The Long View of Sports Protests

About this Episode

Guests
Hasan Jeffries, Robert Bennett, Marc Horger

In 2016, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the National Anthem to raise awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement. When President Donald Trump weighed in by condemning such actions, the focus dramatically expanded to questions of free speech, patriotism, and respecting the flag. While many lament the entrance of politics into their Sunday football, we speak with three historians and sports fans—Hasan Jeffries, Robert Bennett, and Marc Horger— to discuss the long history of sports protests, why they are so controversial, and the historical issues at the heart of today's conversation. Listen in, as we learn how sports have never been immune from politics or protest.

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Cite this Site

Brenna Miller, Jessica Viñas-Nelson , "The Long View of Sports Protests" , Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective
November, 2017
https://origins.osu.edu/historytalk/long-view-sports-protests?language_content_entity=en.
November, 2017

Transcript

Brenna Miller   

Welcome to History Talk the podcast that brings together a panel of experts to discuss current events in historical perspective. I'm your host, Brenna Miller.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson  

and I'm your other host Jessica Vinas-Nelson. During the 2016 season, former San Francisco Forty Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem to protest the oppression of black people and people of color in the United States. He vowed to continue protesting until the American flag "represents what it is supposed to represent".

 

Brenna Miller   

Initially, only a few players joined Kaepernick, but after President Donald Trump tweeted that NFL players should be fired if they fail to stand for the national anthem in the fall of 2017, outcry against the protest came to dominate NFL coverage and other sports as well. Critics of the protest lamented that athletes should not have brought politics into sports, but sports have never been immune from politics. Today, we have three guests in the studio to discuss the history of sports and protest. Dr. Hasan Jeffries is an associate professor of history at The Ohio State University and a specialist in 20th century African American history.

 

Dr. Hasan Jeffries 

Hi. Good to be here.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson  

We also have Dr. Robert Bennett, a program specialist with a dual appointment with Ohio State University's Office of International Affairs and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. He also researches education opportunities for student athletes.

 

Dr. Robert Bennett 

Hello, good evening. Glad to be here.

 

Brenna Miller   

And finally, also in the studio with us, we have Marc Horger, a senior lecturer in the Department of Human Sciences at The Ohio State University specializing in the history of American sports.

 

Marc Horger 

Pleasure to be here.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson  

Thanks for joining us today. Briefly, what are the recent NFL protests about exactly and why has there been an outcry against them?

 

Marc Horger 

Like many of the things we're arguing about in the culture right now, it's about two or three things simultaneously, which is why it's very difficult to get a handle on. From the Kaepernick's perspective It began last season when he began kneeling for the national anthem before San Francisco Forty Niner's games, in an effort to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. And a handful of other players had done that in the NFL last year. A few other athletes and other sports Megan Rapinoe, I believe in American women's soccer and a few others. And then this season, it turned into two other things more or less simultaneously. One, it turned into a protest of the fact that Kaepernick was not signed as a free agent this year, despite being obviously better than a fairly substantial percentage of the other quarterbacks in the NFL. And then that fact was politicized by the president, not only in tweets, but at a rally in Alabama political rally in Alabama, where he was endorsing the primary opponent of Ray Moore, where he referred to Colin Kaepernick, if I may use the vernacular since the President did that, “a son of a bitch, that son of a bitch should be fired,” which drew a big reaction from the crowd, which then turned it into something forcing the NFL as a whole, to respond to the fact that the President of the United States had attacked most of its labor force. So like a lot of things we deal with, when we deal with the political culture, it's kind of two or three moving pieces all at once.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson  

How has Trump and others’ critiques impacted and even reshaped public understandings of the protests?

 

Dr. Hasan Jeffries 

Well, I think what Trump had to say and the way he was framing it, especially after that political rally, immediately after the political rally, the response to him, and the criticism of him disparaging Colin Kaepernick and African American players was an attempt to change the narrative. Right, that the problem is nobody, and certainly not these people should disrespect the flag. And so the question of police violence against African Americans suddenly becomes secondary, that the problem with this isn't even a free speech issue. It's a disrespect to the flag, disrespect to veterans, a disrespect to America as a whole, which was neither the intention nor the purpose, nor even really a part of what was the plan, in terms of raising attention. Now, certainly, there have been those who had criticized Kaepernick and those who were taking a knee early on, but Trump statements, and then his attempt to justify his statements on those grounds, really amplified that particular criticism and critique. And that really dominated the narrative, I think, going forward, and those who are protesting really had to try to, and I don't think they have successfully done it yet, switch the narrative back to focus on what the actual objective and purpose was.

 

Dr. Robert Bennett 

Trump's comments also encouraged a lot of guys who did not participate in the protest before to get more engaged. You look at Michael Thomas, safety for the Miami Dolphins, his whole point was his daughter can look back at this moment and say," Okay, my daddy stood up for something". Right. So where you may have had a handful of guys, protesting on you know, several teams. Trump's comments come out here you have the whole league protesting. You have the owners engaging in the kneeling, right. But then you also kind of see this hijacking of that narrative, right with Jerry Jones, which becomes a whole other can of worms later on with it. So which Trump kind of lit the fire under the asses of a lot of black players.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson  

So he simultaneously re-energized it even as he altered it in a way that we haven't gotten back to yet.

 

Marc Horger 

He made it larger. But now we're having a conversation about Trump against the NFL, which was not the conversation Colin Kaepernick was trying to have in first place.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson  

And the idea that these players are against the flag, against being disrespectful, instead of the message that they were trying to say.

 

Marc Horger 

And even that we're talking about the flag and Jerry Jones instead of Black Lives is not what Colin Kaepernick set out to do in the first place.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson  

And what is the Jerry Jones thing?

 

Marc Horger 

Jerry Jones is the owner of the Dallas Cowboys who has a series of other disagreements with the league right now.

 

Dr. Hasan Jeffries 

 And disagreements with black players at the same time.

 

Marc Horger 

Yes, Jones. Among the very, you know, last year when the discussion was primarily around Kaepernick, the response of the NFL kind of as an institution was both overwhelmingly negative, but largely anonymous. There was a lot of reporting, even at the very beginning of the 2016 season last year, even before Trump was elected, even when we thought we were going to be having a very different political conversation this year, about how Kaepernick 's career might be over and nobody would re-sign him. And there were a lot of general managers off the record talking about how much they despised that he was using the flag for this and so on and so forth. And it has turned into part of the larger discussion in the NFL, about Roger Goodell's leadership and Jerry Jones is both among the NFL owners who responded the most negatively publicly to the initial protests. And the NFL owner, currently the most at odds with Goodell and the leadership of the NFL, for reasons having little again, little to do with the original political content of the protest last year.

 

Dr. Robert Bennett 

And Jones is also one of a few owners who has explicitly stated that none of his players best engage in these protests. So people talk about athletes having the right as citizens to kneel, sit, stand, what have you. Jones is the one owner who has stated explicitly that they better not do this.

 

Marc Horger 

Some teams have let their players decide. Some teams have chosen to decide as a team what to do, but with some input from players rather than just being announced from on high. But the Cowboys are one of the teams that issued the team orders essentially at the beginning of the process.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson  

And have players been following these orders.

 

Marc Horger 

 I don't believe any Cowboys have gone against that. I'm not positive about that.

 

Dr. Hasan Jeffries 

Not since the collective initial response to Trump, I don't think anyone has.

 

Dr. Robert Bennett 

Now one player did raise, he did have a raised fist but that was more so, once the anthem ended. That's when he proceeded to raise his fist. So there was a bit of backlash on his name, but nobody kneeled or sat during the anthem.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson  

So one of the common refrains that we keep hearing around all of the political controversy surrounding these protests is that sports shouldn't be political. So why is there this idea that sports should be a political and has it  always been our expectation of athletes that they just play the game?

 

Dr. Robert Bennett 

You have to look at it from different viewpoints, right, because personally, speaking, I've always seen sports and politics intertwined. Looking at, you know, coming out of the south, my father was a big fan of Jim Brown and the Browns back in the day because they were the one NFL team that brought in a lot of black players, right? And so although he grew up in South Carolina, the Cleveland Browns is really black America's team. And so Bill Willis who was an Ohio State alum--he's one of the four gentlemen who integrated the NFL. Playing with the Cleveland Browns who was head coached by Paul Brown, who was also the head coach at Ohio State football, right? So for African Americans, you know, you have guys who have always been outspoken where you look at Jim Brown, you look at John Wooten look at Walter Beach, Jim Shorter, right, Curtis McLean with the Kansas City Chiefs. You look at Mohammad Ali, for these guys, there were no overwhelming number of athletes during this time period speaking out on the issues, right. The issue was that they were doing it. And so I think for that generation, Jim Brown, Russell, Ali, they served as the example. Right, but you can talk about the ‘80s and ‘90s, coming over Michael Jordan and kind of the silent nature of the black athlete coming to the full. But there was a long history of this connection between sports and politics.

 

Marc Horger 

And certainly, a long history in some ways of whether or not there are any black athletes on the field at all. And under what circumstances, itself being political before we even have a conversation about attitudes or behavior, those athletes once they're included, you know, we're having a conversation about athletes using boycott techniques or threatening their personal career opportunities in sport, in order to try to achieve something political. And in many ways, in the late 19th and early 20th century, there's almost an analogy to white players or executives in a number of sports, using the kind of protest techniques we're talking about right now, specifically to keep African Americans out specifically to, as they would have said at the time, draw the color line. So in some ways, you know, we're having a conversation here about the politics of what kind of speech you will or won't engage in once you're in the arena, but from certain perspectives, and for certain populations being in the arena at all is political before you even start having that secondary conversation.

 

Dr. Hasan Jeffries 

And I think an extension of that degree of politics, we often think about professional sports, but when you look at college sports and college football, the number of times schools that might have had one or two black ball players in the north, whether it's Michigan in the 1930s or NYU, when they go to play Southern teams the decisions that are made, that we're not going to bring the black ball players, we're not going to play them because we don't want to go against the norms of segregation or racial segregation, that's politics. So there is this much longer history of sports, both professional and amateur, big Dallas sports, constantly intersecting with politics. In fact, I will go so far as to say there's never been a time when sports has not been political, where sports is not intersected with politics in one shape, or another where it's on the field or it's in the front office.

 

Dr. Robert Bennett 

I think for a lot of fans for sports, they provide an escape, but to not acknowledge the issues that a lot of these athletes are bringing up is in essence denying their humanity, right. You talked about this shut up and play philosophy that has existed, right, you talked about, you know, the Northern schools going down south and kind of biding by the gentleman's agreement. And so there's also this gentleman's agreement. that we're not we're not supposed to talk about, you know, politics within sports, right. But you see the breaking from this. And I think it's a great time, and but the larger issue I think you know Hasan mentioned, you know, with college athletics, you know, and what role can they play with these particular protests? We see professional athletes doing it. And a large number of NFL players whose contracts aren't guaranteed, right? You see the bulk of these protests coming from guys whose contracts aren't guaranteed. So what does that really speak to, these issues, if they're willing to put their livelihood on the front line? Right, Kaepernick who opted out of his contract with the forty niners, now they said they we're going to cut him anyway, right? But he opted out of his contract, you know, looking to get in up with another team. Still couldn't do it. So you see the power of politics just in him stating, I'm looking at it from the Black Lives Matter perspective, and not so much disrespect to the country. Nate Boyer, who was a former NFL player and also served the military. He spoke to him about taking the knee, right? Because at first he was sitting. He moved to taking a knee. So even when you have military service men talk about the symbolism of taking a knee, folks tend to just kind of push that off and ignore that argument.

 

Brenna Miller   

Is there something special about sports specifically that make it a good forum for protest?

 

Marc Horger 

Certainly, sport is among the places in society where you find examples of athletes finding a large audience maybe in some ways, whether they're seeking a large audience, or not. Whether or not you would say, in retrospect, those things have been effective, from a policy or cultural standpoint is maybe another kind of question. But for a lot of consumers of the product. It's certainly a place in a culture where politics erupts on them when they think they've avoided it. You know, keep politics out of sport is kind of, in some ways, keep politics out of my weekend. Which is easy to say if your relationship with the NFL is on the weekend through the television, but a much more difficult line to draw if your relationship is actually an active one in creation of the product.

 

Dr. Hasan Jeffries 

I also think it's a keep a certain kind of politics out of my weekend, right? Because the playing of the national anthem, moments of silence, those are all political decisions, right? Flyovers by the Department of Defense. I mean, so politics is intertwined, even when we like to pretend that they aren't. So I would say that it's a point of clarification, keep particular politics explicitly keep racial politics out of this. I mean, we have, whether it's breast cancer awareness, and all these other things. I mean, these are all still somewhat political. But it's a particular kind of, what some would feel inflammatory politics as they say keep out, but in reality, you know, we live with politics on Saturdays and Sundays.

 

Brenna Miller   

Why do we sing the national anthem at sporting events and when did we start playing it at sporting events?

 

Marc Horger 

The tradition as we understand it, playing it specifically in a national ceremonial role, is generally credited to have happened for the first time at the 1918 World Series. At the beginning of American involvement in World War One, where it was apparently played during the seventh inning stretch and was such a big success that they played it the rest of the series, which is generally credited with starting a tradition of it being used in baseball occasionally in a ceremonial role. And I say occasionally, in part, because if it's 1925, and you want to play the national anthem before the game, you have to hire a brass band. And it was not really until World War II that it began to be played regularly at beginning of commercial baseball and football games, which was a time when they were playing the national anthem at the beginning of all kinds of things. And the idea that it would be played regularly just as a normal thing at the beginning of a contest appears to have been a World War II convention that then survived World War II. And the NFL in particular, went out of its way to put in the rules, okay, we're going to do this before every game from here on out.

 

Dr. Hasan Jeffries 

One of the things that does change in recent memory is post 9/11. We find whether it's after Pearl Harbor, or after 9/11, this increase in sort of patriotic fervor. Most teams, this is major league baseball so in the seventh inning stretch sing God Bless America, either before or after. Most teams have gone away from that. The New York Yankees, I think the only team the New York Mets might be one of the only teams that have kept that on. But I think it's symbolic of this push for sort of political patriotism following the sort of moment of national crises.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson  

So considering that the majority of NFL players are black, and an overwhelming majority of fans are white, how did demographics impact outlooks on these protests?

 

Dr. Hasan Jeffries 

Well, I think a couple things. One, just in terms of sheer numbers, you're going to have more white people who are fans. But then there's also an equating of fandom with whiteness. You heard most recently, Roger Goodell, the Commissioner of the NFL, talking about well fans don't like this? Well, there's plenty of black fans that are fine with this. So. So on the one hand, I think we have to be clear, it's helpful to be clear, but whether we're talking about white fans or black fans or fans of color, or whatnot. Among white fans, there is very much this sense of encroachment of issues into their leisure, recreational, moments of escape, that becomes problematic in a particular setting, right. So white fans in the NFL don't want to have these issues brought up in large numbers. It's far from a majority, far from a clear majority. But NASCAR fans are okay with the Confederate flag, like sort of waving and sort of that aspect of sort of bringing the conversations about race and racism and what does it mean and legacy. And so I just think it's very selective. But it's, but I think it's important too that when we're talking about sort of fans of sports. In this instance, it really necessitates identifying by race as well.

 

Dr. Robert Bennett 

Also, when you talk about race and demographics, you need to consider, let's say Major League Baseball, for example, Adam Jones, outfielder for the Baltimore Orioles. He spoke on the lack of black ballplayers and their willingness to protest the anthem because of the overwhelming number of white fans. Right. And you also think about when white athletes began to speak upon these issues, right? Dale Earnhardt, who's a big name in NASCAR talked about how protesting the anthem was something that was, you know, Kaepernick's, right. So showing support there, Aaron Rodgers encouraging the fans to link arms during the anthem did it happen? Nope. So we can talk about black athletes and their role, we can talk about white athletes and their role, but in the larger picture is a lot of fans do not want these political statements being made for something they see as fun times, right -- time they can drink beers, get hamburgers and pretzels, right?

 

Brenna Miller   

What kinds of issues have past protests centered on? Have they been similar or different?

 

Marc Horger 

The person we keep almost talking about and not talking about, so maybe I'll just say his name out loud at this point is Ali. Muhammad Ali is heavyweight champion in the 1960s, who is generally sort of considered the the platonic ideal of when we have a conversation about, to what degree are athletes able to be political, to what degree are athletes taking risks when being political, Ali is usually the example of someone who risked everything to be the political person in public he wanted to be and his politics combined opposition to the Vietnam War with a fairly robust black nationalism, I think it's fair to say in the 1960s. Which I think people today forget how aggressive the black nationalism was, and how powerful a combination that was, and making very little effort to engage with the actual content of the Nation of Islam in the mid-1960s. When we criticize an athlete for not being willing to be political in the arena, in many ways, Ali is the person whose career they're being compared against.

 

Dr. Robert Bennett 

And also the connection that we can talk about this black nationalism, coupled with this religious difference that Islam presents, right. I think that's something we also have to consider when we talk about what it means to be an American citizen, because we talked about being a Christian nation, you often hear that point, right. I think one of the things that we also have to consider, and we were talking about recent protests in the last 30 years, and it's linked with Islam. If you look at Craig Hodges, his letter that he wrote to George HW Bush, back in the mid-90s, after the Bulls won the championship, and also Chris Jackson, who becomes Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, and is actually protesting the national anthem, right? He's kind of the forefather to Colin Kaepernick. And a personal anecdote for him, he also influenced me to kind of turn my back on the national anthem when I played, right. So you have guys who serve as a nice example of what peaceful protests can look like, addressing the issues that African Americans encounter in the United States and sport kind of serves as that role. But we also have to look at what role does religion play in how these particular protests are embraced. And I think Ali, Hodges, and Abdul-Rauf are a great example.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson  

But isn't this a process of historical amnesia, of we remember the Mohammed Ali that we lost just a few years ago, and he was silenced by that time by disease. And so they remember the silent Ali and they forget the radical Ali and their lack of engagement with black nationalism shows that.

 

Marc Horger 

And there was also an Ali between the radical Ali and the silenced Ali, which was the Muhammad Ali in the 1970s, who appeared on the Dean Martin celebrity roast. He was initially presented to the country overwhelmingly as a black entertainment figure. And then for a while in the mid-60s was the nation's most famous black nationalist. And by the late ‘70s, had kind of turned back into, in some ways, turned back into the entertainment figure, again, as the Vietnam War got less visceral in American politics. And as his own religion became less connected to the black nationalism, the Nation of Islam in the 1960s, and became more conventional. And in some ways, it's hard to know what Ali people are praising because of how many there were choose from,

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson  

And he was hated in the 1960s, wasn't he?

 

Marc Horger 

He was enormously polarizing. And I think it's worth pointing out that there really is a degree to which he got more famous and more beloved, as an international symbol of American political tolerance, as he literally got quieter. You know, by 1996, he lights the torch at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, which most people remember if they have a firsthand memory of it, for the frail, physical condition he was in by that time. You know, the young Muhammad Ali was both a fantastically charismatic physical athlete, and fantastically charismatic verbally. And by the 90s, he was among the most famous and beloved Americans at the moment in his life when he was literally neither of those things anymore.

 

Brenna Miller   

Have any of these past sports protest movements proven to be effective? Have they actually inspired change?

 

Dr. Hasan Jeffries 

To different degrees, they have proven effective. I think it also depends upon how you want to define effective. Most protests, many protests are, I think Kaepernick's is one is designed to raise awareness, and by raising awareness, to affect some type of change that way. So in that sense, it certainly has raised awareness, you don't always get to control the narrative when things come out. But in essence, it has. I think other protests, symbolically, have remained powerful,  continue to exist in sort of popular memory and imagination. You don't always know why. I think Marc's point was great. It's like, we're supposed to love Muhammad Ali because he stood up the courage of his convictions. Well, what were his convictions? Well, I'm not quite sure, but we were supposed to. So sometimes it gets lost in time. But I think you almost have to evaluate each one and be clear about what is it that the protest is for? How is how does it play out in the moment? But then I think you also have to look back over the years with the benefit of time, and say, okay, how was this remembered? And how did people respond to this, because sometimes it's a protest in the moment, and you don't think it's quite effective, or it doesn't work or it spins out of control. And then you look back five years, 10 years, 15 years later and you're like, that was the spark that really led to something different.

 

Marc Horger 

Or it was working, but it polled terribly, which I think is something we tend to forget about the classic civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. It was not popular, even as it was, in fact, beginning to succeed. And sometimes, I think Hassan's point is well taken, sometimes you can't know if that's what was happening or not, until you have some historical distance from it. Certainly, Gallup would have told you in 1963, that Martin Luther King was, was unsuccessful as an American public figure. But that's not remotely how we think of him in the long view.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson  

Well, let's get back to the players and the owners and coaches a little bit too with this protest. How does teammate unity with the current NFL protest compare to earlier displays of teammate solidarity or disunity such as when Jackie Robinson integrated baseball in 1947?

 

Dr. Robert Bennett  

You can almost say it's pretty much on par with the Dodgers. Branch Rickey kind of gave, you know, the Dodgers brass, the team, you know, a year heads up to kind of like, hey, you know, Robinson is, is going to be on the team in a year, right. And so some guys resisted it, some guys accepted it. The same thing with the current, you know, protests now. You don't see an overwhelming number of white athletes supporting these protests, you understand, the majority, right. You might see a couple of guys, you know, with their hand on their teammates shoulder, but for the most part, you don't really see this, this large support as we may have hoped.

 

Dr. Hasan Jeffries 

Except, and this is what I think is important to think about in terms of gender. So outside of the NFL, you go to WNBA, much more robust in terms of protest itself, but then also the solidarity among white athletes and black athletes. So among women athletes, women professional athletes, you have seen much greater solidarity across racial lines on teams, than you have within the NFL.

 

Dr. Robert Bennett 

You also have to consider when we talk about teammates' support, right? How many, let's say white athletes understand the issues of their African American teammates, right? If you look at one of the Browns players, white athlete on the browns, he actually took a knee, right? Look at Travis Kelce with the Kansas City Chiefs. He supported those efforts too and ironically, both of them have black wives or black girlfriends, right. So we talked about issues that pertain to African Americans, how many white athletes understand those issues? Drew Brees you know, he talked about, you know, he would never disrespect the anthem, but he's kind of speaking from this ignorance of an understanding those issues, right? You talked about historical amnesia, right? When you look at the phrase, "Make America great again." But if you ask a lot of people of color, they may make the argument America has never really been great.

 

Brenna Miller   

So among fans, at least as we've discussed, it seems like the NFL protest is unpopular. So too, however, as you mentioned, were the civil rights protests of the 1950s and 60s. They're now celebrated. So what do you think will happen with the current NFL protests as time unfolds?

 

Dr. Robert Bennett 

I think there's unpopular, and then there's unpopular. So the sit ins of the 1960s nonviolent direct action was very unpopular among white folk, right. Not only in the south, not only segregationist, but outside the south as well.

 

Dr. Hasan Jeffries 

But if you look at polling for taking a knee, it's not by 1960 standards, like this is a celebration. I mean, negative it's sort of 65-60 60-40 on a sort of boarder white public. It changes among African Americans 60 oppose 44. Right, the right to protest, and maybe even if it's even if that's high, even if it's 30% 35%, are approving, I mean, that is, I mean, King would have, SNCC would have been like they would have declared victory. So I mean, I think it's a different moment. And if anything, and I think that bodes well, for what the end goal is, right, sort of raising awareness and actually having people address these sorts of issues of black lives and police violence. So I think they're on the right course. The question is, can you stay the course? Because there's a lot of pressure not to.

 

Dr. Robert Bennett 

I mean, I'm surprised that it's still going on now, right? Because you see, Kaepernick initiated it, but it's good to see those other torch bearers, keep it, keep it moving. You also got to consider the point he made the 60/40 or 70/30 breakdown, if you will go to the east side of Columbus, or you go to Harlem, New York, you go to Decatur, Georgia, where I'm from an overwhelming number of people would be in support of these protests, right? So you have to kind of ask yourself, what particular groups of people are against the protest, right? We know the owners are. We know Trump is. But if we asked, you know, those players' families are they in support of it, the people they went to school with, right?

 

Dr. Hasan Jeffries 

With regard to the popularity, I think it's, it'd be interesting to sort of look at sales of jerseys, for example, and how do you sort of measure this?

 

Marc Horger 

Kaepernick's was I believe, number one, last year.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson  

Many were burning though, which is ironically…

 

Marc Horger 

Yeah, I don't know what the percentage of who bought him to torch them, but...

 

Dr. Hasan Jeffries 

But just as you have those who are burning his jersey, you have those who are dressing their kids in the jersey.

 

Dr. Robert Bennett 

Halloween, yeah.

 

Dr. Hasan Jeffries 

For Halloween, right. I mean, so it's, I think, it's important to take the full measure, when trying to assess how people are thinking about this. And again, it goes back to being clear about who we're talking about when we're talking about the fans. We're also in a new kind of golden age of sports viewership. Because of the way we are now consuming media. In particular, sports and news are literally the last two vestiges of sort of entertainment that we watch and consume live. That's part of the reason why its value has, to broadcast networks has, really exploded over the last 10 years. And the NFL has really capitalized on that. But it's not just the NFL. I mean, the reason why baseball, media contracts are so high why the big 10 network is, you know, all these college networks exist, why March Madness is so valuable, because you get live eyeballs. We're consuming our media, other forms of entertainment at our own leisure. And so I think that heightens the power and visibility of black athletes, of athletes in general, to raise awareness on questions that are affecting society. But it also, when we see this in the NFL, it also concerns and worries owners and management because the stakes are so high.

 

Dr. Robert Bennett 

I just think from my vantage point, I just think sport is kind of bringing into conversation, what does it mean to be American? I think and also being a scholar on these particular issues is great because now I have a lot more to write on right. I don't have to write about things in the sixties and seventies. I can write about current issues. If you look at there's a player at a d3 school, Albright College in Pennsylvania. He took a knee, was cut from the team, right? And his parents were kind of like, well, he's back to normal, you know, as if nothing happened. I think a lot of kids are starting to understand that, hey, they can stand on principle. That's what we really have to embrace. As American citizens there are principles in which we identify and how we're going to live by them.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson  

So we'll wrap it up on that note. Thank you to our three guests, Doctors Hasan Jeffries, Robert Bennett and Marc Horger. Thank you very much.

 

Dr. Hasan Jeffries 

Thank you.

 

Marc Horger 

Thanks.

 

Dr. Robert Bennett 

Thank you.

 

Brenna Miller   

Thanks, everyone. This episode of History Talk podcast was brought to you by Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective, an online publication of the public history initiative and the Goldberg Center and the history department at The Ohio State University in Columbus and Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Our main editors are Steve Conn and Nicholas Breyfogle, our executive producer is David Staley, our audio and technical advisor is Paul Kotheimer, or audio producers and hosts are Brenna Miller and Jessica Vinas-Nelson. Song and band information can be found on our website. You can find our podcasts and more on our website at origins.osu.edu, on iTunes and on SoundCloud. And as always, you can find us on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks for listening.

 

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