Black Agenda Report - September 23, 2020
“We shouldn't expect athletes to develop a kind of political consciousness, independent of movements and ideas, away from the field of play.”
Will the current sports activism around racial justice extend to the global, neocolonial racial injustice that the US and its NATO partners impose on Africa, Latin America, East Asia, and South Asia? Is there any chance it’ll go so far as to reject the Pentagon’s claim to an inherent right to rule the world with five geographic commands, plus Cyber, Transportation, Special Operations, Strategic, and Space Commands? I asked Nation Magazine Sports Editor Dave Zirin.
Ann Garrison: Dave, I’m going to start by quoting comedian George Carlin from his “Baseball and Football ” routine, where he says:
“In football, the object is for the quarterback, otherwise known as the field general, to be on target with his area of assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use the shotgun with short bullet passes and long bombs. He marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack, which punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy's defensive line.”
Do you think Carlin nailed the essence of America’s favorite sport?
Dave Zirin: I really do think that George Carlin did, because there's so much militarism that's baked into the cake of football in this country. I mean, football really begins at the start of the US imperial project. And it was something that was popularized by Teddy Roosevelt. So you have this one person, Teddy Roosevelt, who was of course very famous before he was ever president, and who was the number one cheerleader for both football and empire. That's not just a coincidence, because he thought one would prepare young people to support the other.
Now that being said, I don't think that football has to be so militaristic. It could certainly be less militaristic than it currently is, but it’s a big feature of football. It's not just a bug.
AG: Last January, when the Pentagon assassinated Iran’s hero, General Qasem Soleimani, Colin Kaepernick made headlines simply by tweeting:
"America has always sanctioned and besieged Black and Brown bodies both at home and abroad. American militarism is the weapon wielded by American imperialism, to enforce its policing and plundering of the non-white world.
“There is nothing new about American terrorist attacks against Black and Brown people for the expansion of American imperialism."
That’s what he said, most eloquently, but he still seems to be putting in all the hours it takes to play football, still hoping for that call back into the NFL, so I’m imagining that he doesn’t believe the sport is inseparable from all its militarist, imperialist trappings.
Can you imagine more players developing and expressing a similar global and historical understanding of racial injustice and actually surviving in the game?
DZ: Well, we've seen it in the past. There were certainly players who were against the war in Vietnam, most famously Dave Meggyesy who quit the NFL in his prime because he believed that the war in Vietnam and the National Football League were really one and the same. And that professional football and college football were gearing people up for war. And then also during the “War on Terror,” specifically the Iraq War, you had players like Scott Fujita , Adal ius Thomas , and other football players speak out against war.
So it's already real, but we have to remember that these players are part of the world. They don't exist on a separate planet called Planet Athlete, come down to entertain us, then return to Planet Athlete on their spaceships. These are people who are part of the world. And when there are movements against war, they're affected by those movements. ...
Read full interview at Black Agenda Report