Sep 1, 2016


Not too many Kossacks are prone to talk football in diaries. Colin Kapernick has altered that a bit over the past few weeks.  
The Carolinas border city Charlotte is the scene of great unrest and some violence this week. And much is said of the horrific tendency of police to use deadly force as the first option.  These events have had the effect of seeing college football coaches questioned with some interesting results — none more interesting than this.
Last Tuesday, Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney was asked to comment about Kaepernick‘s kneeling during the national anthem.  As head coach of the 2nd best team in college football last season: Dabo Swinney is exceptionally well paid and well covered by the media. His Clemson Tigers only lost one game last year — the National Championship to the Alabama Crimson Tide 45 to 40. 
This was Dabo’s response:
"I think everybody has the right to express himself in that regard," Swinney said. "But I don't think it's good to be a distraction to your team. I don't think it's good to use the team as a platform. I totally disagree with that. Not his protest. But I just think there's a right way to do things. I don't think two wrongs make a right. Never have, never will. I think it just creates more divisiveness, more division."
Swinney went on to discuss King, saying, "I hate to see what's going on in our country. I really do. I think this is a good world. I think this is a great country. It's just that things get painted with a broad brush in this world these days.
"There's more good than bad in this world. With Martin Luther King, I don't know that there's ever been a better man or better leader. To me, he changed the world. He changed the world through love in the face of hate. He changed the world through peace in the face of violence. He changed the world through education in the face of ignorance. And he changed the world through Jesus. Boy, that's politically incorrect. That's what he did. It's amazing when we don't learn from our past how you can repeat your mistakes."
NEYLAND STADIUM with U and T built as a student by my fraternity 
Being born on campus at Tennessee as son of a Torchbearer mom and UT Law student father teaching accounting as a grad assistant at the time of my birth; I was carried to UT football games as an infant. As freshman class and fraternity president when we built a copy of the iconic interlaced U and T on The Hill where we fired the scoring cannon. I was born into Big Orange Football I know the power & prestige of football coaches in the south 


Reading the remarks of Coach Swinney, I was pleasantly surprised. Despite being the head coach at a private institution with an iconic building named for White Supremacist Benjamin TillerSwinney was not acting like Iron Mike DitkaAt first glance, Swinney’ s remarks seemed almost reasonable, and I thought this ESPN statement was over the top: 
 (Swinney’s)  comments drew widespread criticism from national media, former Clemson star receiver DeAndre Hopkins and Clemson professor Chenjerai Kumanyika, who penned an open letter to the head coach that was titled, "Take MLK's name out your mouth."​
First, let me say that I understand why you did this. Your statements reproduce a long history of folks, conservative and otherwise, positioning Dr. King as the palatable Christian alternative to unruly black protest.
What better way to silence the profit-threatening specter of black athlete protest than by offering the image of a civil rights activist who protested in a way that was more “professional” and “convenient” for everyone?
There’s only one problem. There was nothing convenient or palatable about Dr. King.
Professor Kumanyika goes on to deliver a most thorough yet concise history lesson on Martin Luther King Jr.  Everything about the letter is brilliant. The content, phrasing, organization of the facts and precise application to the current situation are delivered in a compelling direct yet inoffensive manner.  This is no “attack” on Coach Swinney. Pointing out the error in Swinney’s reasoning using the facts and history, shows the proper way to engage in discussion and education.
When Coach Swinney said: “He (MLK jr.) changed the world through education in the face of ignorance.”  
Professor Kumanyika agreed and proceeded to educate the coach without rancor or contempt.
This is a brilliant letter well worth your time and effort. 
At long last, many of the nation’s well-paid and pampered African American athletes are coming to understand their power. They are linking arms, kneeling, or remaining seated but they are STANDING UP for what is right and just.
Evoking Muhammed Ali and Jackie Robinson:
Dr. King worked closely with Jackie Robinson, whose presence and success on the field was a protest. But his relationship with Dr. King became closer when he rejected the idea that his individual success was enough and that he should only engage with docile forms of protest that didn’t inconvenience anybody.
Dr. King also came to be friends with Muhammad Ali, who used his platform in the most confrontational ways to stand up against the Vietnam War. When people criticized Dr. King’s own stance against the war, he quoted Ali saying, “Like Muhammad Ali puts it, we are all — black and brown and poor — victims of the same system of oppression.”
Professor Kumanyika closed out his letter referencing Swinney’s mention of MLK Jr. and the Church:
I think the most important and most challenging part of the letter for you to read is Dr. King’s comments on the church. Like you, Coach Swinney, Dr. King made his case on religious grounds. Only Dr. King arrived at different conclusions than you did.
To quote him, “There was a time when the church was very powerful — in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being ‘disturbers of the peace’ and ‘outside agitators.'”
It seems unlikely to me that Dr. King would encourage you to baptize student athletes on the field and then encourage them not to stand for what they believe in — on the field. Dr. King’s interpretation of his religion inspired him to challenge rather than acquiesce to people in power or profit in the face of injustice.
If after reading the letter, you find that you disagree with Dr. King on these matters, I think that’s fine. I actually think it can be a refreshing and important part of education to clarify your values.
Today in America, football stadiums have become something like giant cathedrals. John Lennon once mentioned the popularity of The Beatles in England as being ‘more popular’ than Jesus. That caused substantial dishonest and unfair outrage in the southern US. But football is in many ways more popular, better attended and viewed than the Church in America. This makes football fans a massive audience we should not ignore.
The more football fans we can get to read Professor Kumanyika’s letter to Coach Swinney the better. This is what you should use in reply to every Facebook post and forum comment denigrating Colin Kapernick and the other athletes who are standing up while kneeling to focus attention on systematic injustice.
The people complaining about being disturbed and inconvenienced when they paid to see a game say these athletes should not use their positions as a platform. Of course, they would say that.

But back in May of 1970, Nixon used a Billy Graham Crusade and an iconic football stadium at Tennessee as a platform to defeat Sen. Al Gore Sr. Nixon saw 700 students vilified with some arrested for “Disrupting a Religious Service” with THOU SHALT NOT KILL signs. Nixon wanted to fool America into believing he was welcomed by students on a college campus after Kent State when strikes were in effect all across the country. We were disturbed and inconvenienced but we stood up in the face of 70 thousand “Christians” applauding the murder of brown people on the other side of the planet

America is built on the right to protest. Our military fights and dies in the name of protecting those rights. Patriotism is not about denying the exercise of those rights. African Americans are falling victim to those sworn to serve and protect. Police officers sign up to put thier lives on the line yet seem to believe it is acceptable to use deadly force against anyone they percieve may be a threat? 

Colin Kapernick and his fellow athletes have a valid cause and the right to express their opinion in inconvenient and disturbing ways. Use this letter when you come across someone who wants to deny that right to these athletes or anyone else with the strength to stand up against injustice. 

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