Smith & Carlos, Olympics 1968

Ed.: 092517 – Words: 2003 – Audio: N/A

What a crazy mess all these “kneeling protests” have become.  In fact, public protests in general have run amok.  Likely my feelings are all a consequence of my life in the business world, but to me all this boils down to the plain old common sense idea that if you are trying to sell something then you advertise it accordingly.  This means you develop a strategy for getting the word out… and focusing your target public market that what you want to sell them will matter to them.  The slipshod theatrics of trying to sell your idea, opinion, philosophy, political ideology, whatever, by doing public protests like taking to the streets or kneeling/sitting during the National Anthem at sports events.. is leaving a sour image on your intended audience from which you are trying to get support; your image and message is being totally lost on the greater debate about freedom of speech vs. anyone who doesn’t agree in what theatrics you just pulled off.  It’s sheer idiocy!

I am a believer in free speech.. that is not the debate here.  But in exercising the freedom of free speech it also comes with a measure of taking responsibility in how to use it effectively.  Just because you CAN bitch, piss, or moan at the world doesn’t necessarily mean you SHOULD.  Also, just because you are free to say it does NOT insulate you from social retribution from those who don’t like or agree with your reason and/or method of protest.


Protesting 101: It’s All About The Imagery!!!

Freedom of speech.  If you are an American you would likely die to protect that freedom.  That includes respecting our national icons, like the flag, the National Anthem, certain patriotic symbols and monuments, etc.  No law exists to punish anyone for defacing or destroying or defaming the flag because of our freedom of speech.  You can burn it, stomp on it, rip it up… and we will defend unto our deaths anyone’s right to do that.  BUT… there’s very little in our makeup as Americans that sends us into rabid rage more than seeing our icons of freedom treated with disrespect (like crazy Trump just Tweetly echoed), whether it’s Islamic protesters in a Middle East country tearing down an embassy flag, or some pro sports figure here at home deciding to sit or kneel during the playing of the National Anthem before a game in some self-serving protest about America.  Now, add to the image of sports players “protesting” during the National Anthem (as if that already wasn’t enough to cause rage with many folks), the majority of protestors being black because they are protesting police violence against black Americans in the nation.  That imagery of protests during the National Anthem is being assigned a racial stigma, thus fomenting more extremist feedback.

We should all be reminded of that iconic photo from the 1968 Olympics (the header pic above).  Winning athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos were holding their fists into the air in defiant protest during the National Anthem.  It’s the visual that pisses everyone off.. the reasons being salt in the wound… sometimes.  In the case of  Smith and Carlos back in 1968, they stated they were calling attention to an organization called the Olympic Project for Human Rights.  Absolutely no one remembers their reason because on TV they looked like militant Black Panthers holding up their fists in some defiant black power sign.  So much for their cause; it was forgotten in the theater-of-the-absurd of their protest.

(To read their story from a past post on my old blog go here…  )


Then There’s “Poor” Colin Kaepernick

A year ago now Kaepernick decided to protest police violence against blacks by sitting down during the playing of the National Anthem.  For that entire year he’s been an outcast.. lost any endorsements.. out of a job.. and likely diminished draft opportunities (arguably also that’s because of his performance on the field).  Recently these protests have gained greater media momentum, as players from many teams, black and white, have also joined the kneeling-during-the-anthem protests.  For details on that you can read here…

Here’s the reason Kaepernick gave for sitting (at that time) during the Anthem..…

“I am not going to stand up and show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

This statement says NOTHING about police violence.  It DOES suggest the country, America, outright “oppresses black people and people of color”.

I understand he made $14 million last year.  He’s certainly NOT being economically oppressed.. in this country that oppresses black people and people of color.

But, his idiocy aside, I will assign that the more recent kneeling protestations are centering more directly with police violence against blacks.  The craziness in all that is their message is being completely lost in the debates regarding free speech, the protests themselves aimed at our National Anthem and thus being such a volatile and incendiary theater in an already divided nation, and the image that again, black Americans are protesting about some level of oppression (justified or not).  Of course, toss into that mix, the imagery that all the protests are being done by black sports millionaires (with the few sympathetic sports millionaire whites).

Here’s a bit of evolutionary chronology as to the REASONS for all this nonsense…

  • Kaepernick sits during the National Anthem a year ago. His reason:  “I am not going to stand up and show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”  Suggesting his protest was about black oppression in America.  He later explains it was all about police violence against black Americans in America.  Confusing message; he becomes a professional and social outcast for his manner of protest.
  • Since the Kaepernick event a year ago the nation has been marinating on his fate of social and professional isolation, and the crescendo has been rising on police violence against blacks. Sports figures, mostly black, began kneeling during the National Anthem.  The reason:  kneeling in protest reflects more a protest ‘with respect’ to the anthem, toward police violence against blacks in America.  More freedom of speech debates vs. employers (team owners/managers) objecting to these protests.
  • Trump sends out his famous “fire the sons-of-bitches” Tweet… because he is offended at the lack of respect by players to the Anthem… in showing their protestations toward police violence in America. The outcry now shifts.  The public is disputing (yet again) Trump’s non-presidential performance, his continued suggestion of his own personal racism, and apparent indifference to the basic premise of the protests, police violence against black Americans.
  • In response to the President (and also subliminally to the public who finds the disrespect imagery during the Anthem playing objectionable), there’s more players now kneeling because of police violence toward black Americans. But wait… now players are linking their arms in some demonstration of unity.. toward our crazy President for his Tweets?  For unity against team management who want to impose rules about Anthem protests? For sending the imagery of freedom to protest during the playing of the Anthem?
  • As I am writing this there’s a ribbon at the bottom of the screen on CNN saying, “TRUMP’S ATTACKS UNIFY OVER ANTHEM PROTESTORS”; the protests are now against Trump.
  • Trump again Tweets… linking arms is ok.. kneeling is not. More public outcry against Trump.
  • Team players are meeting before the games to determine strategy for doing any visual protests during the playing of the Anthem, leading some teams to sit out the playing of the Anthem before coming into the field.
  • Steelers player Alejandro Villanueva, in defiance of the rest of his team mates reaching a pre-game consensus not to be on the field during the Anthem playing, enters the field during the playing of the Anthem and simply stands there in traditional respect. Was that act by him a protest against the decision of his team mates?  Was it his own counter-protest in being patriotic?

Do you all see the picture now?  Where, in all these protests about protesting… is the message about police violence against black Americans??

Had anyone given any strategic thought toward figure out a way to be EFFECTIVE in making the cause of police violence against black Americans being a national concern and not just a black concern, we’d not be here now discussing all the other “noise” drowning out the original message.

Yes.. sports players have some image clout because of the interests in their sports and the media coverage.  Many players themselves have a level of popularity and celeb status because of their own performance on the field.  So why not use that?  Example.. if every one of those players donated simply one million bucks from their mega-buck contracts toward the formation of a grass roots organization that pushes the police violence message across the media.. could you imagine how much money would be collected from rich players alone toward this effort?  Can you imagine how many more people would support this effort who would not be otherwise alienated in seeing a bunch of blacks (millionaire blacks, by the way) disrespecting an American icon for the same cause?

It’s ALL about imagery.


My Feeling –

While all I’ve written above illustrates the greater issue of trying to get your message across to GAIN support rather than alienate and divide your support base…. I am also an American and I also have an American’s perspective on all this.

  • Kaepernick or anyone else… freedom of speech does have its consequences, intended or unintended. You express your opinion in public you risk feedback from others that may include being socially shunned and in the court of public opinion your words can, and will, be easily judged.  Freedom of speech also includs freedom of speech for the person not agreeing with you.
  • I’m an older white guy who has lived through the civil rights days with all that imagery of defiant black folks in marches and taking to the streets. Right or wrong in their efforts.. it was the imagery that mattered.  Police riots, protest riots, burning cities.  It’s long been my reflection that contemporary blacks have been the benefactors of the civil rights struggles of those black folks before them who many times gave their lives for the cause back then.  Contemporary blacks seem to have little concept that their struggles of today have NO comparison to the struggles of their parents or grandparents from the 40’, 50’s, and 60’s.  Seeing a bunch of black sports players kneeling or sitting.. or linked arm-in-arm.. during the playing of the National Anthem just brings back echoes of past imagery… blacks are again pissed at the world for something and that me being white it’s somehow is my fault.
  • Then there’s that old patriotic thought… you have a personal bitch the way the country is being run or how people are living inside it… don’t loose your respect for the elements that symbolize who and what we are as a nation. Use your vote to object, fix, or improve.  If that doesn’t work for you then find another country.  . love it, or leave it.
  • I also believe… if you are employed by a company you are also expected to conduct yourself in a manner when working for that company that does not cast any detriment to that company continuing to make money.. and continuing to employ others. Especially if your jobs requires wearing a uniform as that is a ready identity that anything you do while wearing it identifies you with that company.  In other words, protest all you want on your own time.


Final thought…

Steelers offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva, a former captain in the Army and ex-Ranger who did three tours in Afghanistan, stood in the tunnel, hand over heart, as the anthem played.  I would have done the same thing.  I’m with you, man.

Go, man!

To President Trump….

Just shut the hell up.  Every time you say anything it just divides us more.