News Analysis: Taking a knee unlikely at this game

News Analysis

The Super Bowl is a reflection of the reality of race, class, and status in America.

Coaches used to be fond of saying that sports don’t build character, it’s a reflection of character. Sports is also a reflection of society. The Take a Knee movement inspired by Colin Kaepernick has exposed a very ugly underside of U.S. society.

Locally activists have complained about the fact that the NFL has practically taken over the city. They have hijacked the publicly financed light rail trains, shut downtown driving lanes, and increased commuter pains. But it’s really nothing new. Since when have U.S. citizens really had a say in how their money is spent?

The NFL convinced Minneapolis, as it has cities across the U.S., to give taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars to rich people to help them build stadiums for which the people, the taxpayers, receive very little in return. The nearly billion-dollar boondoggle was initially called the people’s stadium until they realized they didn’t have to pretend. The people are perfectly fine with being duped and swindled. After all, pray tell, what can people do!

And yet, people are outraged about the corporatization of the Super Bowl and the taking over of the city by the wealthy and corporate America. But what’s different? They make decisions about us and for us all the time without asking us.

The NFL owns two words of the English language when put together: “Super Bowl.” The NFL doesn’t pay taxes because, incredibly, it is a nonprofit organization.

Money won’t fix this; it can only be solved with political will.

Activists were referred to Homeland Security and other state security apparatus when they inquired about why there was a security perimeter around U.S. Bank Stadium. People who were surprised asked, “Isn’t this the domain of Minneapolis?”

Well, yes, but the “powers that be” have other ideas. The Super Bowl is no mere sporting event, and so it is fertile ground, a real opportunity, not necessarily for scary terrorists but for scare-mongering. That is, it is a propaganda plum. They are not saying why they are deploying over a thousand police officers and hundreds of dogs, dozens of cameras, snipers, a few helicopters, two miles of fences and a bomb squad.

But they don’t have to. They know we will figure it out and be afraid.

Super Bowl security is like airport security. It is not just about security; it is about propaganda. Airports are vulnerable to folks who are committed to doing damage, and the authorities know this, so security is really about convincing the public that it should be afraid.  It’s about convincing us as citizens to be afraid of the “other’ so when the U.S. says we have to bomb the “other” we give our quick and quiet assent.

Cynical folks may assume that another reason for the security overkill is to keep that dreaded “Take a Knee” movement away from their game. And it is indeed a new form of a movement aimed at the plague of police violence and the related problem of racism in this country.

The NFL wants no part of those protests, so it is indeed likely they extended the perimeter to prevent the protests. But the NFL need not worry. The complaint press has overlooked the young people who have taken this opportunity to put the spotlight on the problem of police violence.

The group Take a Knee Nation is putting on a conference here on police violence but has received a single bite from the complaint, “objective” and “unbiased” mainstream media. Dozens of mothers whose children have been felled by police violence, along with students who have taken a knee to protest it, are coming to Minneapolis on their own dime. It’s quite a story by itself, considering these young folks raised funds to host the conference and Minneapolis and St. Paul residents have volunteered to play host to them for the weekend.

Quite the human-interest story, or so it would seem. Millennials, college students, kids from the hood, athletes, homemakers, activists, mothers, families Black, White, old and young all coming together for a common cause to address the issue of police violence. And they plan to honor these mothers, the brave young people who have taken a knee along with the determined seven players that were still taking a knee at the end of the season.

The usual excuses will not do. All the sports outlets, the big ones especially, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, its offshoot the Undefeated, Yahoo Sports, Bleacher Report, all are aware because they have written about NFL players taking a knee and why they are doing so.

There will be no taking of the knee inside the stadium. They realized early on there was a chance that Malcolm Jenkins’ Eagles could make the Super Bowl, and Lord knows they didn’t want to be embarrassed on international television. It’s one thing to be shown up on national telecasts, quite another to be shown up internationally.

They had to do something, because that big-hearted kid Chris Long may have just decided it was his time to take a knee as well. He would be right because the problem of police violence is not just a Black problem.

The more recent killings of Justine Damond in Minneapolis and Daniel Shaver in Mesa, Arizona and those in Virginia should dispel folks of that notion. No law enforcement, or anybody else, can give a rational explanation of why those people were killed.

So, the NFL has made sure that wouldn’t happen by bribing the well-meaning committee of Black players led by Jenkins. But as Eric Reid of the San Francisco 49ers pointed out, Jenkins missed the point. He may not have meant to, but he sold out his principles. He bowed to the pressure and took what amounts to a bribe. It is not about community service; it is about human rights and the protection of those rights.

The taking of the knee is a political statement; it is a political movement demanding that police stop killing people. Money won’t fix this; it can only be solved with political will.

Unfortunately, money is everything in our society, which puts the needs of profitmaking and its profiteers over the needs of people. The Super Bowl is merely another reflection of these priorities. And any opposition to any part of this is anathema, thus the ignoring and attempt to assure there will be no protest.