“You Know You Done Fucked Up, Right?”

I mean, really?

Here is a list of things that have happened in the past few days that – cue a phrase you’ve undoubtedly seen or heard countless times, especially recently – would have seemed at least a little out of place and at most wildly unfathomable just four increasingly long years ago:

-Having sprung up in the wake of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis Police, the Black Lives Matter protests attract the widespread support of anybody with a brain and motivation to help anyone other than or different from themselves people across the nation, including in all fifty states, as well as compelling prominent voices to speak out.

-Many of the prominent voices are professional athletes, which the American public has a troubling history of viewing merely as “shut up and dribble”-esque entertainment, complete with a distinct distaste for hearing any of their sporting heroes voice opinions other than their own. Incidentally, many professional athletes happen to be black.

-New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, an important figure in a city that needed a hero in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and inarguably one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, undertook the modern white man’s burden of knowingly feigning ignorance when he said that kneeling for the presentation of the colors before an NFL game[1] – a peaceful, passive action and something that Colin Kaepernick, at the suggestion of former Green Beret Nate Boyer, did to protest police brutality and very much not insult the United States Armed Forces – was an insult to Brees’ veteran relatives and, accordingly, to the United States Armed Forces, or at least to the flag on their uniforms.

-(By the way, Brees signed a two-year, $50 million extension with the Saints on St. Patrick’s Day of this year).

-American cities deployed militaristic force onto protestors, a move that makes them look very big and strong to the people in the middle of the country who hate and performatively ignore cities while lamenting the loss of hallowed grounds such as Ross Dress For Less due to alleged looting. The Bronx burned in 1977[2], and people who would never in a million years actually go anywhere near a place they would refer to as “that slum” seem to have learned nothing.

-Several athletes, including and perhaps most notably Brees’ own teammate Malcolm Jenkins, took Brees to task on the ignorance of his stance at this time, and in the league in which he plays.

-Brees follows it up with an Instagram apology in which he hits the double of first dropping a Getty Images top hit photo for “handshake against racism” and then apologizing for the way his comments were perceived, with the emphasis on the passive voice.

-Just a reminder: kneeling was never about the American flag, and Kaepernick made that abundantly clear at the time.

-POTUS weighed in, which is hard for him not to do both physically and otherwise at this point, saying that Brees was wrong to double back on his comments.

-Brees, I guess, clapped back, in a manner of speaking? He learned all of that about his teammates and the act of kneeling within the last 24 hours? Maybe, sure. Okay.

-To really put the cap on things: fucking Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, said that the league was wrong for “not listening to NFL players earlier” and that they “encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.” Goodell conveniently neglected to mention Colin Kaepernick, nor even Eric Reid, a guy currently in the NFL and who has continued to protest.

I mean, is it at all possible that this man[3] believes the things that he’s saying? That, four years after spearheading a campaign that eventually saw Kaepernick – a young but experienced, Conference title-winning quarterback – exiled from the league over which he exercises formidable power, fucking Roger Goodell, of all people, could possibly see the light against his own cynical actions?

Color me unconvinced. The NFL is a sports league based on the idea of militarizing young men – men, almost always, and usually black – from early ages in order to use their natural athletic prowess to achieve the end goal of, right, supremely monetizing the governors of various NFL teams[4] to the tune of a few more richly-paying checks than those of the average American, for a few years, until somebody, or multiple bodies, decide to dispose of their talents, like a child outgrowing a play toy. Dance until your legs are ruined.

Excusing the fact that the #sticktosports crowd will applaud POTUS for explicitly *not* #stickingtopolitics, a thing he doesn’t know any more about than anything else, this show from Goodell is so obviously abhorrent as to almost be a foray into standup comedy, and only marginally funnier on average.

Without acknowledging Kaepernick – who, at 32 and apparently still grinding, would be an asset to any NFL team even as a backup – Goodell has done a proper job of attempting to rewrite the narrative surrounding his massive fumble in 2016. The governors had some part in this, as did Goodell’s bending over backward to serve them; they pay his check, after all, and fear of any black man becoming more than just his trade remains in the hearts of those who don’t know about Jimi Hendrix or Michael Jordan[5].

Roger Goodell is and always has been as assclownish as assclownery can get – that’s sort of the territory when you have to hem and haw at every minor grievance of people whose oil futures lost a quarter of a percentage point that week, and they want to take it out on their workers. This last bit, though? No, Rog: you can keep it. Everybody knows where you stand, and where you won’t kneel.

*     *     *

[1] A militaristic dog-and-pony show by any stretch of the imagination, but an especially powerful one given the way the NFL historically treats masculinity and fierce muscle flexing in all forms.

[2] Shout out to Robert Moses, who did his absolute damnedest to halt any progress whatsoever in the Boogie Down.

[3] I realize the antecedent is ambiguous here and could mean any of Brees, Goodell or POTUS himself. In this case, I mean Goodell specifically.

[4] As always, it is a particular joy to highlight the contributions of Dan Snyder and the Washington Professional Football Club, which did acknowledge racism – likely through peer pressure – while maintaining the nickname that has been its bread and butter for nearly the entire existence of the NFL. Perhaps #RedoutWednesday will be the thing that undoes them off the field, but Snyder is doing enough to undo them on the field. Anyway—

[5] Are Republicans going to continue to buy Jordans after his ten-year, $100 million pledge to the Black Lives Matter movement, by the way? “BUT THE ECONOMY,” I cry, as some figure of vague motivation beats at me with a club in front of the Jimmy Jazz on Fordham Road.


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