In The Scope: Stephen A Smith’s Recent Take on NFL Protests Misses The Mark

“In The Scope With Joshua M. Hicks” is  a weekly column from the Managing Editor of WARR 

Recently on ESPN’s First Take, the infamous commentator Stephen A. Smith made comments deepening his stance on whether the protests within the National Football League should continue.

Smith stated that the protests should stop and the players, instead of protesting, should march on Washington to increase the chances of effectively creating the change that is desperately needed within our country. I understand Smith’s viewpoint, but I respectfully disregard his suggestion to stop protests all together within the league. Players should continue to protest as they please on field during the season and during the off-season implement Smith’s idea of marching on Washington if they feel inclined.

Defining “protest,” according to Webster’s, the act is a statement or action expressing disapproval of or objection to something, or to declare (something) firmly and emphatically in the face of stated or implied doubt or in response to an accusation. When Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid started the protests as expressed during the playing of the National Anthem, they peacefully, yet emphatically impacted the nation by responding to the many accusations of discrimination and injustices of minorities, more specifically the police brutality and decriminalization against young African-American men without justifiable action taking place.

Across the country individuals and businesses have took the lead of the former San Francisco 49ers in the years since, mostly by abandoning support of the NFL, who have made it clear by their actions that they do not support this protest and the reasoning behind them. Moreso, reaction to the protests have also spurred on protest in the name of making the game less political and demonstrative, which is the case for one Northwest Houston sports bar. Henry Hudson’s Pub announced it will not buy NFL programming because they don’t want to see protests involved with their NFL experience.

“If the NFL and media continue to use these games as a way to further divide our country, we will stop showing any NFL games altogether,” Henry Hudson’s Pub management wrote to the Houston Chronicle. “We come together to watch these games and support our teams for entertainment, it is not political and it is not educational. It is for our entertainment and it always has been.”

League-wide the protests fit the description of an appropriate, peaceful protest causing awareness within the countries wrongful acts, no gameplay is impacted, the spirit of the NFL is not inherently being dismissed due to these players taking a knee, they do more to challenge an underlying attitude of dismissal that exists throughout our society regarding institutional violence inflicted on people of color.

Protests are meant to be uncomfortable, hurt the man’s pockets and/or agenda, and they do not create change overnight. It takes time before real change is made, and during that wait there will be a lot of backlash. Blacks have been enslaved for centuries and are still enslaved at the hands of the government. Since 1619, many phases of slavery have taken place, starting with being kidnapped and dragged on slave ships to a foreign land and being put in an economic system that viewed them as property, only good for physical labor, until its abolishment as the 13th amendment in 1865. However, being free always had a price to it, and even though slaves had equal rights, they were often violated and ignored. Then the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) was formed and Jim Crow was born, altering the true definition of being free in this country and adding to the debasing citizen treatment we did not deserve.

Throughout the years the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Fred Hampton, Stokely Carmichael, Representative John Lewis, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson and others stood up in protested efforts against those racial injustices through various forms of protests, such as kneeling, sit-ins and peaceful marches like the infamous Selma March and March on Washington. Those forms of protests, even when turned violent and unfortunately included death at times, were performed to eventually get us to where we are today in society, and even today living as a Black man in America, although appreciative of the past, our future does not include true freedom and justice in the land of the free representing liberty and justice for all.

My brothers are dying in the streets (by police and by others) and are pawns played in the mass incarceration scheme that targets my people more than any other race in the country.

The concept of kneeling to express distaste with social injustice is not a new concept.

Recent studies by the NAACP state that African American children represent 32 percent of children who are arrested, 42% of children who are detained, and 52% of children whose cases are judicially waived to criminal court. In 2014, African Americans constituted 2.3 million, or 34%, of the total 6.8 million correctional population, and recent studies have proven that African-American drivers are more than likely to receive disrespectful treatment, especially from white police officers, during traffic stops compared to any other race.

We have a current President who fails to understand the purpose of any protest let alone the protest taking place in the NFL, he’s as much to blame as anyone for the constant misnomer that athletes are “protesting the flag,” he curses the players as SOB’s and changed the narrative surrounding the players to divide a league and the followers of the league.

Stephen A., if there ever was a time to protest and fight even harder for equality, it is now. Your March on Washington idea is fine but it would lack the weight of follow through that previous marches on the capital have had if protests don’t continue in NFL stadiums.

Joshua M. Hicks is a Chicago-based sports writer and broadcaster, follow him on Twitter @jhicks042; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio

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