A true story…
It was a cold, snowy November day in this midwest town. It was pretty chilly out, but not so cold that 12 year old Tyler Reilly should stay inside. Tyler was always precocious. He was a happy, loving boy. People said he had a good heart and he always thought about his mom and sister above everything. Tyler knew he was going outside that cold, overcast day because he wanted to play with the new BB gun pistol his mom bought for him. The night prior, after hours of begging, she finally relented and told him he could play with it the next day. As Tyler sat on the swing in the park near his house, he began shooting BBs at things. It started with the garbage can but soon he graduated to shooting at car tires. Boys will be boys. The gun was a 1911 Colt replica his mom bought from Walmart that looked more spaghetti western than gangster movie. Little did Tyler know, but as he was shooting at garbage cans and tires, there was someone becoming more and more worried about a young man with a gun.
“There is a boy in the park pointing a gun at people,” she said a bit panicked as she called 9-1-1. “It’s probably fake,” she said twice during the 2 minute call, ending the call with “He is probably a juvenile.”
Two officers one 26 the other 46 responded to the call and approached quickly. Tyler, who was playing with the gun, drawing it in and out of his belt loop like Clint Eastwood immediately pulled the gun from his belt upon seeing the police officers to show them it was just a plastic toy. Without saying a word, not even demanding the 12 year old to drop his weapon, the police officers shot Tyler twice, once in the chest and another in the torso.
Tyler Reilly died a day later in that town’s hospital.
The police officers, after an investigation and grand jury, were not prosecuted.
Finally, its all over! An NFL season mired in controversy, injury and let's just say par play thankfully ended and for most of the country, it ended on a high note. Fly Eagles Fly! Great game! (Sorry Pats fans, but most of the country wanted you to lose. I think we are really over y’all.) Way mediocre halftime show. I may have to amend my list and slip Lady GaGa into the #3 spot behind Beyoncé (#2) and Prince (#1) for top performances, though. Timberlake was a boring, vanilla, no Janet Jackson apology, Prince on a freakin' sheet (!) disappointment. He truly is the New Face of Dad Pop (and possibly a cultural appropriator, but the jury is still out). And only so-so commercials, but it is alas done.
No story has grabbed more headlines and attention this season than that of players kneeling during the National Anthem. While the protests really started a year prior with San Francisco 49er's QB Colin Kaepernick, they continued into this season and proved symbolic of the deep racial and partisan divide the country is experiencing. Some politicians and commentators, fanning the flames of division, would have you believe that kneeling during the anthem is THE biggest problem the country has. The rancor and overall hostility has spawned boycotts on both sides of the political aisle. Meanwhile, the NFL, TV networks, and sports pundits have placed blame for the leagues falling ratings on these protests. If the NFL was being honest and took a hard look at itself, they might see they have some deeper structural issues that caused their ratings decline but blaming the "big money" players has become the simplistic overarching narrative.
Let's start by clearing up all confusion. NFL players protesting during the National Anthem are not protesting the troops or being anti-American. Let me repeat in all caps and an exclamation point for emphasis: NFL PLAYERS PROTESTING DURING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM ARE NOT PROTESTING THE TROOPS OR BEING ANTI-AMERICAN! This is a "fake news," intellectually dishonest narrative created by agenda having yahoos to deflect from what the players are protesting. Players are protesting police brutality, the prison industrial complex, a corrupt criminal justice system, and rampant, long term inequality that is experienced daily by people of color in the United States. Period. Again in all caps and with an exclamation for emphasis: PLAYERS ARE PROTESTING POLICE BRUTALITY, THE PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX, A CORRUPT CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM, AND RAMPANT, LONG TERM INEQUALITY THAT IS EXPERIENCED DAILY BY PEOPLE OF COLOR IN THE UNITED STATES!
To put it simply; in the words of Public Enemy: Don’t Believe The Hype.
This is NOT Public Enemy's Don't Believe The Hype, but rather a video of Flava Flav slaying on the piano.
Who knew, right? He is a "hyper" talent. (Get it, because he's the original rap hype man...)
These protests are NOT about disrespecting the troops or America as fake patriots, draft dodging politicians (looking at you Cadet Bone Spurs) and a morally bankrupt conservative media would have you believe either. It is about raising awareness to a problem that is and has been affecting people of color in this country for decades. The insane notion that the players are protesting the troops is a trope that has been used in the past, by the right, to paint people they disagree with as unpatriotic. This criticism was leveled against then candidate Barack Obama when he did not put his hand over his heart during the playing of the National Anthem. They also tried to say he was disrespecting the troops by not wearing a flag pin on his lapel. Muhammad Ali got the same treatment. As did MLK and even Abraham Lincoln. It's just an easy and lazy ploy that works because diversity of thought, action or diversity of any sort scares certain people.
Which brings me to a tangential, yet relevant, aside…
Why is my patriotism dictated by conservative commentators, politicians and fake patriots? Why do people have to show they love America like conservatives or they are painted as un-American? And why is it ok for these same people to wrap themselves up simultaneously in the treasonous Confederate flag? (Eyes trained on you Kid rock, you douche.)
I believe whole heartedly in the The Constitution. I believe all men (and women) are created equal and everyone has a right to ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness'. I march in support of the women of this country that are being preyed upon and maligned by a few power hungry, depraved men. I support those in the LGBTQ community that are derided because of who they love. I welcome those who wish to come to my homeland in pursuit of a better life “yearning to breathe free.” I believe we are a country of immigrants and that diversity makes us strong. I also support a true path to citizenship for the nearly 1 million Dreamers out there that are Americans, if not by birth, but by experience and shared purpose, who are living in the shadows. I embrace the peaceful, loving people of all religions realizing they hold their beliefs as steadfast as the next person. I also thank those who are and have bravely served our country by supporting veterans groups and charities. I do kneel during the national anthem however to show my support for people that look like me and are being killed in the street needlessly by the very people that are paid to protect them. (I actually go to a restroom and bow my head. Each time I do it I find other African American men doing the same. At a Texans game I attended there was an older gentleman who spoke to me afterwards who said he was a Vietnam vet, 2 tours, but didn't like how extremist co-opted the Anthem.) I will fight for your right to disagree with me because in America you have the freedom to do so. By the way, I believe in the rule of law and if you have broken or side stepped those laws you should face the consequences NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE OR WHAT YOUR POSITION. I believe, support, and do all this because I love this country, it's founding principles and "in Order to form a more perfect union."
We, as a country have perpetuated this image that only white, pro-life, Christians (or people of color who agree with them) are patriots. It's not true and offensive to hundreds of millions of us who don't fit that mold. Look, I may think that watching episodes I, II, III before you watch the original trilogy is sacrilege, but it doesn’t make you any less of a Star Wars fan. And I sure as shite don’t need a blonde, racist, Barbie wannabe talking head on Fox News (yep, I’m looking at you Tomi Lahren you ponderous dink), to tell me how to be patriotic. I was born in the home of a vet, the great nephew of military history, I got it down, I'm good.
But I digress…
FUN FACT: Do you know why Kaepernick was kneeling in the first place? It was because former Navy Seal and NFL player, Nate Boyer, suggested it after meeting with Kaepernick. They agreed it was more respectful than just sitting on the bench, which is how Kaepernick started out protesting.
Colin Kaepernick and Nate Boyer
Come to think of it, DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHO COLIN KAEPERNICK IS? Because it is rarely discussed, I think you’ll be surprised to know that he is what some might call the epitome of the American story. Truly a rags to riches scenario about a guy who despite meager beginnings succeeded with intelligence and talent.
Born to a white mother and black father who left before he was born, in Milwaukee, Kaepernick was adopted as an infant by a white family from California. The Kaepernick family had a son and daughter but lost 2 sons to heart defects. They adopted Colin to fill the void of the 2 lost babies. Colin was a 4.0 student in high school where he played not only football but also basketball and baseball. At graduation was drafted by the Chicago Cubs to play baseball but chose to go to the University of Nevada, Reno to play football. After success in college, he was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 2011. In his rookie season the team made it to the NFC Championship game where they lost to the eventual Super Bowl winning NY Giants. In his second year he guided his team to the Super Bowl where they lost to the Baltimore Ravens. He accomplished all this while becoming involved in charities that benefit those who suffer with heart defects. He said he got involved because he had 2 brothers (neither of which he ever met as they died prior to his adoption) who died from heart defects. Since he has been blackballed by the NFL for protesting the national anthem, he has donated 1 million dollars of his own money to organizations and charities across the country. That is who Kaepernick is, but my guess it that most people just see the protest and the afro and write him off as a troublemaker.
But the "who" is really not as important as the "why." WHY are players compelled to kneel during the national anthem?
The answer is above and has been clearly stated time and time again but Mango Mussolini, the media and a bunch of reactionary folk continue to refuse to understand or care. So, again, let me break it down in bullets:
- They are protesting because unarmed people that look like them, from communities many of them are from, are being killed unjustly by bad police officers.
- They are protesting because those same police officers, who many times shoot first ask questions later, always seem to avoid prosecution and jail time.
- They are protesting because they have children that look like them and realize that even though they are worth millions, they or their children could be shot and killed for just being black.
- They are protesting the mass incarceration of black and brown people in the U.S.
- They are protesting the prison industrial complex that privatizes prisons and encourages mass incarceration for profit.
- They are protesting because of an overreaching inequality that is prevalent throughout the country and aimed at people of color.
If that is not clear enough, take 6 minutes out of your day and watch the below 2 videos. This first one is of a player, Dolphins Safety Michael Thomas, breaking down because of the gravity of the situation. The second is of former Houston Sports610 radio host and current Fox Sports host Nick Wright (@getnickwright on Twitter) spitting straight truth and fire.
Miami Dolphins Safety ( and Houston Native), Michael Thomas addressing
Trump calling protesting players "sons of bitches."
THROWING TRUTH BOMBS
"What are you actually mad at?"
The story got twisted. The story they are shilling is focused on reactions to the protests from the hot demos right now; middle Americans, Trump voters and the easily offended. That, however, is not and should not be what any of this is about. A large faction of those offended are just people who simply refuse to acknowledge the issues. Another group just plain doesn't interact with people of color and just see "rich black folks complaining." Another category of this group just like to bitch and moan. There is a contingent that refuse to see the grey areas and claim to be "real patriots." And another bunch (who should be put in a basket) are just plain racist... and deplorable. YES, DEPLORABLE! NAZIS AND AVOWED RACISTS ARE DEPLORABLE! I said it loud and proud. But riddle me this? Why won't the Orange Overlord say it unless under duress? Reporting on these demos is simply window dressing to hide the truth of the matter which is that there are American men, women and children that have been all but discarded because of the color of their skin.
Biggest Layup in political history: Saying Nazis and the Klan are bad. It's an easy win.
Look at them catching the hands of some our most iconic superheroes.
Ultimately, these protest are about the quality of life in all our American communities regardless of race or religion. They are about the freedom to walk anywhere in this nation and "to be seen as a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary*". They are about not squandering the rights and freedoms our troops fight for everyday; the right to free speech; the right to protest. They are about the type of country we want to live in. Do we want to live in one where there are separate rules for different groups because to their color? Their sex? Who they love? Their religion? These protest are about the The Promise of America.
*From Malcolm X "By any means necessary speech" 1965.
And it's bigger than a song (not the greatest song by the way. The third stanza… not cool Francis Scott Key. Not cool.). It's bigger than a waving piece of multi-colored cloth. It is the foundation of us. Our principles and ideals.
Just ask the Jews, Jehovahs Witnesses, gays, friends of Jews or gays, gypsies, the disabled, blacks and government dissenters of 1930’s and 40’s Germany what happens when peaceful protests are attacked.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
It is time for America to be honest with itself, stop all the hyperbole, empty talk, platitudes, hyper (fake) outrage, and hyper (charlatan) patriotism and...
The true story above is not about a kid named “Tyler Reilly.”
The name “Tyler Reilly, projects the image of a little blond-haired, blue-eyed midwestern kid. The story is actually about 12 year old Tamir Rice whose murder, by bad, thuggish, rogue police officers, was caught on surveillance tape.
He had a mother.
He had a sister.
He had friends and family.
He was killed with out as much as a warning. Not because he was a 12 year old kid with a toy gun, but because he was a 12 year old kid who was born black.
This is Tamir Rice. 12 years old with promise in his eyes and a future to discover shot down by overzealous police officers.
I have said it once and will say it again. I support law enforcement and believe that 99.5% of cops are excellent, upstanding individuals who work hard each day to fulfill their sworn duty to protect and serve. The problem with law enforcement today, in my opinion, is the .5% of cops who are rotten (and/or corrupt) and the Blue Wall Of Silence culture. The Blue Wall is the unwritten rule where cops don't report the misdeeds of other cops. This code is the most dangerous thing in law enforcement because it allows bad cops to stay on the street. Until we change this as an accepted culture within police departments and root out the rotten apples we are destined to repeat tragedies like the Tamir Rice murder.
The Tamir Rice story has haunted me since i first heard it. One ancillary but relevant reason I am constantly disturbed is because it took place in Cleveland in 2014. The Republican National Convention was held about 18 months later in Cleveland less than a few miles from where Tamir was killed and not a mention from the stage. It also disturbs me because so many Conservatives continue to be pro-life, but not when it comes to cops killing black people. For some reason many in the Pro-Life Movement remain silent when there is a killing of an unarmed black person. To paraphrase a pre-conservative (and much funnier) Dennis Miller, “Do these people realize that this was a baby killed in his 48th trimester?”
Post Post Script...
Don't come at me with "What about black on black crime?" either.
Black on Black Crime: 90%
White on White Crime: 83%
These stats really kinda make the "black on black" not a thing, but just to be clear, the 7% differential, while still horrible, doesn't seem so bad when you figure 1 in 4 African-Americans live in poverty compared to 1 in 13 white Americans. Couple that with the systemic, institutional racism that has been inflicted on the black community for decades and the question becomes..." What is going on with all the white on white crime?"
Its time for us to make some hard decisions and face some hard truths, America. Only We TOGETHER Can Change This.