Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Coercion and threats slows support for Kaepernick among players

By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired
Member DSA

I don’t follow the National Football League gossip or the game too much anymore although I will always be a raider fan as it was the team that introduced me to the game back in 1977. And what a team: Stabler, Branch, Casper, Hendricks, Ray Guy, Lester Hayes etc. The problem was I went to the game on Sunday and came home Tuesday.

So I don’t really know much about Ray Lewis or Von Miller. I have heard the names, especially Lewis who was involved in a murder trial and eventually had the murder charge dropped to a misdemeanor after agreeing to testify against his companions that night.

I just now watched Von Miller interviewed on The interviewer was asking him about Kaepernick and whether he should be playing in the NFL or not. Miller was strongly supportive that he should be playing in the NFL, there’s not 64 quarterbacks in the game that are better than Kaepernick he said. But beyond that he was very weak.

He refused to say that Kaepernick is being denied a job because of his very mild protest against racism and police brutality by kneeling or sitting during the US National Anthem that they play at football games, part of the militaristic and nationalistic sports culture in the US. Miller was nervous and afraid he would say the wrong thing and be punished for it himself.  Kaepernick’s kneeling had nothing to do with disrespecting the young workers in the military or veterans contrary to the propaganda.

A short while back Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers spoke strongly in support of Kaeperncik, "I think he should be on a roster right now," Rodgers said. "I think because of his protests, he's not." He told ESPN’s Mina Kimes it would be “ignorant” to suggest otherwise. He defended the right of players or people not to stand,  "I'm gonna stand because that's the way I feel about the flag — but I'm also 100% supportive of my teammates or any fellow players who are choosing not to," he said. "They have a battle for racial equality. That's what they're trying to get a conversation started around."

I was a overly critical of Rodgers when I first heard about it but to be fair, this is a much stronger stand than most and some people do feel the need to stand for a flag or anthem for decent reasons, a genuine respect for the working class people, friends or family members that have fought and died defending what they believe is right and a just cause. The ruling class plays on that feeling.

Then I read today Ray Lewis’ pathetic contribution to this on Showtime’s Inside the NFL. Lewis, who spent his entire career playing for the Baltimore Ravens claims that he’s been fighting fiercely for Kaepernick, who he refers to as “this kid”  “…..behind the table like nobody has…..” .  That means, privately so we have no knowledge if it’s true or not. It’s like saying, “I have your back, trust me.”

Lewis portrays himself as Kaepernicks’s chief defender, and has been discussing all this with Stephen Bisciotti, the Ravens owner. Meanwhile he openly ingratiates himself with the billionaire owners who are blackballing Kaerprnick because it might eat in to profits. A politically conscious sports fan is not a good thing. We are always told in the US what should not be talked about and what should not mix, religion, politics, sports.  “I’ve never been against Colin Kaepernick. But I am against the way he’s done it,”  says Lewis.  He doesn’t say what Kaepernick or others should do to protest racism and police brutality other than score points on the field. We have terms for this in the workplace, Kiss ass, brown noser, bootlicker and for those of us that like words, sycophants.

After getting the murder charges against him dropped by snitching on his partners back in 2000, Lewis was asked by the relatives of the dead three years later what he had to say about it, "God has never made a mistake. That’s just who He is, you see.... To the family, if you knew, if you really knew the way God works, He don’t use people who commits anything like that for His glory.” Religion, the cover for it all.
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Lewis is now claiming, as a cover for Bisciotti, that Bisciotti was about to hire Kaerpernick when a tweet from Kaepernick’s girlfriend portraying Bisciotti as the slave owner in Django and Lewis the slave as played by Samuel L Jackson went public (See tweet on right). Pretty accurate except Bisciotti is a capitalist and Lewis a highly paid wage worker or wage slave if you like. The violence and coercion in the capitalist system comes in a somewhat different form from chattel slavery.

Bisciotti also owns the Allegis Group, which owns Maxim Healthcare, Aerotek, and TEKsystems  (Wikipedia) and is worth almost $4 billion according to Forbes.  And he is the dirtiest of them all. A month ago when he, with input from Lewis according to the media, was considering hiring Kaepernick but fearful that doing so might not be appreciated by Raven’s fans and cut in to his $4 billion, he  appealed to the fans and god for help, “We’re sensitive to it, we’re monitoring it, and we’re trying to figure out what’s the right tact,” Bisciotti said, “So pray for us.”

There is one thing that is certain about people like Bisciotti, and I feel compelled on a rare occasion to use the language of the workplace or the street perhaps, one has to be a ruthless piece of shit to accumulate $4 billion.

Miller was nervous because he would just as easily lose his relatively privileged position he has thanks to football, a hard way to earn it. Lewis, has already messed up once and is a totally owned subsidiary of Ravens Inc. Jim Brown and Floyd Mayweather are attacking kaepernick for the same reason, to keep what they’ve got. Rodgers may well be genuine but he too is vulnerable and is not doing enough and the other thing to be conscious about is it’s easier for Rodgers, he’s in a more valuable position on a team and he’s white. The players have a union which is even more disgusting as we’ve heard nothing from them or the heads of organized labor s a whole.

When the Vietnamese workers that made the shoes Michael Jordan was being paid some $20 million a year for selling on TV came to the US to appeal for support in their struggle against the violent and inhumane conditions they faced in the sweatshops, he dodged them.  Capitalist is a system of coercion and violence. Kaepernick has been honest and said that he is fortunate to have what he does and is using this safety net to speak out. He is now a pariah for that.  That’s why workers can’t join management or the labor bureaucracy (Unless forced in from below) and defend their members. Those who pay the piper call the tune.

I just read a piece in the Miami Herald about the statues and US history. It wasn’t bad although the author, in response to Trumps concern about where will it all end, (the statue removals) is Jefferson and Washington next, wrote, “How could a patriot be confused with a traitor? How can leading a war to bring forth a new country be confused with leading a rebellion to tear it in two?” The revolution was to unite the country on a capitalist basis and herald the domination of the Industrial capitalist over the slaveocracy. It was a progressive historical step but not based on some moral ascendancy. Lincoln never freed the slaves of the North. And of course, black folks were betrayed yet again in the Great Compromise of 1877.  Hopefully one day we will be rid of all the monuments to ruling classes.

But the author does point to the coercion and incredible open and state sanctioned violence that kept whites from opposing slavery. We have to always see things in their time. How can a US institution like Guantanamo that has imprisoned and tortured people for decades and never bring them to trial exist before our eyes, or the US prison system, a brutal warehousing of human beings, where rape and torture are common. Aren’t we all guilty?

Lerone Bennett in The Shaping of Black America also stressed the pressure of the state when he wrote about US slavery, “……. laws were also passed to leave a mark on whites, who were instructed under pain of punishment, how to act in relation to blacks. Under these laws, whites of all classes were penalized for expressing human impulses. It therefor became very expensive for a white person to like black people or to love them. This was not, it should be emphasized, a matter of hints and vague threats. The laws were quite explicit. Symptomatic of this were the laws passed to punish whites who befriended blacks or ran away with them.”

Coercion, violence in the form of poverty, homelessness, unemployment, prison, this is the threat that is being used by the billionaire NFL owners. It’s why Von Miller was so scared in that interview lest he side too much with Kaepernick. In the high-end world of football stars and entertainers, you can survive it, but it won’t be easy. They can take it all away as quickly as they gave it.

Kaepernick and the issues he’s raising won’t go away and he’s been getting more and more support. I am a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. I have raised a few times and still think that if DSA were to contact Kaepernick and offer to organize some meetings and take up a campaign for him and if those of us in or still connected to local unions were to get their locals to join it and have speakers help link Kaepernick’s cause with the wider issues for jobs, education, health care etc., this would be well received, particularly by black folks.  It would raise DSA’s profile further. Kaepernick is already speaking of these issues and he may well respond favorably.

Billionaires like Bisciotti have the money, but we have the numbers.  With that in mind we should heed the words of Martin Jay Levitt when he wrote in Confessions of a Union Buster:
 "The enemy was the collective spirit.  I got hold of that spirit while it was still a seedling; I poisoned it, choked it, bludgeoned it if I had to, anything to be sure it would never blossom into a united workforce...."

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