At the Core of the NFL & America’s Sickness Lies a Potentially Great Healing – Part II

Colin Kaepernick, Take-A-Knee Protest Movement, NFL Football, Golden State Warriors, Stephan Curry, President Trump’s BDS Movement Against U.S. First Amendment, America’s Cultural War, Jemele Hill, Mike Ditka, Indigenous Peoples of The America’s, The Great Mystery, All My Relations.

Guest Commentary

Published October 16, 2017

Part II of II

De Maurice Smith, head of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), in an effort to stand up for his players, recently tweeted, “The NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and New York Giants co-owner John Mara said, in the presence of other owners, that they would respect the Constitutional rights of our members without retribution…I look forward to the day when everyone on Management can become united and truly embrace and articulate what the Flag stand for: Liberty and Justice For All! Instead of some of them just talking about standing…No player is disrespecting our country or our flag. As thousands have shown in the past, it takes bravery and courage to speak out and confront these issues as our players have, especially when it is unpopular with some. There is room for Management to do the same and maybe then players do not have to risk the taunts and threats alone. This is their opportunity to lead as well and will be a true test of their motto that Football is Family. (NFLPA reiterates, “No Player is Disrespecting Our Country”, Shalize Manza Young, Shutddown Corner, Oct 9th, 2017).

But the ignorance among owners, management and coaches alike of what the real issues are that are involved in the players protest is epitomized by such NFL legends as Mike Ditka, former legendary coach of the Chicago Bears, Pro Football Hall of Famer and sports analyst for ESPN.

In a recent interview with Jim Gray’s Westwood One’s Monday Night Football pregame show, Ditka said, ”I don’t believe there has been any oppression in the United States in the last 100 years that I know of….All of a sudden it’s become a big deal now, about oppression.” Ditka further added, “Now maybe I’m not watching it as carefully as other people.”

Ditka’s remarks immediately set off a firestorm of blowback. Otis Wilson, who once played for Ditka, quickly stated, “Well, I guess if he walked in a black man’s shoes he would understand….that all lives matter and the rules are not level for everybody. Let’s say the average Joe on the street doesn’t have a platform. Colin Kaepernick has a platform, so he used his platform. That’s his right. Everybody has rights. So don’t knock somebody for when they use it and how they use it because it was against the laws or against the rules…This is America. You should be free to do what you want to do and leave it at that. Is America a lot easier than being in another country somewhere? Yes it is. But, on the other hand, being a black man, there’s a lot of things you can’t do. Not being black, he (Ditka) doesn’t understand that.”

Joe Namath, Former Hall of Famer and one-time quarterback for the New York Jets, further advised those like Mike Ditka to look up the meaning of oppression and they will understand that it’s obviously taking place.” Yet Ditka continued to dig himself into an even deeper hole when he further argued in his interview with Westwood One, that “Americans should be “color blind”. When asked by Jim Gray, “Would it be your policy that either you stand for the national anthem or you don’t play?” Ditka responded, “Yes! I don’t care who you are, or how much money you make. If you don’t respect our country, then you shouldn’t be in this country playing football. Go to another country and play football. If you had to go somewhere else to try to play the sport, you wouldn’t have a job. So that would be my take. If you can’t respect the flag and the country, then you don’t respect what this is all about. So I would say, adios!” ( “Mike Ditka. “There has been no oppressions in U.S. in last 100 years, Westwood One’s Monday Night Football pregame show)

When this writer heard Ditka utter those last words, he was flabbergasted like so many others and thrown back to those early days of the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam War when their own protests raged on at the time. Back then, this writer and other likeminded ones found ourselves accosted by those like Ditka who also declared, “If you don’t respect what the flag and all this is about then adios, mother f**ker! LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT BABY!” Wow, the more things change the more they seem to remain the same!

A deep-seated sickness clearly lies at America’s core that once again has been dredged up by all the ignorance, hatred and mean-spiritedness that the Take-A-Knee protest movement continues to draw to the surface of the American body politic, like a cankerous pustule, that is crying out to be lanced and healed. It’s the same economic, political, militaristic, societal sickness that has long treated all humans, the earth and all its non-human beings as if they were nothing more than commodities to be bought and sold, used and abused however the .1% so chooses, and the other 99% are prepared to go along with. Since America’s birth, this sickness never has been properly treated but allowed to fester, especially regarding the kind of ultimate healing that the indigenous peoples of the America’s know we all have been put here to do and what they repeatedly continue to call all our attention to when they conclude every important thought of life with the uttered phrase All My Relations. This phrase meant to call to the listener’s attention that everything in this life – humans, rivers, mountains, trees, animals, insects and so on – is a respected relation and so has the same inviolate rights as us all and so is to be equally cared for and honored.

America’s core sickness still prevents it from grasping this simple fact of life, and further grasping what indigenous peoples really mean when they speak of this life and the Creator who made it all, as The Great Mystery; a mystery so great that we humans can never really fully know it, but can only wonder about in total awe and reverence about what it all means and try to stay humble in the process with everything we do.

In America, as it is in every country that suffers from this same core sickness, the issues differ but the same malady of the human spirit remains. Whether the issue is taking a knee on a football field, speaking out against war, gun violence or multitude of other heinous violence to humans, the earth, and all other living things, it is always the same. Donald Trump and those of his kind are aligned against all those who don’t think like them. But the other 99 percent don’t represent a solid block of resistance either. There are always multitudes of sheep, goats, lackeys, do-nothings, ignoramuses and the fearful among them who are never prepared to take a stand against anything that might jeopardize their “I’m Okay Jack status.

And so the protests come and go: the Occupy Movement against Wall Street; the BDS Movement against Israel’s Apartheid against the Palestinians; the many worldwide movements against guns, land mines, nuclear weapons and on and on. The ruthlessness of it all is now in plain sight for all to see. But will the majority of American sports fans and citizenry at large see it for what it fundamentally represents in the bigger picture of what all is going on all around the world in every country in so many different ways? Will all those who decide to follow Colin Kaepernick’s lead, like a tiny David against Goliath, ultimately end up being also called by Donald Trump and all his followers as being nothing more than “sons of bitches”?

But wouldn’t it be fantastically dramatic if, in spite of whatever draconian, unconstitutional laws that may be passed by Donald Trump and his administration, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or the NFL’s 32 owners to crush the Take-a-Knee movement, that in the coming weeks of the NFL’s football season and beyond, fans in stadiums all across the country will take to heart the slogan that “Football IS Family”, and begin to take a knee, raise a fist, lock arms or however they will along with their fellow football stars on the field. What a healing of America’s core sickness might begin to follow in so many ways as yet totally unimaginable.

Were this to happen than maybe, just maybe, the NFL’s Take-A-Knee Movement, started by Colin Kaepernick, will begin to jar open the door just enough to allow a whole lot of other wonderful things to come to the surface in need of healing in this sick, mad, crazy world.

Jerome Irwin is a freelance writer and author of “The Wild Gentle Ones; A Turtle Island Odyssey” (, a three volume account of his travels as a spiritual sojourner, during the 1960’s, 70’s & 80’s, among Native American & First Nation peoples in North America. It encompasses the Indigenous Spiritual Renaissance & Liberation Movements that emerged throughout North America during the civil rights era. In addition to being a long-time political activist and organizer, Irwin has authored over the years a number of environmental, political, cultural, spiritual articles with special emphasis on Native Americans, First Nations, Australian aboriginals, and native peoples of Israel, Gaza, Palestine and Syria. Irwin also is the publisher of The Wild Gentle Press.

RELATED: At the Core of the NFL & America’s Sickness Lies a Potentially Great Healing – Part I


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