Monday, October 17, 2016

Sports announcers tiptoe around Kaepernick as they undermine him

By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I was watching a bit of football yesterday and you have to marvel at the commentators. They were going on about the weather and what this means for the players. The ball gets wet. It can slip through their hands. It’s hard to hold on to. The field is muddy and the players can slip so they might have to change their cleats.  The problem is the longer cleat could get stuck in the mud and it could cause a knee injury. Fairly interesting stuff about the cleats but like the suicide bombing instructor told his students, “I’m only going to show you how this works once.”  How many times do we need to be told you can slip easier in a muddy field than a dry one?

Yup, I can see why women were excluded in this profession for so long, discourse like that takes real brains and knowledge that is accumulated over years of playing football. It also takes an intimate understanding of meteorology and weather patterns not to mention a thorough knowledge of soil consistency.  That’s why these folks get paid so highly.

Well, I am being facetious of course, any number of men (and women) I worked with all those years could have made football commentary as interesting if not more so. But really, you can only say so much about football.

Then the real reason the dialogue is so limited is revealed in the intellectual analysis at half time. We hear the same type of chatter every week, if that’s how one spends their time that is. But this time the San Francisco 49ers were playing and got beat. They got beat pretty bad and it’s an awkward moment as Colin Kaepernick was quarterback for SF. Oh my, what can they do? It’s that elephant in the room, that embarrassing moment when you realize you have to say something but you have to be very careful you don’t upset the boss, that you don’t break the rules that are necessary if one doesn’t fall in to the abyss and have to go find a real job.

The host asked the other three (or four, I can’t remember) what they thought about his level of play. I'm pretty sure something was said about his protest, not standing for the national anthem in order to bring attention to the daily killings of black people by the police, but I missed it.  One commentator talked about Kaepernick’s need to concentrate on football, another that he needs to forget about the little things. These are references to his political statement.  “Little things?”

They can’t ignore what Kaepernick did as it has received considerable support except from folks like members of the US Supreme Court, the top judicial body that interprets society’s laws in a way that doesn’t threaten the undermine the capitalist system, but most importantly from workers, students and even military veterans. Imagine it. A simple, harmless thing like kneeling during a national anthem is so terrifying they have to dance around it. And why play a national anthem during a football game? Because it enforces the idea that there are no class antagonisms in society. They always have ads for the military too. They need our kids to fight their profit driven wars. Here's the honest truth: They are not defending us from external enemies. They are diveritng attention from internal ones.

More than any other advanced capitalist economy, US capitalism desperately fears the immense power that the US working class has. The theoreticians of capitalism are aware of the revolutionary history of this country from its early beginnings as a modern nations state and before that. The resistance to colonization by the native population, slave revolts, the rise of the industrial working class and the strikes, battles and huge factory occupations that built the unions and the black revolt that followed.

The propaganda is fierce. Hollywood churns out garbage movies that generally have us all living in neighborhoods most of us don’t live in. The struggle to pay the rent, keep the kids in college, enjoy some leisure time after working three jobs or the two months or more a year than most other workers in the advanced capitalist economies do, is all absent. Even when the propagandists of the 1% do make movies about history it is will be false. Yes, it will be the “white man’s” history as some people of color might refer to it. But which white man is the issue. It is the history of the white capitalist class; it is their history. They are white skinned, they are Protestants in the main, but these are secondary issues. Most Protestants are workers.Today there is a significant black middle class and even a small black bourgeois. It is the black petit bourgeois whose role it is to hold back the revolutionary potential of the black workers.

We are taught to worship their heroes. It’s not an accident that few American workers know of Eugene Debs, Big Bill Haywood, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn or Dan Ettor, the young leader of the great Lawrence Strike. The history of the white working class will be painted with the white capitalists brush, in their universities, their film studios their history books and it will always be taught in a way that divides workers, that keeps the racial and gender divide alive. In Mother Jones’ biography it talks of Big Mary Septak. She ran a boarding house for workers in Pennsylvania I think and led a mass of women to the picket line to confront the gun thugs hired by the coal barons because the men were so savagely beaten an often murdered by company thugs.

I wanted to find out more about her just to understand more about her history. There are millions of Big Mary Septaks from all cultures, races and religions, people to whom we owe our thanks and a debt of gratitude. They are not widely known because they are the wrong heroes. They stood against the tide.  They did what the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies are doing in North Dakota. Those who thought the Native Americans were defeated have been proven wrong.

There are a number of local issues on the ballot in my town. I refuse to support any bond measures. No taxes on workers, the middle class or community businesses. There is money everywhere, we have to go get it. To be successful workers have to be united. The bosses know this and fear it. This is why the uncomfortable Kaepernick moment at the half time analysis during the raider Kansas City game. Kaepernick's actions are not perfect, it is a minor show of defiance and he could do more. Yet he must be discredited. How the ruling class fear us.

That the analysts had to belittle Kaepernick in some way “concentrate” on football forget about the “little things, is evidence enough that we are far from free. Capitalism is constant coercion all the time and the most brutal violence when it is threatened. Had one of these commentators shown any serious sympathy for Kaepernick’s stand, let alone support him, the good living, limelight, fame and money would be gone a lot quicker than it arrived. The gravy train would end as we say.  This coercion is the same in all workplaces of course, which is why they hate unions or any unity of workers, organization makes us stronger, freer. This is not freedom.

In the absence of ownership of the mass media, all workers must support Kaepernick. It is in our interests to do so. Accepting in our own minds that we do not live in a free society but an oppressive one is a good thing. It is the first step toward real emancipation.

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