I would like to begin this piece with a disclaimer to protect this website. The opinions expressed below are mine, and mine alone. They do not reflect the opinion of this website, its other writers, nor anyone affiliated with the site. I appreciate them giving me a voice to air out my opinions.
I still remember my excitement in 1974 when I saw James Harris starting at Quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams. He was the first Black Quarterback I had ever seen. I know exactly why it excited me too. 1974 was the year I watched Hank Aaron hit home run number 715 to break Babe Ruth’s record. I didn’t know about racism until I fell in love with Hank Aaron in the early 1970’s.
That’s when I learned about the racism and even death threats that Hank Aaron faced. It’s when I learned about Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball and Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Bob Willis, and Marion Motley breaking it in the NFL. That’s when I started looking around my growing love of sports and noticing how there were still barriers in place; they were just better hidden.
Racism is an uncomfortable subject for anyone. It is for me. It probably is for you. Many people are going to agree with my opinions on this subject, and much more are probably going to disagree. The sad part about that comment is the opinions may fall pretty hard along racial lines.
My gosh how I loved, and still love, Hank Aaron. Hammerin’ Hank opened the doors of my imagination. He exuded class in every way I could imagine. When I heard about the backlash he faced in his chase for the home run record and the dignity with which he faced that hatred, it hit me right in the gut. How can people be so stupid? The answer is that people are humans, and humans are flawed. I wish to know that would make things like racism go away, but it doesn’t.
I got a taste of racism, in the opposite direction of Hank Aaron, when I took Athletics class instead of Physical Education in the seventh grade in Texas. In Texas, Athletics allows you to train for football all year round. At least it did back then. I have no idea if other states do this, or did it. I just know what was expected in that class. It was year round football training. Football is a religion in Texas after all.
We moved there in the middle of my seventh-grade year. Football season had already passed. It was the first time in my life I would live around Blacks, even though there were still only a few of them in the school. It was mostly Whites and Hispanics, same as where I had left. I had grown up on the border of Mexico and had been around Hispanics all my life. I grew up speaking Spanish as well as English. I still remember how angry I was when my Mom told me that one of my friends was Mexican. I said, “No he isn’t. He’s an American.” That’s why I use the term Black instead of African American, and Hispanic instead of Mexican American. To me, we are all Americans. You can tell me I am wrong to do so, and that is fine, but my heart is in the right place for why I do it.
I wanted to play Running Back. In fact, I asked for jersey number 32 in honor of O.J. Simpson. There was another young man on our team who wanted to play Quarterback. He was Black. Both of us were good runners. He could throw the ball better than I could. One day after the first couple of practices I got asked to come to the Coach’s office after practice. I will not ever forget what happened there. He asked me to switch to Quarterback. When I asked why he told me they wanted the other kid to play Running Back. I asked why. The answer I got, to this day makes me sick to my stomach. He told me that because the other kid was Black that his arm could hide the ball better from Defenders trying to find it. He tried to explain to me that Whites such as myself, are better suited to play Quarterback and Blacks are better suited to play Running Back.
My thoughts turned immediately to James Harris, Hank Aaron, and other athletes who faced obstacles like this man’s opinion. I have never been afraid to speak my mind. I told him that was stupid. If hiding the ball was so all fired important, some racist jerk would have contacted Wilson and Spalding long ago and asked them to lighten the footballs to give Whites this so called advantage.
I ended up quitting the football team. I couldn’t transfer out of Athletics and into Physical Education. My punishment for the rest of the school year was that I ran bleachers or laps during the class. The fact was, I wasn’t going to play for that man.
I do not see color when I look at athletes unless it is their jersey. On the Dallas Cowboys, everyone is Blue and Silver. The fact is, we all bleed red. I have never seen a racist baby. If someone smiles and plays with a baby, the baby will smile and play back. Some babies are shy and get scared, but it isn’t because of someone’s skin color. Skin color doesn’t matter until you are taught that it does and if you ever learn that I hope you unlearn it. Mentally handicapped kids aren’t racist either. So when we are innocent, we love. When we lose our innocence, we can learn to hate.
Racism must be taught. It can be taught in two ways. One is overt, which means it is out in the open and in your face. The other way is covert, which means it is subtle, hidden, or masqueraded as something else. An example of overt would be the team playing in Washington. I do not use their mascot name when I talk about them. I used to. I no longer do. Their founder, George Preston Marshall, was an avowed racist, who was very open about it. He did not integrate his football team after the color barrier in the NFL came down until the John F. Kennedy administration threatened to cancel his lease at their home football stadium.
Regardless of what your opinion is of their mascot name, it should be impossible for anyone to ignore the History of racism that existed with the team that plays in our Nation’s capital. Marshall finally decided to integrate after he was threatened. So he drafted the first ever Black Heisman Trophy winner, Ernie Davis of Syracuse. Ernie Davis refused to play for Washington and quoting him, “I will not play for that racist son of a bitch.”
I applaud Ernie Davis. I wish players today had that kind of courage and took the same stand. If a player of any color refused to play in Washington because of their racist mascot name I would love that player. No, that racist son of a bitch is no longer there, but his legacy of racism remains in the mascot name and I think the team should separate itself from that History. They did so when they changed the words to their beloved fight song. Why cling to the last vestige of that era?
Lots of people disagree with me on that subject. I often invite them to come to Arizona where I live and let me take them to a Reservation, where I want them to go approach a group of men and call them by that mascot name. No one has ever taken me up on that challenge despite their insistence the word is not racist. I am not surprised. I think deep down, they actually know it is racist, but they do not think it is wrong. That troubles me.
An athlete taking a stand for something they believe in, or for something they think is right, or not right. I have always admired this. Even when I do not agree with the stand they take. I will always admire it. Often it is Black athletes taking the stand at the risk or peril of their own careers.
In 1966 a professional boxer named Cassius Clay refused to be inducted into the Army by the Draft Board. He cited that it was against the tenets of his Muslim religion and changed his name to Muhammed Ali. He was denied a boxing license in every state of the union and during the prime of his career and earnings potential. From 1967 through 1970 he could not fight. He was stripped of his Heavyweight In title. While he could not fight he continued to talk, and when he talked he spoke about racial injustice and the need to come together. He spoke out against the Vietnam War, and as people of all colors began to see that war as an injustice he gained sympathizers. He never asked for sympathy.
No matter what else you think about Muhammed Ali, you surely acknowledge that he was a peaceful, loving man. He would go on to be adored by millions and was perhaps the most recognizable man in the entire world for much of his life. His protest was labeled hatred. He was the one who was hated. I find no examples of him doing the hating. In fact, his greatest foil was an unathletic, older White Jew named Howard Cosell. There they were for the whole wide world to see, a Jew and a Muslim, thrown together by circumstance, clowning each other, dear friends to the end.
The world today tells us Jews and Muslims can’t get along. They can if they are peaceful men. Yes, I do realize that neither of these men was actually from the Middle East. The point is they got along great, and it was magical. When Ali lit the Olympic flame in Atlanta and the whole world could see the shaking results of Parkinson’s disease it was magic of another kind. If someone could still hate Ali at that moment their hatred is so deep rooted it is dangerous.
In 1968, in Mexico City at the Olympic Games, Gold Medalist Tommie Smith and Bronze Medalist John Carlos raised their fists while on the podium. It was a peaceful message, yet it was seen by many as ugly and even hateful. There is no doubt it was overt and in people’s faces, but I ask you, what other examples of hatred can you find in the History of those two athletes? I contend you will not find any.
They took a stand for something they believed in and they faced the consequences for it. Unfortunately for them, those consequences were hateful and racist. Not many people know this, but the Silver Medalist in that 200 Meter Sprint was an Australian named Peter Norman. He was sympathetic to the cause of Smith and Carlos. Because of that, he was ostracized in a way by his own government. In the 1972 Olympics, he qualified to compete 13 times. They refused to send him, and then they simply sent no sprinters at all to that Olympics. Smith and Carlos were pallbearers at his funeral. In 2008, forty years after their courage on the medal stand Smith and Carlos were honored for their courage with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2008 ESPYs. It took forty years, but their courage was finally acknowledged as overtly as their protest.
In 2016 a young Black Quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers took a stand in support of a movement called Black Lives Matter. I told you before that I can respect when an athlete takes a stand, even if it is something I do not believe in. I am not a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement. I am also not against it.
Colin Kaepernick has launched a firestorm the likes of which we probably have not seen since Ali, Smith, and Carlos. Did I just compare Colin Kaepernick to Muhammed Ali? Yes, I did. A friend of mine named Steve was the first person to mention Ali to me when discussing Kaepernick, and I see it. Steve is right. Both took stands on principals they believe in. Both have been hated for it. Both have faced repercussions from it, and Colin is still facing them.
How do you think Muhammed Ali would react to Colin Kaepernick were he still alive today? I am quite positive he would have reached out to the young man and supported him.
Let me get to the meat of his protest for a minute and talk about both sides. I think all lives matter. I realize that the movement does not mean that other lives do not. I think Black Lives Matter (BLM) is meant to get in people’s faces and be overt, and people do not like in your face. I am not on board with everything that has been done in the name of this movement. I don’t condone rioting. I don’t condone violence. I don’t condone blocking roads and streets. I don’t condone retaliation against the police. I have cousins in law enforcement. I am scared for them every single day. Both that they would have to take a life and that theirs could be taken.
I also do not completely agree that this movement is speaking for all Black lives. You see, if they were I think they would focus not on the Police, but on the gangs in the inner cities. That is where the ugliest war is being waged against Black youth. That is where we see horrible examples of fighting over turf and drugs and power. What happens to these lives mattering when the Police come to investigate? No one saw anything. Do you know why no one saw anything? There are two main reasons. One is fear of being targeted by the same violent culture. Snitches get stitches. The other is street justice is preferred as a means to answer the injustice of the lives lost. In other words, violence breeds more violence.
When BLM starts appealing to these young people to stop and reform, I will be better behind the movement. I am not trying to blame them for all violence against police or anyone else because they aren’t. I simply want the focus to be on all lives, even their own.
Colin decided to take a stand when Philandro Castille was shot to death by a police officer who claims he was reaching for the gun he was licensed to carry. Allegedly his last words after being shot seven times were, “I wasn’t reaching.” The worst part is, he was shot in front of his own children. I have seen the footage of this shooting and it is disturbing, to say the least. I do not understand everything about it, including the outcome from the jury. I think Philandro Castille should be alive today. If you don’t think he should be, perhaps you could explain why to me sometime.
I don’t agree with everything Colin Kaepernick did in conjunction with his protest. I don’t think he did anything violent. I do not condone his wearing socks with pigs as police the day after five police officers were killed in Dallas, by someone claiming to be sympathetic to the BLM movement. I don’t condone him wearing a shirt promoting the actions of Che Guevera. I don’t condone him not voting in the election.
But I will be damned if I can find anywhere where he has been violent or hateful. When I was in school we used to say the Pledge of Allegiance in the first hour every day. That isn’t done anymore. I still remember the first time I saw someone not stand and put their hand over their heart. It was a girl in my Spanish class in seventh grade right before we moved to Texas. I asked her about it, and she informed me it was against her religion. She and her twin brother were Jehovah’s Witnesses. Two of the nicest people I grew up around. I don’t understand why it is against their religion, but who did they hurt?
Who did Colin hurt by kneeling? I can’t think of anyone. He offended plenty, mostly along political lines. I do not understand this. I am what I call politically stupid. You see, I do not grasp how you can support the second amendment and not support the first amendment, and vice versa. The document is right and infallible when it suits the needs of the special interest groups that buy your party and your vote? But the same document is wrong and should be changed when your special interest groups aren’t supporting it? I don’t understand how either party can condone the violation of our fourth amendment rights when their candidate is the guy in the Oval Office. Yet this is the America we live in today: hopelessly divided by hypocrisy from both sides equally.
Which brings me back to Colin Kaepernick; which side was he supporting politically? He didn’t vote for either side. In fact, I believe he openly criticized both candidates. So did I. I didn’t vote for either one of them either, but I did vote. He and I part company there.
I think we have seen football players who are politically on both sides of the fence. I am 100% sure that the NFL is composed of Democrats and Republicans alike. I believe we have all kinds of religions. If a Jehovah’s Witness refuses to stand for the National Anthem are we going to deride them too?
I would not have done what Colin Kaepernick did. There is a little bit of Merle Haggard in me. “When you’re running down my country man, you’re walking on the fighting side of me.” If I had been lucky enough to make it to the NFL and been Colin Kaepernick’s teammate I guarantee you he and I would talk about his protest. But I would not hate him for it. I can’t understand hating someone who is being peaceful in how they speak out.
It would be different to me if he was using hate speech. It would be different if he was calling for officers to be gunned down. It would be different if he were trying to divide people along racial lines. I realize every player around the NFL who took a knee was Black. Are they the only players who take stands? The answer to that is no. Pat Tillman took a stand for something he believed in and it cost him his life. Did I just compare Colin Kaepernick to Pat Tillman? Yes, I did. I realize some may not like it. But I think Pat Tillman would. I think he fought and died for the very rights that Colin Kaepernick was exercising. I think every soldier has.
I know some do not believe that. In fact, I had one former soldier flat out tell me on a forum that he did not risk his life so someone could disrespect out the flag. I disagree with him. I think he did risk his life exactly for that. You see, I believe the overriding principle of our country is that we are free to disagree with our very country and its actions. In other countries, like North Korea for example, doing this will get you killed. I don’t want to be like North Korea. I can’t imagine why anyone who lives here would. Yet if you threaten Colin Kaepernick for speaking his mind peacefully, you are essentially using the same tactics as that Totalitarian government.
I don’t condone disrespecting our flag. I especially hate it when someone burns one in protest. I had the privilege as a Scoutmaster to see a flag retired by being burnt in a ceremony. It was very moving.
Can you hate Colin Kaepernick? My shocking answer is yes. I don’t know where freedom says we have to love anything or anyone. I don’t care if you hate him. I may think it is stupid. In fact, I probably will think it is stupid. For instance, I have been told he simply isn’t very good. He isn’t? He took two teams to the NFC Championship and one to a Super Bowl. Last year his team was awful, but he wasn’t. His QB rating was 90.7. He threw 16 TDs and only 4 INTs in 10 starts. His completion % was decent.
You can tell me you don’t think Colin Kaepernick is an elite QB. I won’t have an issue with that. If you tell me he’s not one of the 96 (figuring 3 per roster) best QBs available to the NFL right now I am going to disagree. I’ll go even further; I think he’s one of the 32 best right now. So, why isn’t he employed?
I hate to say it, but I am going to, it is because he is Black and he took a stand that made some people uncomfortable. I do not condone what is happening to him in the NFL right now. Not in any way, shape, or form. I could understand it if he was asking for way too much money. I haven’t heard that he is, and I think if he was, we’d have all heard it by now. I am damned sure it isn’t about his talent.
If an NFL GM or owner wants to tell me that he is not one of the 96 best QBs available to the NFL right now, I am all ears. I’d love to hear your evidence.
Some will say he is too much of a distraction. I get that. I don’t have to agree with it, and I don’t. How was he a distraction last year in San Francisco when his teammates voted him for their team courage award? You don’t have to like the guy, but why make him out as some kind of monster? He’s simply an athlete who saw something he didn’t like and took a stand. It’s not a popular stand.
Here is what it comes down to for me as a Dallas Cowboys fan. I wish Jerry Jones had the stones to thumb his nose at the NFL old boys again and he would sign Colin Kaepernick to be Dak Prescott’s backup. My reason is simple. I do not care about the political or religious beliefs of any of my Dallas Cowboys. I care immensely about the talent level of the 53 men who are going to bleed, sweat, and hurt for my entertainment for the 23 to 25 games of football my team could be playing in if you count pre-season, regular season and post season.
If Colin Kaepernick is not one of the 96 best Quarterbacks in the NFL I get not signing him. If he has drug issues he needs to overcome like Johnny Manziel, I get not signing him. But he has none of those things. Some say they question his commitment to football. Okay, bring him in, sit him down, talk to him, work him out. See if you still believe then. I highly doubt anyone would.
In my mind, as we sit here right now, I prefer Colin Kaepernick to Kellen Moore by such a wide margin you can’t even see across the chasm with the naked eye. I mean no disrespect to Kellen Moore. But if you put their two NFL careers side by side and tell me you prefer Moore’s upside to Kaepernick’s I’m going to wonder one thing or know one thing. I’m either going to wonder if you are crazy, or I am going to know you are consumed by hatred. There is not comparison at all.
Jerry Jones once was the Maverick: the owner who did things his way in spite of the NFL norms. The NFL had a contracts with this soft drink company. Jerry signed an endorsement deal with their main competitor. It was his team, his stadium, and his business, and this kind of guts landed him in the hallowed halls of Canton. Jerry, show that kind of guts again.
He showed it when Michael Sam was the first openly gay player in NFL History. That “distraction” didn’t kill the team. I know Jerry isn’t racist. I know Jerry has friends on both sides of the political aisle. I know Jerry has guts. You don’t take on the NFL Commissioner if you lack guts.
Here’s something else. At the time Clay, Smith, and Carlos took their unpopular stands they were not exactly loved or respected. What about now? As the country grew did not the offense they had supposedly committed lessen? The same thing will happen with Colin Kaepernick. I don’t know if it will be ten, twenty or forty years down the road like it was for Smith and Carlos, but in the future people are going to look back on it and appreciate the guts it took for him to risk it all. They will look back on the team that risked it and signed him much the same way. I want that to be my Dallas Cowboys.
Do I think the team that signs him is going to get some backlash? Hell yes. When has that ever scared us in Dallas? I don’t give a rat’s ass about the cowards in other NFL cities and their tender feelings. I used to respect the hell out of the way Al Davis signed guys other teams couldn’t handle. If other team’s fans can’t handle a man with an opinion, so be it. I think Cowboys fans can and would. Would it happen right away? Absolutely not: I don’t live in a fairy tale world. I didn’t want Randall Cunningham on the Cowboys either. Guess what? I got the hell over it.
I’ll go you one better. Every player who took a knee on other teams was also Black. I suspect many more agreed with Colin than took knees. I am not saying they were afraid. They may have been prudent. I think the team that finally signs Colin Kaepernick is going to get a lot of favorable opinion within the Black community. I think players will want to come to Dallas even more. I am greedy. I want that. I can’t think of one good reason why any loyal fan wouldn’t want it.
I want to make one last thing clear before I shut up. I do not want Kellen Moore to ever see the football field. I want the exact same thing if we do sign Kaepernick. The man I am going to war with is Dak Prescott. I have no illusions of Tony Romo coming out of the booth for Jerry and saving the day. And even if he would do that, I would still want Jerry to sign Colin Kaepernick. If Dak goes down at all, I want someone ready to come in who has skins on the wall for that game. Tony can’t leave the booth in Pittsburgh and get across the state to Philadelphia in time to save us from the Eagles that day, much less clear across the country. If that makes Colin Kaepernick nothing but an insurance policy for the Dallas Cowboys, so be it.
Back to the socks he wore after the slaying of those police officers. I have seen pigs as cops for years. He isn’t the first to do that. He won’t be the last. If he signed in Dallas I would like to see him reach out to the kids of those five officers. Perhaps that could ease the tension a little. So could a Lombardi trophy, and it is my opinion that you get those by having the best 53 man squad; which ultimately is the main reason why I would sign him in the first place. Go Cowboys.