The quarterback’s kneeling foreshadowed Floyd’s death from a policeman’s knee.
I believe in God, and I believe in coincidence. I don’t find that contradictory. I don’t think God is directing my every step, just as I don’t think God makes your sports team win and mine lose. We have free will, and out of that, things happen.
But sometimes I think He lets things happen. I see a connection between Colin Kaepernick’s taking a knee during the national anthem in protest over racial injustice and a white Minneapolis police officer using his knee to kill a black man. I see a knee. I see heartbreak and anger. God’s. I see it as clearly as I do the laptop screen that is staring back at me. There’s a straight line from Kaepernick to Floyd.
The quarterback’s gesture did not lead to George Floyd’s death, but it did foreshadow it. It spoke of the black community’s frustration. Some people looked and listened. Others chose not to. And, of course, NFL teams effectively blackballed Kaepernick, the former 49er, because they feared his message would make some fans boycott games.
But everyone had to look when Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, squeezing the life out of him. And everyone had to look when Americans took to the streets to protest the brutality, and, in some cases, to loot and vandalize.
A recent poll showed that 63 percent of Americans believe the pandemic is a sign from God that we need to get our collective act together. I wonder how many white Americans believe that Floyd’s death and the subsequent riots are a sign of God’s frustration over the inequities in our society? If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say it’s much lower than 63 percent. Blindness will do that to you.
Black people can see, and that’s why we’re here, all of us. They see that Kaepernick is better than some starting quarterbacks in the NFL and most backups. But he can’t get a job. Talks too much. Brings up uncomfortable truths. Kneels, for God’s sake.
Blacks see what happened to Kaepernick and what happened to Floyd. They see a knee.
“Colin Kaepernick, his whole stand was this,” Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson told reporters Wednesday.
Blacks see a lesser education system for them than for whites. They see a higher unemployment rate and lower-paying jobs for blacks. They see a life expectancy for blacks that is lower than whites.
They see the statements that sports teams are releasing about the civic unrest, and they see empty words. They know those words almost always have another goal in mind than concern for their fellow man.
Do the teams really believe that what happened to Floyd is a travesty or do they think it’s what the public-relations playbook says they’re supposed to say? When a coach declares publicly that things must change in this country, is he saying it because he means it or is he saying it because 75 percent of the players on his team are black and he knows he has to look supportive? And more so with a college basketball or football coach: If he doesn’t speak out against racial injustice, will it hurt him when he’s trying to recruit African-American athletes?
If professional teams really, really cared about what they claim they care about in their prepared statements, Kaepernick would be an NFL quarterback right now.
“I don’t see racism at all in the NFL, I don’t see discrimination in the NFL,’’ Broncos coach Vic Fangio said recently. “We all live together, joined as one, for one common goal, and we all intermingle and mix tremendously. If society reflected an NFL team, we’d all be great.”
Fangio was ripped for his sentiments, but I’d rather hear what he really believes than what franchises want me to believe they believe.
Blacks want action, not words. They want meaningful change. It’s all they’ve ever wanted, and that aim was behind every march and every protest of the past. And most times, those marches accomplished nothing. But they were leading toward something, just as Kaepernick’s protest was. The debate over his taking a knee didn’t lead to much substantive change, but it pointed to something ahead. We couldn’t see it, didn’t even know we were supposed to be looking for something down the road.
But now it’s upon us, and it’s as obvious as a smashed window.
I wonder if people, even nonbelievers, can see God in all of this. He’s the one shaking His head in sorrow.