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  • Writer's pictureAaron Braxton

NFL Owners Forbid Players to Protest

The NFL has decided to fine teams who players protest during the National Anthem. What?! I find this to be completely offensive.

Even if I were an African American player who decided to stand during the National Anthem, I would be offended at this latest commandment. We have rights in this country. One of them being; free speech. Which, incidentally, gives individuals the right to articulate their sentiments without fear of retaliation or sanctions.

Last I checked, freedom of speech was firmly written in our constitution (first amendment) and is universally regarded as an international human right. Whether a person stands, sits, raises an arm, rolls over or lays down is completely within the rights of the individual and who are these owners to orchestrate such a vile relinquishment of the civil rights of their players? Quiet as it's kept, and quite to the contrary of the owners conceptions, this is not a plantation system. It's a sports team.

Protests are about change. If they're truly going to be effective, they're about making people feel uncomfortable - both the oppressor and the oppressed. Athletes have consistently used their platforms to protest injustices in this country. Tommy Smith and John Carlos during the 68 Olympics awards ceremony immediately comes to mind...and they paid a HUGE, and in one case, tragic price for their sacrifices. Not to mention the economic challenges that plagued them for decades.

This is not a new phenomena. Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, Paul Robeson, Craig Hodges and Arthur Ashe are other athletes who courageously used their platforms to bring awareness to the injustices afflicted on African Americans and people of color in this country. Today we look back on their careers with admiration and in some cases they are being written about as some of the most influential people of their time.

There are those that say, "African American players and those that support their agenda shouldn't hold football ransom." However, people have the constitutional and humanitarian right to utilize whatever platform they have available in order to bring awareness to human injustices in this country and around the world.

We have freedom of speech. It's an inalienable right and if those players want to use their platform to address and educate the public on gross injustices happening to people who look like them, who don't have the voice, platform or resources to fight back, it is their right. And those who feel, "uncomfortable," should tap into their sense of humanity and take "action," to alleviate their uneasiness instead of complaining about civil protest ruining their sports viewing experiences.

Real people are being hunting and tragically murdered in our streets. They're being railroaded and capitalized into a system that utilizes cheap labor in order to maintain wealth, power, global position and status quo. Yet, nothing was being done on a large scale because our politicians, elected officials, clergymen, and entertainers were too busy aligning themselves with those that would further their own personal agendas rather than those of the community.

Colin Kaepernick and those that share his sentiment have been a godsend for communities of color. I, for one, would rather see them symbolically kneeling on one knee than dead in the streets as a result of a bullet from an individual who malisciouslty exercised his power of control, racial stereotypes and radical profiling.

It's time we all feel uncomfortable again. It's time to shift into consciousness. It's time to end this cognitive dissonance and take action. Time to tell NFL owners to, "kick rocks," with their ordinances and stand strong in your convictions. Knowing that you not only affect the present, but the future of this country as well. If you give them an inch, they will take a yard.

This is no longer just about kneeling. This is about control. I say, "Never again." What do you say?

Aaron Braxton is an actor/writer/teaching artist and author of the young adult novel, JESSE AND THE CATERPILLAR WHO GOT HIS WINGS. He holds a BA in Communications from SDSU and a MA in Education from USC.

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