Whose Knee is it Anyway?

Contributed by Chin Nyenwe

Disclaimer: What you will read below will only echo the sentiment that a lot of people have already expressed.

The recent NFL protests are controversial, to say the least. The perspective of a Black British male in his late twenties who hasn't visited America since 1997 will be puzzling to some, but Americans sell drama better than anyone else, and I foolishly on occasions, have had front row seats.

Numerous NFL stars, along with their team owners have shown defiance against President Donald Trump, who implored owners to "fire" any of their players found taking a knee during the national anthem. Or were they taking a knee against racial injustice? Who knows?

Shannon Sharpe, winner of two Super Bowl championships and former Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens tight-end was "disappointed' and unimpressed" by last weekend's protest, and I feel the same way. The protests appeared hypocritical and impulsive. Colin Kaepernick's stance (or knee if you like,) against not just racial injustice, but how ex-American soldiers are treated, resulted in him being 'released' by the San Francisco 49ers last year. He has failed to find new employment within the NFL, with strong statements pointing towards him being "blackballed" for his political views. This kind of dismissal undoubtedly reignited the opinions of some people that both black men and women serve no other purpose but to entertain. Any display of racially-charged political expressions is prohibited and phased out with reckless apathy.

It doesn't take Stephen Hawking to see that the sudden protection of NFL athletes taking a similar stand by NFL owners reeked of hypocrisy, and in the eyes of many, seen as a strategy in egotistical warfare between billionaires (I'm looking to you, Jerry Jones). If you've ever thought about telling a really rich man what to do, this might make you think twice, as Trump has found out. Just under a year ago, it looked like the entire league left the undoubtedly talented Kaepernick out in the cold. The sudden change of heart from players like LeSean McCoy and former player Ray Lewis is another reason to question the legitimacy of the current NFL rebellion. They were staunch critics of Kaepernick's method of protest, with McCoy describing it as a potential 'distraction' to any NFL franchise. Fast-forward a year on to last weekend, Ray Lewis dropped to two knees just to make a(n) (exaggerated) point.

Am I suggesting that a black athlete can't express his or her opinion until he has the backing and/or approval of those he or she is owned by? I don't even know myself, but the context surrounding these protests are helping that thought feel at home in my mind.

Everything about Colin Kaepernick's rebellion seemed calculated and well-advised. It's interesting that his defiance came a few years after receiving his professional contract, suggesting that the exponential growth of visible miscarriages of justice towards black people had become unbearable. Accepting the advice of army veteran Nate Boyer to kneel as opposed to sitting (during the national anthem) in order not to offend the American military is exemplary of his whole mission, which to me, was to peacefully and respectfully address a worrying social issue. Last weekend's NFL protest looked like the newest mumble rapping sensation taking shots at Kendrick Lamar, only to receive a rushed and weak response to disappoint the most ardent Kung- Fu Kenny fan. The NFL has been around long before Donald Trump; an idealistic war with a pussy-grabbing bigot will always make you a little silly and will be around long after he leaves this world.

I won't go as far as saying I am an American Football expert, hell I don't even know all the rules and I'm not exactly a fan of the sport, but like most people on the periphery, I get a little excited come February when it's Super Bowl time. Nevertheless, I've refused to watch a single game since Kaepernick's disappearance. To be fair, I'm sure some players are taking a knee for the same reasons as Kaepernick's, but in the eyes of many bringing, Colin Kaepernick back to the NFL would appear the most genuine act of defiance, and rich men admitting they've made a mistake could well go down as a noble act.

Whether or not that happens, I'm unsure. What I do know is that we haven't heard or seen the last of this, the weekend is only round the corner and as you've guessed, I've pre-booked my front-row seat.

Contributed by Chin Nyenwe

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