This week feels like it’s lasted a month… On Wednesday, I wrote about Eric Reid’s dustup with Malcolm Jenkins, and how comparing the men to Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. is way off the mark.
Of Jenkins, Fleet McClamrock wrote:
Jenkins, if he was truly trying to “solve” the problem, should have at least made the NFL stop blackballing Kap as part of the deal. To agree to a settlement without protecting Kap shows Jenkins was only thinking of himself and the Players Coalition.
I can’t divine other people’s intentions, but Malcolm Jenkins has always made me suspicious. When he started protesting by raising his fist and shouldered his way into the spotlight, it seemed slippery to me — a slick form of fence-sitting designed to win one side and not alienate the other. And it mostly worked, so I suppose I can’t be mad at him for being smarter than the rest of us about these things. Personally, I’m glad Eric Reid spoke up. It got me to take a closer look at Jenkins and the Players Coalition, and what I found coming out of Jenkins’ own mouth seemed to confirm my suspicions about him. I also think I got a good piece of writing out of it.
As for Jenkins’ refusal to stand up for Colin Kaepernick… I think he regrets it. At the time the Players Coalition was negotiating with the NFL, Kaepernick wouldn’t have seemed to have much value to anyone who was thinking in the short term. (Anyone who’s thought things through even a little bit can see that Kaepernick has already won the long (20-year) game.) Perhaps Jenkins saw all the knives that were out for Kaepernick and (pretty rationally, if callowly) decided that he didn’t want any part of that. Perhaps there is some truth to the claims that Kaepernick was causing chaos (the kind of stubbornness it takes to do what he did causes friction). Perhaps there are other reasons we on the outside know nothing about for the men to dislike each other. Whatever happened, though, it was a bad look to leave Kaepernick twisting in the wind.
It’s one of the things that bothers me the most about all this: the way this “brotherhood of gladiators” seems to be filled to the rafters with frightened little boys. If the league can do what it did to Kaepernick — a quarterback who was only a few years removed from a Super Bowl appearance — they can do it to pretty much any other player. That should have been enough of a reason for more players to speak up for Kaepernick — self-interest. I also don’t get how the NFLPA just twiddled its thumbs and didn’t shout the whole building down when they realized a qualified member of their union was being denied employment in retaliation for unpopular political speech that broke no rules. Actually, I do get it: they were trying to avoid taking on the punishment Kaepernick was receiving.
Kaepernick’s grievance case against the NFL having legs has changed things. I don’t think anyone who wasn’t paying very close attention expected it to make it past summary judgment. Once his lawyers had made it through the earlier stages of discovery, the union became more animated. Then Eric Reid filed his own grievance, and the union supported him. The cowardly union getting involved is how I knew Kaepernick’s lawyers had something solid. Whether it’s enough to get them all the way over the hump, we’ll see in a few months.
The biggest shift, though, is Nike getting involved. It’s proving what plenty of people have been saying since this whole thing started: Kaepernick is the conduit to giant piles of cash. Someone just had to pull the lever. The Kaepernick ICON tee sold out online a couple of hours after Nike made it available. I don’t think that’s unconnected to Malcolm Jenkins coming out this week and saying the Jaguars should hire Kaepernick. Nike carries a big stick in pro sports, and no one wants to get hit with it. Kaepernick is Nike’s new golden boy, and anyone who wants to work with Nike amicably in the near future needs to respect that.
I may be jaded, but Jenkins’ comment about the Jaguars looks to be a repeat of what happened with the protest: Jenkins finding a way to sidle into Kaepernick’s spotlight to try to siphon off some of the attention and curry favor with a powerful entity. It may also be a woefully tardy attempt to mend fences. Kaepernick has closed a tight circle around him, though, and I think he and Eric Reid are holding a grudge over what happened with the Players Coalition. Even though Kaepernick doesn’t tweet or interact much, I think he’s on Twitter much more than he lets on (he’s too fast on the trigger to respond to some things not to be). After Reid called Jenkins a neo-colonialist, here’s something Kaepernick retweeted:
I don’t think the bad blood is going anywhere.
Yesterday, I wrote about how dismissing bigoted, violent rhetoric as “just trolling” is part of what got us here and is keeping us here. Of people suffering from “frustrated White entitlement” I said, “It’s why sports is such a fraught arena for them. The scoreboards don’t lie to protect their egos. It’s much deeper than that, though, and more sinister.”
Marley K. responded with an important bit of historical context:
All they do is win, win, win no matter what.
~ DJ Khaled
This is a pretty deep statement. I never actually thought about it in these terms, but I can remember my father (who played sports in the segregated South) telling me about how they would make sure whenever they got the chance to play White teams during segregation, the refs would always cheat for the White children to make sure they always won.
While the Black teams were inside playing, their school buses would be sabotaged to ensure they would be stranded on the side of the road at night for harassment later, especially if they managed to beat the White team.
That analogy is the perfect description of White entitlement and how throughout life many White men and women have not really played on a fair playing field to protect their egos. And so they can always win! By any means necessary…that’s the White man’s way whether they’ll admit it or not!
Sports. Somehow, serious social, political, and economic issues are magnified by grown men playing children’s games. It’s the meritocracy. There’s only so far the unlevel playing field can get you. There’s only so much cheating you can get away with when the world is watching. It’s much, much harder to keep real talent down in sports. You can’t gaslight someone out of being 6’7” and super agile the way you can gaslight them into thinking they’re bad at math. It’s not an accident that outside of outright segregation or otherwise limiting access to resources and opportunities, the “intelligence” play is the only tactic White entitlement could use successfully to shove Black players out of being stars. Look how long it took for Black quarterbacks to grow in numbers. They supposedly weren’t “smart” enough to take the reins of a football team.
Colin Kaepernick is at the center of so many intersecting American problems, man… I think that’s why I keep circling back to write about him. But he’s so reclusive that it’s quite hard to get a full grasp on what he’s really like. I’ve been trying to write a longform essay about the mystery that is Colin Kaepernick, but I can’t seem to figure out how to do it… I suppose I’ll put it into the universe that in the not-too-distant future, I’ll employ ninja-like stealth to penetrate the fortress he’s built around himself and somehow manage to convince him to let me write a profile of him instead of calling security on me.
Dale Ruff also responded to my piece on trolling.
Thanks for telling it like it is: 95% of trolls are young males, seeking not only attention but seeking to inflame the passions of hatred and resentment that motivate them. Almost all use fake names as a form of a cyberhood. Almost all react to factual information with vulgar personal attacks and snarls.
The old advice to not feed the trolls is no longer adequate. That leaves their lies unchallenged. What I have learned to do is to say something like: “I forgive you your ugly insults…I understand it is all you have.”
I’m not so sure ugly insults aren’t all they have anymore… That’s what’s so scary about this moment. They have a President, they have a Congress (hopefully not for much longer), and they have the Supreme Court. Their values and interests are being represented at the highest levels of the U.S. government. That emptiness, all that resentment and hatred is driving the creation of policy in America.
I didn’t realize my two pieces this week were connected until I got this comment. I think what was sticking in my craw about Jenkins, is that the two-step he’s doing proves that he doesn’t understand this isn’t business as usual, that they really are fascists. Charitable giving and police ride-alongs aren’t what’s required in this moment. It’s not enough. I may sound like an overly harsh thing to say about people who are doing good in their communities, but literal Nazis are in the White House. Smiling and partnering with the people enabling that isn’t the right play. If you’re not willing to alienate people, you can’t lead in this moment and need to have the self-awareness to step aside.
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoy what’s coming up next week!