By Spencer Bowen
How can an organization support a person charged with felony domestic violence but also repeatedly reject a person exercising nonviolent protest?
As of right now, the San Francisco 49ers have refused to disassociate themselves from potential 11 year prison resident Reuben Foster. My high school English teacher would take this opportunity to remind me that counterfactuals are a weak argumentative tactic, but I think the construction applies pretty well here: if the player in question wasn’t as good at football as Foster and/or wasn’t hand-selected by John Lynch, the player would’ve been cut long ago.
Meanwhile, pretty good quarterback Colin Kaepernick remains unemployed because he continues to speak on police brutality and racial injustice. These are both, unassailably, problems. Black men are at the very least twice as likely to be killed by police as white men and studies confirm that being black in America has numerous crappy consequences.
Foster is charged four times over: Felony domestic violence, inflicting great bodily injury, forcefully attempting to prevent a victim from reporting a crime, and possession of an assault weapon. He has not entered a plea.
News broke early this morning that Kaepernick’s scheduled workout with the Seattle Seahawks was postponed when he indicated that he would continue his kneeling protest should he make a team. The Seahawks instead signed former Miami quarterback Stephen Morris, a player with exactly zero minutes played in his NFL career.
The same hubris that enabled Jerry Jones to simultaneously threaten to cut players who kneel during the national anthem and support alleged abuser Ezekiel Elliott fuels the Niners bullshit statement on Foster: “The 49ers organization is aware of today’s disturbing charges regarding Reuben Foster. We will continue to follow this serious matter. Reuben is aware that his place in our organization is under great scrutiny and will depend on what is learned through the legal process.”
Kaepernick, a black man protesting chronic problems and walking the walk he talks, can’t get a job because 31 white guys and Shad Khan won’t let him. He may not be the football savant he seemed when he reduced the Packers defense to mush in the postseason, but his talent is undeniable. Anyone who argues that Kaepernick’s continued unemployment is unrelated to his protest is wrong. Teams have made the calculation that the perceived negative impact of Kaepernick’s statement outweighs the positive qualities he offers as a football player.
Thus far, the 49ers have made a similar calculation in regards to Foster but arrived at a different conclusion. The negatives involved with having a domestic abuser on the roster do not outweigh the positive qualities he offers as a football player. It’s the same logic used by the Cowboys with Elliott and the Chiefs with Tyreek Hill and the Bengals with Joe Mixon and…
Almost exactly a year ago today, John Lynch, Jed York, and the 49ers leadership released Tramaine Brock after his arrest on suspicion of felony domestic violence. It was a good move, but more no-brainer than progressive declaration. 371 days later, the 49ers remain silent on a man charged with multiple crimes because he’s a younger and better football player than Brock.
Their silence is shameful. Their lack of action is shameful.
The Seahawks, a supposedly socially-conscious organization, postponed a meeting with one of today’s most salient voices for social change because of his continued insistence to utilize his Constitutional rights. Their subsequent signing of Morris, who I reiterate, has never thrown a professional pass, demonstrates that their indecision on Kaepernick has nothing to do with football talent and everything to do with the team’s queasiness about phrases like “police brutality” and “black lives matter.”
NFL owners, coaches, and front office leaders are overwhelmingly white and male. These men continue to overlook despicable actions off the field in the name of wins and profits. In this particular case, my favorite team’s all white and all male leadership won’t demonstrate the basic moral courage to condemn a black man because he’s too damn good at playing linebacker. Simultaneously, another talented black football player cannot even receive the opportunity to play because he has the audacity to use football games as platforms to raise basic issues. 31 white guys and Shad Khan seem like social heroes for young black men until those same young black men start speaking out about centuries of injustice. Oh, and Eric Reid remains unsigned.
Today’s NFL news would be comical if it was not so enraging. It also articulates obviously what Joseph Goodman of AL.com said so elegantly in July 2016: where do black lives matter more to white people than on a football field?
So how can an organization support a person charged with felony domestic violence but also repeatedly reject a person exercising nonviolent protest? It can if that organization is the National Football League, an institution that seems intent on catering to the whims and pocket books of the most exclusive group of rich guys in the world in lieu of doing anything approaching what is right.