How to Deal with the NFL and the USA: Thoughts of Smith, Carlos and Robeson

Colin Kaepernick

“There is a cross to bear when you go out there far enough, departing severely from what’s permissible, like what Paul Robeson did.” — Richard Martin Oxman

The Vets Administration disability backlog of veterans awaiting care had topped 800,000. The cases of sexual assault within the U.S. military which go unpunished hovers around 20,000 these days. The suicides among vets have reached record levels. And so on and so on.

Putting aside the abominations CAUSED by vets, and focusing only on their trauma… I’d say that the general public — whether or not folks are football fans — is NOT supporting them. NOT supporting our troops… as the mantra goes by getting behind the BAN about the bent knee during the playing of the national anthem.

The patriotism that the NFL claims to want to support has to be questioned. And taking a knee is a very mild form of questioning. In fact, that knee is really about social justice issues, isn’t it? Not about matters patriotic.

Matters idiotic, perhaps. For how does one expect police to stop racial profiling and gunning down people of color as long as our atrocities abroad continue? Clearly, the protesting players are way to timid about criticizing on the Big Picture plane. Meaning, they feel comfy about fighting the good fight vis-a-vis blatant domestic outrages, but stop short of saying a single word about the horror we cause overseas (which is positively — horribly — correlated with police brutality at home).

My partner — this morning, during news coverage on all this — came up with a way for players to deal with the NFL owners embracing Trump’s injunction to punish protesting players. “Pay the fine,” she said. If the players feel strong enough about the injustice that should be peanuts to pay. “Protesting by remaining in the locker room during the playing of the national anthem won’t cut the muster.” But another angle she came up with was to stand (not taking a knee) with arms crossed (forming a giant X) on the chest. Lots of possible variations bouncing off of that suggestion, yes?

The bigger challenge, though, is what to do about our violations of international law. Our war criminality. Our genocide abroad. Our… however you want to put what we’re doing on an ongoing basis outside of our borders.

Taking the knee is not enough. What that’s all about is not enough. The “discussion” must address the fact that what made Jackie Robinson unable to salute the flag at the end of his days has now gotten infinitely worse… and has been extended unconscionably throughout the world. [Pause.] In so many guises.

I’m having thoughts right now about Tommie Smith and John Carlos. And, of course, thoughts about Paul Robeson.

Those who take the present NFL protest to the next level will pay a price, for sure. But that must be embraced.

Valleria Ruselli is a member of the Oxman Collective. She can be reached at



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