Six weeks ago, when the entire world watched homegrown white American terrorists storm the U.S. Capitol in a dangerous temper-tantrum/coup, Colin Kaepernick’s name and image kept being mentioned. The people that called Kaepernick unpatriotic for peacefully kneeling during a racist song because police officers have a long history of using Black bodies as target practice, were now trying to capture elected officials – from their own party – and even killed a police officer.
The irony, or the dichotomy, or whatever word you want to use, was happening right there on TV in real time. It was clear that this was never about a flag or the National Anthem. This was about white America being furious at the idea of a Black man being relentless in his attempt to make them see their failures while forcing them to be better. To them, kneeling is blasphemous while an insurrection is a “revolution.”
But don’t take my word for it, just ask some of the Black basketball players at Bluefield College who were suspended for kneeling, causing a recent forfeit. The Rams forfeited last week’s game against Reinhardt University after school president David Olive suspended the whole team because they took a knee during a home game against Tennessee Wesleyan University on February 9.
“The basis for my decision stemmed from my own awareness of how kneeling is perceived by some in our country, and I did not think a number of our alumni, friends, and donors of the College would view the act of kneeling during the anthem in a positive way,” Olive wrote in a statement obtained by ESPN.
From everything we know about this situation, this has been a game of “he said, she said” about whether or not athletes at Bluefield were ever told that they could kneel, and if that came with the support of the school.
However, that’s not what’s important here, given that the school is run by a white man who said this:
It goes without saying that this has been a challenging process for all parties involved. I have heard and I understand the perspective of our players as to why they desire to kneel during the National Anthem. I also know this form of protest immediately shuts down a number of individuals from listening to the intended message because of their perspective regarding the flag. No individual’s sincere motives are inherently wrong. But I continue to contend that we will not get to where we want AND NEED to get as a country in addressing these racial issues without making honest attempts at creating pathways that bring people together for a common cause.
Notice that Olive said that this has been a challenging process for all, as if he and people that look like him have suffered from centuries of systemic racism and police brutality. Pay attention to when Olive said he understands why players want to kneel, but then suspends them. Focus on how Olive believes that “no individual’s sincere motives are inherently wrong,” which in theory, would mean that he understands why the people who showed up in Charlottesville and at the Capitol did what they did, as they walked around with Confederate flags or ones that said Trump, not the one with stars and stripes. And lastly, re-read Olive’s last line, as he believes kneeling detours “us” from bringing people together, or hindering unity.
Far too often that state of being is longed for by the ones who are habitual line-steppers. If you Google “Republicans call for unity” you will immediately see articles from The Washington Post, Newsweek, BuzzFeed News, Esquire, USA Today, and the Boston Globe about how the GOP is crying and begging for unity from President Joe Biden, Democrats, Black people, and people of color all because they lost an election they rigged in their favor through voter suppression and gerrymandering, a defeat that caused members of their party to be filled with rage.
Translation: Please don’t do to us what we did to you. Just act like it never happened. Extend us grace and forgiveness, although you know it’s something we will never offer you.
Oh, and if you’re still wondering about the student-athletes at Bluefield College, the team has decided not to kneel or speak out about police brutality and racial injustice anymore in hopes of saving their season.
They’ve been broken. President David Olive got his way. This is what “unity” looks like.