The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

NFL Players Right to Protest Trump and Police Brutality

Oct 2, 2017

In a recent speech in Alabama, Donald Trump said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

If there’s anything that shows the overt racism of the Trump administration and of this society, it’s someone as powerful as Trump and those who support him calling black athletes sons of bitches.

Trump continued to call for firing of protesting players as more black NFL players were sitting, kneeling, or raising their fists during the playing of the national anthem before NFL games.

The first to do so had been Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, who initially sat on the bench during the anthem before a preseason game in 2016. After his actions were noticed a couple of games later and reported on in the media, Kaepernick 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.”

In doing so, Kaepernick took a courageous stance against police brutality and the many cases in which cops killed black people, often caught on video doing so, and yet were either not charged or were acquitted of any wrongdoing. Since then, Kaepernick lost his starting quarterback job with the San Francisco 49ers, and after opting out of his contract with the team, has been denied a job with any NFL team, despite having once taken his team to the Super Bowl.

In response to Trump’s disgusting comments, more and more players carried out various protests during the anthem to show their support for Kaepernick and their opposition to such blatant racism and the NFL’s treatment of Kaepernick. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks refused to take the field until after the anthem.

Trump’s comments forced the hands of NFL team owners. On the one hand, they couldn’t admit openly they had banished Kaepernick from the league, and they also had to be concerned about turning off their black fan base, who spend a great deal of money on NFL team paraphernalia and attending games.

On the other hand, the owners hoped not to offend the reactionary part of their fan base, who they had for years encouraged to connect the NFL with a super- patriotic attitude supportive of the U.S. military.

To distance themselves from Trump, therefore, many of the owners took the field with their teams, standing for the national anthem but locking arms with the players. They called it a “show of solidarity,” in opposition to Trump while at the same time “showing respect for the flag.” They turned it into a discussion of the athletes’ “right to freedom of speech.”

This is not a question of freedom of speech. If it were, Colin Kaepernick would already have a job. It’s about the owners, the media, and other politicians’ attempt to divert attention away from the question of racism and police brutality.

In the meantime, the great deal of media attention has been a godsend for Trump. It has taken the spotlight off his inability to overturn “Obamacare”–despite his claims. It hides his administration’s totally inadequate response to the people suffering from the destruction wreaked by recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and now Puerto Rico. And it hides the reality of his tax cuts–planned to serve the rich at the expense of everyone else.

If there is anyone who deserves to be called by the kind of names Trump used, it’s Trump himself.