest onto the field, but if the endgame was to bring attention and somehow spark change, then hasn’t the protest been effective?
Michael Harriot: Not Everything Is for Sale
When I read this story, I took a deep breath and tried not to cry. I will not get emotional while writing this. I will only use logic.
The owners and the players both say this is not quid pro quo. They contend that they are not paying athletes to stop the protest, and the players have every right to continue. Perhaps I am jumping to conclusions. It is perfectly reasonable to think that a group of old, white billionaires decided to donate nine figures to black causes out of the kindness of their shriveled-up, reptilian hearts. Maybe it is just a coincidence that they did it during a season where protests spurred outrage on both sides.
No one becomes a billionaire by giving away money and getting nothing in return. The NFL owners literally own the league. They will expect repayment. And if $100 million actually cures injustice and discrimination, and 31 white men (the Packers are owned by shareholders) had it to spare all this time and kept it in their pockets, then they should all be stabbed in the throat with a sharpened coat hanger. Repeatedly.
But let’s just imagine they get nothing in return. Let’s imagine that NFL players do the maximum good with the $100 million, black neighborhoods magically improve, inner-city schools receive top-of-the-line MacBook Pros and the money fairy makes it rain scholarships on black kids all over the country ...
They. Will. Not. Stop. Killing. Us.
Money was never the answer to the problem. Colin Kaepernick did not kneel because of a lack of funding. He was protesting injustice and inequality. He said:
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.
In fact, Colin Kaepernick was not protesting NFL owners. He never had a beef with them. They were never the targets, so they could never solve the problem. It is an injustice to Colin Kaepernick and every dead black body for whom he sacrificed his career to accept a single dollar as a solution to the problems that his protest addressed.
He was protesting the police, who disproportionately remove the souls of black boys and girls from the face of the earth without punishment or recompense. He was protesting the criminal-justice system that targets them, locks them into cages and subjects them to sentences 19.1 percent longer than those of white men who commit the same crimes. He was protesting the schools that educate them unequally. He was fighting it all.
They should have just killed Colin Kaepernick.
Imagine working for something your entire life, since you were 6 years old—breaking bones, throwing up on the sidelines, risking your brain to achieve the one goal you had for your entire life. Now imagine coming to the realization that there is something more important: the very lives of your people.
So you make the choice to fight for that new thing while pursuing your dream. Then you are told that you can’t do both, that you will have to sacrifice the thing you’ve loved your entire life for the chance to make a difference. So you give up your money, your career and your dreams to start a movement and it begins to work. Everyone notices. Your movement actually becomes a topic of discussion, which is all you ever wanted. Then one day, you turn around ...
... and someone auctions it off for a motherfucking layaway scholarship plan.
To hell with logic. I’d rather die.
May God damn their feckless, unprincipled souls.
Fuck them all.