By KAI McGEE
As our not so lazy days of summer are winding down, I was excited to spend some quality time with my favorite tween. In just a few short days we will be back to the grind of back to school, full-time soccer practice and what sometimes feels like two very busy ships passing in the night. As we ate and discussed trap music (big frown), his ranking on NBA 2K (I am so lost) and why he desperately needs a cell phone this school year (headache and eye roll) my son asked me if we were going to boycott the NFL this year. Hold up, wait a minute… “Tell me more, perfect child” was flashing in my mind. I wanted to shout out, “Hell yeah!” But I did what any respectable mom would do and replied, “What would you like to do?”
My question was sincere. I wasn’t trying to thwart the issue or evade the conversation. I was genuinely interested in what my black boy cub at the wise young age of eleven wanted to do. I didn’t want to force my opinion on him. I was also intrigued that he was exploring this as an option. I did not realize that he was aware that Black folks are talking about boycotting the NFL this season. If you don’t know about the NFL boycott, now you know. This is a conversation that many families in Black households will be engaged in for weeks to come.
American tackle football, in particular the NFL, has been enjoyed for generations in my family. We are New York Giants fans. We bleed blue. It’s a game that has bonded us and created lifelong memories. The two super bowls where my New York Football Giants beat the Patriots will go down in family sports fun history. So here we are with pre-season upon us and the prospect of Sunday’s filled with food, family, fun & football only weeks away.What is a great American pastime? Is there such a thing for black people? Click To Tweet
Yes, it’s football season. What does that mean? In some parts of the country football is a religion. We don’t go that hard but we do enjoy the game. “They” say football is one of the great American pastimes. The words “great American pastime” make me cringe. What exactly is a great American pastime? Is there such a thing for black people? Hasn’t history shown us that there are great white American pastimes and separate great black American pastimes with completely different meanings? I believe it has. Well, the meaning of this so-called “great American pastime” in the lives of black folks has come to rear its ugly head because of a young man named, Colin Kaepernick.
The National Football League was founded in 1920 and took on its current name in 1922. The league like many things in America has a dark history, predicated on owners controlling players and a segregationist mentality with regard to the treatment of Black players. It is common knowledge and history has the receipts which show that Black players were not treated equally. They were given roles on the field that required speed. The roles for positions where intelligence was needed, such as quarterback, were given to white players. Nothing new here folks. Currently, Black men represent approximately 70% of the NFL players. And for those who may not be aware, the NFL is a billion dollar industry.How dare a Black man, a super-star, act like he's not the NFL's indentured servant. Click To Tweet
So when a Black man decided last year to take a stand by kneeling during the National Anthem, the NFL and their owners were not happy. Kaepernick sealed his fate when he decided to silently protest on the platform they’d given him. The owners of the NFL saw it as complete disrespect for the game and for the “opportunity” Kaep had been given. How dare a Black man making millions, a super-star, decide to act like he was not their indentured servant. How dare a Black man decide that he could use his voice, his status to shed light on police brutality. Well, Kaepernick did and he started a conversation, a movement and an awakening in Black communities all across the nation. But with that decision, it seems that an unspoken pact was made between those in positions of power that he would never play in their NFL again.
It appears that the slave master has quieted his slaves. The slave master has put all his slaves on notice that if they want to take a stand with the likes of Kaepernick, to be political, to protest social injustice and highlight one of the gravest human rights issues of our day then they will be unemployed and unpaid. Sadly, it appears to have worked. Not one player of status has taken a stand with or for Kaepernick by walking away to protest the fact that he has been black balled. It appears that everyone is just lying low. Don’t start none. Won’t be none. Imagine if all the top players who bring the league billions of dollars came together to show the master he was not in control. To show the master he was not their master after all. Just. Imagine.What if the top players who bring the league billions showed the master he's not in control? Click To Tweet
As a Black mother raising a Black boy in America in 2017, it disturbs me that Colin Kaepernick has been put on a “do not hire” list and nothing is being done about it. It disturbs me that there is not outrage coming from all facets of life. It disturbs me that my young son is having to make a decision about boycotting a sport he loves to watch because a man has to face a penalty for peacefully taking a stand by taking a knee.
I’m proud that my boy cub knows his history. I’m proud that my son is aware of social injustice. I’m proud that he is willing to sacrifice watching his favorite team this year because in his words, “it’s just not fair, mom.” I’m proud that I am raising a conscious young man who has compassion for those who are being treated unjustly. Every time a Black man is killed at the hands of police, we discuss what happened and the disregard for human life. I try to reassure him in those moments that his life is valuable. That his skin is beautiful. But as his mother, I think about the value of his life on a daily basis. I think about the fact that in this society it has been de-valued in the most egregious of ways. I wonder what negative titles will be placed upon him in a few short years because of that gorgeous, mocha, skin tone. I wonder if he will have the courage to take a knee for injustice in whatever field he goes into. Most importantly, I wonder if any other Black boys will take a knee with him.
I’m determined to have these hard conversations with him. I’m prepared to wipe tear stained eyes when racism and inequality land on our doorstep as the safety of elementary school ends. These are important lessons he’s learning and it’s just the beginning. The reality is no matter how much fortune he may amass in this lifetime his skin color will be what is seen and judged first. What he chooses to do with that reality is up to him.My son's decided to take a stand for @Kaepernick7, a man who took a knee for him. Click To Tweet
He’s decided to boycott & I’ve got his back. No fantasy football for me this year. No hot wings, potato salad and margaritas during Sunday football fundays. I hope more families at least engage in the conversation about boycotting. I get it. Boycotting is not for everyone. But I think it’s important to start a dialogue about what’s going on, why it’s going on and why it’s unjust. We need to be mindful of the industries we as Black people support with our money, time and passion. We need to support industries that support us with the same commitment and fervor. My boy cub has decided to take a stand for Kaep this year and I couldn’t be prouder. Kaepernick wasn’t his favorite player and has never been on any of his favorite teams. But none of that matters to him. He’s decided to take a stand for a man who took a knee for him.
My son is a part of a generation of Black boys that must wake up, be counted, be heard, be respected and demand to be valued.
As the football season takes shape, there will be free time now that we won’t be glued to the games all day on Sundays. Maybe he’ll start making his bed without being asked and folding his clothes.
I know; I’m delusional. But a mom can hope, can’t she?
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Kai McGee, J.D., is a writer and photographer. She is also a breast cancer survivor who actively volunteers with The American Cancer Society’s: Reach to Recovery program. In her past life, she was a lawyer/executive. When she’s not writing, she enjoys traveling and lazy mornings in bed watching the food network. She resides in South Florida with her tween son and canon camera. Follow her on Instagram: @onanaturalkai. You can also reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.