#NoKaepNoNFL, week 11: A Black Man Named “Lynch”

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Marshawn Lynch is one of the most dynamic running backs I’ve ever watched. He’s that mix of power, instinct, and speed that only the great ones possess. Once he gets rolling, he switches into “Beast Mode”, and it almost looks like defenders are truly afraid to tackle him.

Who could ever forget the “Beast Quake“, a run so powerful that it literally registered on the Rictor scale?

 

Besides being a magnificent runner, Lynch is also a bit of an enigmatic figure. He has a notorious love of Skittles! He was fined at one point for refusing to speak to the media. Then after his fines, his interviews turned into media standoffs with one word answers or “I’m just here so I won’t get fined”.

When questioned by Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders about his reticence to do interviews, he gave the all time great answer, “I’m just ’bout that action, Boss”.

Which then lead to this masterpiece:

 

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I have a soft spot for Marshawn. In an age where athletes are molded into perfect, media products, he maintains his individuality and let’s his play do the talking for him.

After a brief retirement, Lynch is back in the NFL, running for the Oakland Raiders. Early in the season, he joined in the NFL protests in his own unique way, rocking a “Everybody vs Trump” t-shirt. marshawnlynch

This week, he drew the president’s ire during a game in which his Raiders played the (hated) New England Patriots in Mexico City. Lynch opted to sit for our national anthem and stand for the Mexican one.

Classic Beast Mode.

Of course, our president, who seemingly has little else to do other than pick Twitter fights with people of color, decided to go after Lynch.

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Our reality show host-in-chief seems unwilling to do any critical thinking about why players are protesting during the anthem. He’s certainly unwilling to lead in any unifying way. No surprise there.

That someone like Lynch gets under Trump’s skin is no surprise. He’s a non-conformist. He won’t fit into anyone’s mold. Plus, he’s excellent. There was a lot of debate about where Kaepernick ranked in terms of quality of NFL quarterbacks. While comments about Kaep’s abilities are laughable to me, there is no debate with Lynch. He’s easily one of the best in the league, so good that he was talked out of retirement by players who wanted him on their team.

The NFL is a league made up predominantly of black players, not as high a percentage as the NBA, but still around 70%. The teams themselves are 100% owned by white men. It is nothing new in this country for white men to make money off of the backs of black men. What’s new is that those black men now have more freedom to talk back.

It’s easy to understand why so many black players don’t want to speak up. For many, they are the first in their family to go to college. For some, playing in the league provides security for their families for the first time. It’s hard to defy someone who signs your paychecks and the NFL owners have been able to count on that until recently.

What people like Kaepernick and Lynch have done is put the NFL owners in the uncomfortable position of having to publicly silence black voices. They’ve handled it about as skillfully as would be expected, revealing ugly racists, sentiments in the process. Texans’ owner Bob McNair’s comments that we “can’t have the inmates running the prison” says everything you need to know about the mindset of the NFL’s corporate culture. To men like McNair, the football field might as well be a prison yard… or a plantation.

While Kaepernick has been an amazing example this year of protest outside of the system (hopefully only this year), Lynch is a great example of what protest inside of the system can look like. Lynch can afford to have the bullseye on his chest because he plays at such a high level. The Raiders would be idiotic to listen to Trump’s calls for his benching. Lynch’s position of power is forcing people to pay attention to his protest and that is a win.

I think my biggest disappointment of the season is that more superstar players have not been as vocal as they could be about the issues that have lead to protests. Players are still kneeling, which is great, but we’re not seeing the high profile players make any radical statements. Don’t get me wrong, I get it! Cam Newton, for example, is making a fortune off of being a likable personality. Antonio Brown has carved out a niche for himself as the lovable guy who dances in the endzone. Maybe no one is asking Odell Beckham Jr.  the hard questions about social issues. It’s got to be frustrating knowing that if you speak your mind endorsements could hang in the balance or you could be blacklisted like Kaep.

As I was googling images of Marshawn Lynch, I saw a t-shirt in his merchandising, of which he has quite a bit, that said “Lynch Mob” with his number 24 on it. Part of the strength of black people throughout our history in this country has been the ability to take back those things that have been used to hurt and kill us and using them to celebrate us instead. There is something about the image of a lynch mob being used to rally around the strength of a black man instead of rallying to humiliate and destroy him that I find compelling and invigorating. Marshawn Lynch for me is a symbol of black strength and black excellence and I hope that he keeps pissing off the likes of Mr. Trump while stiff arming his way into the endzone…

…unless he plays the Steelers…

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As we get close to Thanksgiving, let’s take a moment to be mindful of where our food comes from. As I’ve written about before, people of color often have a difficult relationship to the land, in large part because of the history of black bodies being used to create white wealth. The Black DIRT farm collective exists to “Bring an image of Black Dirt (which is healthy and biologically active soil) to the mind of the larger community; as well as remind the larger community that as a farmer and farm, the basic tenet of our jobs as food producers and as care-takers of the land, is our responsibility to the soil; one of the basic units in a healthy environment. To retain Black, in Black DIRT, is to pay homage to the black agrarian experience and to the totality of the agrarian struggle in the Americas. The farm is founded upon the diasporic struggle in the Americas and the U.S., and to work from the contributions that folks of color have made to agriculture and society at large”. You can see more of their work here

 

 

 

 

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