We Need New Negro Leagues

NFL owners – an exclusively white group of power brokers that ESPN calls the “most conservative fraternity of leaders in major American sports” – have approved a new policy for league players that bans them from taking a knee during the playing of the National Anthem at the start of games.

If players are on the field when the anthem is playing, according to the policy, they must stand, or they – the players that kneel – and/or the team(s) on which they play will be fined.

The players do have the option – the policy states – of remaining in the locker room during the playing of the anthem if they don’t want to stand for it.

However, this option – intended to mask the deep-seated contempt that the owners obviously have for the anti-racist message of the #TAKEAKNEE Movement – robs the players of the use of the platform that their fame and wide public exposure provide to protest police brutality and racial inequality in the US.

I don’t think I need to emphasize that protesting excessive and undue violence perpetrated by law enforcement against innocent black people is the real reason for the establishment of the #TAKEAKNEE Movement.

Because I don’t think that anyone – including the NFL owners – misunderstand that. That is, in fact, the reason this policy has been instituted.

That is the reason that a disturbing number of whites keep insisting their objection to #TAKEAKNEE is that the gesture is “unpatriotic.”

It is simply a way to camouflage their belief that the excessive and undue use of violence against innocent black people by police is not a problem – that these blacks are merely collateral damage in the war against black people whose innate criminality they believe to be a terrifying reality rather than a sickening fiction.

They refuse to get it right. And they seek to undermine brave men like Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players that are willing to put their careers and popularity with the fans on the line to do the right thing in response to heinous acts of racist police brutality – and that is make the statement that they are unjustified and inhumane, and they should be illegal.

This is what lynchings look like in 2016!” is what Kaepernick wrote on social media after Alton Sterling’s murder.

“Another murder in the streets because [of] the color of a man’s skin, at the hands of people who they say will protect us. When will they be held accountable?”

The answer is apparently never if the white – and tacitly supremacist – powers that be have anything to say or do about it.

According to Harvard Law professor Benjamin Sachs, who writes in a lengthy article published by Voxthe new policy against kneeling is illegal.

He writes: “The clearest illegality derives from the fact that the league adopted its new policy without bargaining with the players union. When employees, including football players, are represented by a union, the employer — including a football league — can’t change the terms of employment without discussing the change with the union. Doing so is a flagrant violation of the employer’s duty to bargain in good faith.”

“If, as the NFL Players Association says, the employer implemented this change on its own,” Sachs concludes, “the policy is flatly illegal for that reason and should be rescinded by the league.”

Sachs also argues that workplace protest is protected Constitutionally in accordance with a recent Supreme Court Decision. In Epic Systems Corp v. Lewis, the Court deemed that “things employees ‘just do’ for themselves in the course of exercising their right to free association in the workplace” are protected by labor law.

He writes: “Some might object that labor law does not protect these protests because they’re about something other than work: They’re about police brutality, or systemic racism, or the president’s view of what patriotism means . . . But in a more direct, literal sense, what the players are protesting is the requirement that they stand during the national anthem. That’s what the protest is: a refusal to stand.”

And that refusal, according to Sachs, constitutes one of the “things” the NFL players are doing for themselves while exercising their right to free association in the workplace.

Sachs also says there is a “serious free speech problem” with the policy.

“In general, the constitutional right to free speech applies only to censorship by government entities, not to what a private sector employer like the NFL does,” he writes.

“But there are two reasons why the players have a viable free speech claim . . . The first is that the president of the United States has been actively involved in the league’s decision-making process . . . [the second is]  . . . the owners have made clear that their adoption of the new rule was made in response to presidential intervention: They believe that if they do not ban the protests, the president will continue to make the protests a national issue and thereby negatively affect the league’s income stream.”

“When the president and vice president of the United States are this intimately involved in encouraging a private employer to adopt a workplace rule, the Constitution should have something to say,” Sachs insists.

And I feel the black community should have something to say as well.

Roughly 80% of the players in the NFL are black. This means that if they instituted a league-wide strike in answer to the establishment of this racist (it is) anti-kneeling policy, they could paralyze the league. They could make it impossible for the league to go forward with a viable playing season.

And this is what a lot of people are saying the black players should do. However, I think this puts a really heavy burden on them that they haven’t necessarily chosen to take up. Ultimately, they are professional athletes – not proclaimed activists or freedom fighters. The majority of them have families they support with their sizable incomes, and many of them are small corporations onto themselves – providing income to dozens of people, not just earning their own.

Still, I think the institution of this policy by the NFL presents an amazing opportunity for blacks to demonstrate to the white (supremacist) powers that be in this country that we will not be silenced or subjugated into accepting rampant anti-black police brutality and by extension other violent forms of racism.

I think the black community – in response to the NFL’s continued failure to support its black players and black fans – should establish our own football league.

We should band together to show the world that we will not continue to suffer helplessly at the hands of those that would oppress us simply so they can shore up their bottom line while at the same time creating a source of jobs and income for needy blacks and providing the means for black players to continue playing and earning income.

Integration has acted like a traumatic brain injury of sorts on the mass of blacks in this country. It has given us a form of traumatic amnesia. It has made us forget that before the Civil Rights Movement, black people pretty much had their own country within a country here in the US.

In that time, the national league that governed baseball adopted what they disingenuously termed a “gentleman’s agreement” in 1876 to ban black players. Black players struggled to find opportunities to play professionally until 1920, when Rube Foster created the Negro National League. “An enterprise of black ownership [emphasis added], its early financial success . . . continued until 1927,” according to the History Channel website.

According to the History Channel, “Stability proved fleeting for the Negro Leagues, however, as players jumped from squad to squad in pursuit of the highest bidder, and teams skipped league games when a more lucrative exhibition offer surfaced . . . The Negro Leagues enjoyed a resurgence of success [after the Great Depression] thanks to the backing of owners who became rich through gambling and other illegal operations as well as the dazzling performances of top players.”

Yet, integration ultimately caused the Leagues to fold. As top talent abandoned the Leagues for higher paying and higher profile opportunities in the major leagues, “The Negro National League disbanded in 1948, and the Negro American League limped through the 1950s.”

Blacks sought integration in the 1950s and 1960s because segregation does not just keep blacks relegated to their own schools, businesses, public facilities, and neighborhoods – it provides the government a systematic way of depriving blacks of fair and equal opportunities, amenities, protections, and privileges.

The wide spread institutional integration sought in the Civil Rights Movement was supposed to significantly improve the lives of blacks in America, and, yes, in some ways it did, but it hasn’t been the panacea that our ancestors had hoped it would be. It is not disrespectful to them to acknowledge this fact because it isn’t their fault. It’s mainstream America’s.

Richard Rothstein writes in an article about the persistence of segregation in American society:

We’ve done little to desegregate neighborhoods, believing their racial homogeneity is “de facto”, tied to private prejudice, personal choices, realtor discrimination or income differences that make middle-class suburbs unaffordable to most African Americans. Under our constitutional system, if neighborhoods are segregated by private activity, we can do little about it.

Only if neighborhoods are segregated “de jure”, by explicit government policy, is remedial action permitted. Indeed, the constitution requires remedies for de jure segregation.

In truth, de facto segregation is largely a myth . . . [R]acially explicit government policy in the mid-twentieth century separated the races in every metropolitan area, with effects that endure today.

One of the effects is the police brutality that NFL players seek to protest with #TAKEAKNEE, Rothstein says.

“Hostile, sometimes fatal confrontations between police and African American youth might be rarer,” he writes, “if the poorest young people weren’t concentrated in [black] neighborhoods . . .”

“In integrated neighborhoods with substantial middle class populations, police perform as public servants, not as an occupying force.”

Rothstein gets his theory wrong when he supposes that racist police brutality is instigated by black youth that are lashing out because of the limited economic opportunities they have in poor black neighborhoods. Implicit bias, phobic stereotypes, bad training, and enabling precedents are the true culprits for racist police brutality.

Rothstein is right, however, when he says that police perceive themselves as having a different job to do when they police whites or other racial groups versus policing blacks, Latinx people, or indigenous people.

This is evidenced by how commonly white male mass shooters – individuals known to be armed and extremely dangerous – are taken into police custody without being shot or killed in contrast to how commonly police murders of innocent, unarmed black people occur in this country.

This mentality – that black people across the board – male or female – young or old – pose an unmitigated threat to society – extends beyond law enforcement, as we all know. Right to the Oval Office and the offices of the NFL owners that seek to police black players and miscast their peaceful protest as treasonous and thus dangerous.

I think black people need to continue to fight this mentality, absolutely, but in different ways than we have in the past.

That is why I say we should establish a New Negro National League for professional football.

We have much more legal money and therefore more buying power than we did back in the 1920s when the first leagues were established. This means we have more capital, and we can more easily afford to support an independent league.

We have the lessons of the old league from which we can learn in order to establish a league that is more profitable, stable, and sustainable.

We have more access media through the internet, and we have more ways to defray costs due to platform fundraising.

We also have much to gain – including autonomy, protection, pride, and peace of mind.

According to Nielsen, blacks in America spend $1.2 trillion annually on mostly white-owned brands.

According to an article titled “Black Impact: Consumer Categories Where African Americans Move Markets,” black consumers represent “more than 50% of the overall spending in key product categories.”

The article states: “Black shoppers spent $473 million in total hair care (a $4.2 billion industry) and made other significant investments in personal appearance products, such as grooming aids ($127 million out of $889 million) and skin care preparations ($465 million out of $3 billion).”

“African Americans make up 14% of the U.S. population but have outsized influence over spending on essential items such as personal soap and bath needs ($573 million), feminine hygiene products ($54 million) and men’s toiletries ($61 million).”

I say we take some of that weave and Bath & Body money and make a statement about the unacceptability of anti-black violence in the US that may actually be heeded by the white (supremacist) powers that be. We hit them where it hurts, which we all know is not there hearts, but rather their precious pockets.

I also say that if we can’t reallocate our money to an effort like this – that might make some headway in the fight against institutional racism and inequality in America – then we may need to stop pretending that we care so much about it.

Instead of taking a knee, we may need to take a seat. Get down off our soapboxes and admit what really matters to us.

Stop false flagging (yes, this is a pitiful football pun).
















2 thoughts on “We Need New Negro Leagues

  1. This is brilliant, and right on and of course you would take up this issue… absolutely spot on. except one thing… this is not just a black or racist issue… This is a call to arms for all of us to rise up and resist in any way we can — Because this is the beginning of government gagging us reminiscent of the Nazi regime. Stay political … that is how many Jews got out of being rounded up in Romania, a Romanian friend of mine said about his parents and aunts and uncles. They refused to register, hid, and never sewed the armbands on because they knew. We all need to take a knee –or else / and the players should just adopt another stance to represent their voices against this barbaric violence against mostly black men. Just keep taking any stance and if it is forbidden, then adopt another… No one can squelch our voices … sorry. we will keep on expressing truth to power.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You make a really good point about how universally dangerous this sort of gagging of free speech and prevention of protest is. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.


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