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Bongreads: The Best Writing on Colin Kaepernick, the NFL, and Athletes Against Donald Trump

These articles remind us that America is broken and if we want to fix one thing — say, rampant police brutality or marijuana policy — we're going to have to go ahead and fix everything else, too.

by Drew Millard

by Drew Millard

Donald Trump has a black hole where his ego should be. It's truly astounding, and has irrevocably warped America's already shit-sucking political landscape by turning literally every issue of substance into a countless series of referendums on Donald Trump.

The most recent glaring example of this practice is probably the day he woke up on the wrong side of his golf course and decided to attack the NFL (a tragic avatar of capitalism which silences its athletes while shortening their lives in exchange for the managed production of violent spectacle) for Colin Kaepernick's season-long kneeling during the National Anthem to signal his opposition to police brutality — a peaceful protest which NFL's culture of ultra-conservative team owners decided made him an unhireable liability. And this somehow led to the NFL actively encouraging its players to kneel during the National Anthem as a show of, like, unity or something to vaguely signal that they're not Donald Trump's best friend?

I'm honestly not sure at this point, but I kind of feel like the NFL sucks, Donald Trump sucks, the only sort-of OK sports league is the NBA, and that we should be able to understand all of these things and remember that they are inextricably linked to the fact that America — especially its indifference to, and abuse of, oppressed peoples from a multitude of communities and identities — sucks.

So today, I've curated a selection of reading materials related to Kaepernick, the NFL, athletes shit-talking Donald Trump, and other extremely sucky things. Please enjoy these links, and never forget that America is broken and if we want to fix one thing — say, its marijuana policy — we're going to have to go ahead and fix everything else.

"Together for What?"
David Roth for The Baffler

The biggest shame about Donald Trump's spurring of mass kneeling during the National Anthem, as David Roth correctly points out at The Baffler, is that "What began as a very specific protest against police violence and impunity and for the broader dignity of black lives — and what, for the players at the center of the protest, remains very much about that — broadened and softened over the course of the day into something different" and "incalculably dumber: the civic duty to have some sort of public response to whatever whinging oafishness Trump is substituting for governance at any given moment."

I wish I could just copy/paste the entirety of Roth's piece here, but I'm pretty sure they just call that plagiarism, so I'll just indulge myself and throw in one more zinger from him: "It's hard to say that this is another instance of everyone else playing checkers while Trump plays chess. It looked, as the discourse splintered into a heated non-conversation about the rudeness of protest and the ah entitlement of certain athletes, like the usual: Trump very slowly, very confidently, putting all the chess pieces into his mouth, one by one, because he thinks they're unusually shaped Tootsie Rolls."

"Asshole, Bum, Clown: NBA and NFL Players Tee Off on Trump"
Sean Newell for VICE Sports

Over at VICE Sports, Sean Newell engaged in an act of public service and compiled a list of all the funniest and meanest insults lobbied by professional athletes to Donald Trump. While the most prominent shit has been slung by Lebron James, who called Trump a "bum," don't count out the Saints' Lance Moore, who referred to him as "the head Cheeto in charge," or Chris Paul, who on Twitter expressed "doubt [Trump]'s man enough to call any of those players a son of a bitch to their face." Good job sports players, bad job sports leagues.

"Why Colin Kaepernick and I Decided to Take a Knee"
Eric Reid for the New York Times

While this entire firestorm has raged around the public consciousness over the past couple of weeks, the one person who is yet to comment on the matter is Colin Kaepernick, who started the protest in the first place. There are all types of reasons for him to not speak out — perhaps he assumes that pundits in both sports and politics will interpret whatever comments he makes to suit their pre-existing viewpoints so there's no point in speaking out, and besides, one of his main points is that this protest isn't about him. Either way, there is a very real demand to understand Kaepernick's thinking about his protest, and the New York Times has done the next best thing and gotten an Op-Ed from his former teammate Eric Reed, who was the first to join him in kneeling in protest of police brutality. Writes Reid:

After hours of careful consideration, and even a visit from Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former NFL player, we came to the conclusion that we should kneel, rather than sit, the next day during the anthem as a peaceful protest. We chose to kneel because it's a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.

It baffles me that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag, and military personnel. We chose it because it's exactly the opposite. It has always been my understanding that the brave men and women who fought and died for our country did so to ensure that we could live in a fair and free society, which includes the right to speak out in protest.

It should go without saying that I love my country and I'm proud to be an American. But, to quote James Baldwin, "exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually."

Which, yeah, sounds about right. Later, Reid correctly calls the NFL out on its bullshit, writing, "Anyone who has a basic knowledge of football knows that [Kaepernick's] unemployment has nothing to do with his performance on the field." It's become high irony that the league that has effectively blackballed Kaepernick for peacefully protesting against police brutality has co-opted the gesture as a way to score cheap PR points against the most hateable guy in America for attacking them.

"Panthers QB Cam Newton: Don't Forget 'Legend' and His Sacrifice for Social Justice"
Jourdan Rodrigue for The Charlotte Observer

To my point above, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton recently declared in an interview with the Charlotte Observer, "[Kaepernick] has made the ultimate sacrifice… A person that does have the talent to play, a person that should be in this league, but I feel as if he's not getting his just due because of his views." He continued, "That's a legend, right there. For him to think outside of himself, to raise awareness of something that, this is 365 days removed from his first initial stand, and now here we are doing the same things. And now everybody is kind of understanding what his reasoning was, and I respect that."

Follow Drew Millard on Twitter


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Drew Millard

Drew Millard is a freelance writer and dog owner living in Durham, North Carolina. His writing has appeared in VICE, High Times, Hazlitt, SPIN, and many other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @drewmillard.



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