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#NoKaepNoNFL Week 2: I am not your priest

After two weeks of abstaining from watching the NFL, I have noticed something surprising: the NFL is EVERYWHERE! Commercials, billboards, radio… it is ubiquitous. I guess as a fan, it never really bothered me in the past. I don’t notice other sports having this much media saturation during their seasons. Football really is a part of the fabric of American life.

Several people this week have reached out specifically to me to ask about boycott rules. “Does it count if I’m in a bar and a game is on in the background?” “What if friends tell me the scores over social media?” “What do I do if I’m in an airport and there is NFL on the screens?” Ladies and gentlemen, I’m not your priest! I can’t absolve you of your boycott sins. Also, if I were, I would tell you not to be so legalistic. For me, it’s really about not giving time or money to the league. You can’t control what other public establishments or your social network decides to do. Shannon and I were at a bar on Friday and ESPN was on. I glanced up occasionally at the screen, but for the most part, I  was focused on good conversation, my watered down drink, and shrimp wrapped in bacon, drenched in barbecue sauce. (SO GOOD!) Because the NFL is everywhere, it is hard to avoid the product out right and still engage in public life. Still, the fact that I’m not intentionally going to bars where games are playing is a big shift. A bar with ESPN on in the background showing highlights is hardly on my radar.

Jemele-Hill

Speaking of ESPN, all the shouts out to Jemele Hill. I have watched Ms. Hill for a long time, since she was showing up the male sportscasters on ESPN’s Around the Horn. She is smart, funny, incredibly charismatic, and knows her stuff when it comes to every sport. It has been so excited to watch her and Michael Smith rise through the ESPN ranks. When they were given the 6pm SportsCenter spot I was thrilled even though I am rarely around a TV at 6pm. I don’t know if white people understand this, but there is a sense in the black community that when one of us rise, we all rise. Jemele and Michael might as well have been my cousins when I heard the news! Ms. Hill got in trouble this week for tweeting that our president is a white supremacist who surrounds himself with other white supremacists and that he was a terrible leader. I, for one, searched high and low and could not find the lie in her tweets. ESPN immediately apologized for her tweets and made it clear that they did not represent the station. She also apologized to the station and her colleagues, basically acknowledging that her tweets could have been misconstrued as being representative of the company. She did not, however, backpedal on her comments. I saw several people calling for her to be fired. Unfortunately, one of those people was Sarah Huckabee Sanders, spokesperson for the White House. For Ms. Sanders to call it a “fireable offense” was pretty damn close to violating the actual spirit of the First Amendment, as in the government can’t impede free speech. So far, it looks like Jemele’s job is safe, but I can’t get over the hypocrisy of people who say that she should “stick to sports and stay away from politics” and ignore the fact that the NFL has received millions of dollars since 2009 from the department of defense to essentially have a celebration of nationalism before every game. It’s also hard to ignore that the NFL is made up largely of black athletes making money for white billionaires. That, to me, is pretty political. At least nine of those billionaires contributed to Trump’s campaign in large sums. That feels pretty political too and probably a big reason why Mr. Kaepernick is not employed.

This week an email caught my attention. It was from “Revolutionary Love”. That was hard to ignore. The Revolutionary Love Project is “a volunteer-run project that offers calls to action, tools, inspiration, and support to fight for social justice through the ethic of love… We, people of faith and moral conscience, resist all policies, actions, and rhetoric that put people in harm’s way. We refuse to mirror the hate and vitriol that we oppose. We commit to fight for justice through the ethic of love — love for others, our opponents, and ourselves. We are rising up across the U.S. and around the world in protest, music, dance, and direct action to declare that #RevolutionaryLove is the call of our times”.

Ummm… hell yes!!!

Last week’s email was about a particular project, a documentary film made about the murder of Sikh man in Arizona which was the first recorded hate crime following 9/11. The film, Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermathhighlights the struggles that many have experienced since that fateful day in 2001 and is told exclusively through the stories of Sikh Americans who are often mistaken as Muslims. That anyone should experience hate because of their religion is absurd, but that people are being discriminated against for a religion that they don’t even practice is even more reprehensible. The film seems like a great resource for those who want to start a dialogue about how we can be better neighbors to those who may be in harm’s way in our communities. It seems like a film a lot of churches should be showing…

This post feels more disjointed than most and for that I apologize. Even as I still hold out hope that the NFL can become a more equitable enterprise, I am shocked by the layers upon layers of injustice that are perpetuated by the league and the larger sports-industrial complex. At the same time, I am inspired by the work of grassroots organizers and activists who are making the world safer and better in their own small, tangible ways. May those of us who have marveled at the athleticism and ability of the gladiators on Sunday find just as much to marvel at in the courage and passion of the workers on the margins.

 

 

Thank you to my new Patrons, Bruce Reyes-Chow and Sarah Gibbs. If you would like to support my writing, you can do so at http://www.patreon.com/derricklweston. Thank you!

 

About derricklweston

Father of two. I co-host God Complex Radio, a show highlighting progressive voices in the faith community. (godcomplexradio.com) I am an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church USA. I like lots of stuff. Sometimes I write about that stuff.

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