by Michael Coard
MLK would beg to differ. In fact, he’s turning over in his grave right now and asking himself if his life of kneeling — as well as resisting, demonstrating, protesting, and agitating — was an outdated and complete waste of time.
He’s asking if anything of substance has significantly improved for Black folks in America from the past in 1968 to the present in 2019. He’s asking about rampant police brutality. He’s asking about white cops killing Blacks on video with impunity. He’s asking about burgeoning mass incarceration.
He’s asking himself if he should have sought to be appointed to the board of a wealthy racist international corporation — and thereby get paid big money — as a “chess playing” strategy to combat corporate racism.
And then he’s telling himself, “We’re not past kneeling and we’re not past resisting, demonstrating, protesting, or agitating, at least not until white America is past racism and Black America is past sellouts.
Here’s some pertinent background info about this entire controversy. Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49er star quarterback decided, as publicly expressed in 2016 immediately before the home preseason game at Levi Stadium against the Green Bay Packers, to sit during the playing of the national anthem.
He explained his decision by saying, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people … There’s a lot of things that needs to change. One specifically is police brutality. There … (are) people being murdered … and not being held accountable. Cops are getting paid leave for killing people.” He’s right, you know. Remember that 102 unarmed Blacks were killed by cops in the previous year alone. In fact, more innocent Blacks were killed by police each week in 2015 than were lynched by mobs each week from 1882-1890.
Is Jay-Z a sellout for his profitable hookup with the NFL wherein he’ll partner with the league on its so-called Inspire Change initiative and wherein he’ll serve in an advisory role to consult on live entertainment for the league’s major events, including the Super Bowl? It looks to me, so far, like he is a sellout. And here are five factual reasons why I’m grudgingly coming to that conclusion:
1. Ernest Owens, a Philadelphia-based award-winning journalist who often confronts racism throughout the country, recently defined a sellout by writing that it’s a person “who gets paid for services and deeds that go against the very collective that initially championed for… [that person].”
Webster’s Dictionary defines a sellout as a person who “betrays one’s cause or associates, especially for personal gain.”
Jay-Z got (or is getting or will get) paid millions of dollars as a result of his NFL deal. And that payment goes against a large segment of the Black community that created him and that loves Kaepernick. So I guess Owens is obviously and accurately referencing Jay-Z in his definition of a sellout.
A betrayal is the taking of something of value from a friend and giving it to an enemy. It is also the desertion of a friend in his/her/their time of need. So I guess Webster’s is obviously and accurately referencing Jay-Z in its definition of a sellout.
2. Eric Reid, a Pro Bowl safety with the Carolina Panthers and former Kaepernick teammate in San Francisco who knelt with him and continues to kneel, blasted Jay-Z by describing the partnership as “disingenuous” and tweeting “We had no beef with the NFL until they started perpetuating the systemic oppression that we are fighting by blackballing [Kaepernick] …”
Reid’s right. Because Kaepernick used his public platform to expose America’s suffocating racism, nearly all of the NFL owners “blacklisted” him. As reported in 2016 by larrybrownsports.com, the preeminent digital sports website, a top NFL insider said “90-95 percent” of the front offices have “blacklisted” Kaepernick. And another said he can’t remember this much “collective dislike for a player since (former Carolina Panther wide receiver) Rae Carruth.” What? They’re actually comparing Kaepernick to a double-murderer who’s in prison for the 1999 shooting death of his pregnant ex-girlfriend! The only thing Kaepernick murdered (and justifiably so) was white hypocrisy.
Reid added, “Jay-Z knowingly made a money move with the very people who have committed an injustice against … Kaepernick and is using [so-called] social justice to smooth it over with the Black community.” That deal, he concluded, is “kind of despicable.”
As a follow-up to Reid’s tweet, Kaepernick tweeted, “I continue to work and stand with the people in our fight for liberation, despite those who are trying to erase the movement.” If you don’t think Kaepernick’s aforementioned shade was thrown at Jay-Z like a clothesline pass to the chest of an open wide receiver in the end zone, then you don’t know shade (or football).
3. Jay-Z didn’t include Kaepernick in any negotiations with the NFL. As Jemele Hill, a prominent award-winning sports journalist and top-rated TV host, wrote in The Atlantic, “By leaving Kaepernick completely out of the mix, Jay-Z is now complicit in helping the NFL execute its strategy. Now he is an accomplice in the league’s hypocrisy.”
As Nessa Diab, a radio and television personality and partner of Kaepernick, wrote, “It’s typical for the NFL to buy different PR looks to cover up their dirt- that’s nothing new. But what is disgusting and disappointing is Jay-Z let them use him.” And on a Hot 97 radio interview, she stated, “I don’t mind … [Jay-Z] doing a business deal. But I do mind … [him] wrapping it in social justice when … [he’s] working with an organization that denies someone an opportunity.”
4. Despite the racist “Shop-And-Frisk” practices by Barneys, a luxury department store in New York that was sued by several Black shoppers in 2013 for profiling, questioning, harassing, and detaining them, Jay-Z refused to cut his ties to that high-end retailer — which was selling his wildly expensive products in its BNY SCC (i.e., Barneys Shawn Corey Carter) Gallery.
5. As part of his partnership with the NFL, Jay-Z donated at least $200,000 to the Crushers Club (CC). CC is a Chicago-based community organization for at-risk youth headed by a white woman, Sally Hazelgrove, who personally cuts off Black boys’ locks because she says that such cutting is “symbolic of change and … [creates] a better life.” So how does she explain me? I have locks, very long ones, and I am a successful lawyer, successful adjunct college professor, successful newspaper columnist, and successful radio/TV host. And I have a great life — as do many of the locks-wearing young Black men who either have been my college students or who I have personally mentored in the Hip Hop community.
Oh, and by the way, CC rebuts the progressive, thoughtful, and much-needed “Black Lives Matter” mantra by responding with the reactionary, mindless, and unnecessary “All Lives Matter” nonsense.
Also, CC’s Facebook page administrator posted a comment indicating, “I don’t see race.” In other words, CC doesn’t see racism. And that’s a major problem.
It gets worse. CC thinks it’s a good idea to support the notoriously racist Chicago Police Department by praising it as a friend of the Black community and by posting a comment declaring that “Our Junior Chicago Police Department … can’t wait to arrest someone. Especially hearing they can start making $70,000 as a cop.” Wait! What? Arrest who? Why? And for money? WTF is wrong with CC- and with Jay-Z for financing CC?
MLK is still kneeling from beyond. He’s also still resisting, demonstrating, protesting, and agitating. And he’s whispering to Jay-Z, “You got 99 problems and being greedily rich is number one. Principles over profits, young man. Principles over profits.” Then King dropped the mic after spittin’ one of Public Enemy’s classic lines, “Before I sell out, I’ll get the hell out.”
Michael Coard can be followed on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and at AvengingTheAncestors.com. His “Radio Courtroom” show can be heard on WURD 96.1FM and his “TV Courtroom” show can be seen on PhillyCam/Verizon/Comcast.
This commentary originally appeared in the Philadelphia Tribune.