By Chandlor Henderson
One of my first memories as a child was going to PSU to watch my Uncle Hernon play football. I was too young to really know what was going on, but I would hear his name and my grandfather would point him out to me. I remember the drive from Northern Virginia up in the mountains to PSU, with the windy rocky roads. I remember eating bags of peanuts, and on one particular day I chomped down on a bad one that I can still taste to this day. But most importantly, I remember being proud of my family, and of myself.
As I grew older I played football for several years, but I was never really good. I did, however, wear my uncle’s number for the entire duration of my playing time. I was a black sheep in my family (still am), but I was always a huge football fan, and I read voraciously. I wasn’t always able to watch the games, because I spent most my 20’s working in restaurants so I was always working, but I loved the sport. As I’ve gotten older all that has changed.
Back then, my favorite college team other than PSU was USC. I loved when Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush were straight dominating fools. Pete Carroll looked like a kid running up and down the field, and I thought it was awesome. At that time I was unaware that college players didn’t get paid. All I knew was that team had two active Heisman players on the team at the same time. To me that was the great era of football. But then, the fallout of the scandal, which in my opinion, is unfair and bullyish.
The idea that a player can go out on a field and sustain repeated brain injuries while their schools make money for FREE drives me crazy. It’s almost like some type of institutional slavery. Now, in my uncle’s experience he graduated with an engineering degree and I’ve also seen a lot of other success stories, both personally and from within the NFL. However many of these players don’t graduate and/or are left injured and exhausted, while the schools are profiting off of their natural abilities combined with extremely hard work. And on top of that, the players better not take a political stand or openly believe in anything, because all they amount to are dollars anyway.
Which brings me to Colin Kaepernick. By the time he started causing a stir I had long stopped watching football. I don’t like my home team’s name (The Washington Redskins) and every time I hear Jerry Jones say anything I wanna shoot the damn screen. But Kaepernick was something about the NFL that I finally agreed with, after years of disillusionment. Finally someone standing up for what he believed in, encouraged to kneel by a veteran playing in the NFL. The response to Kaepernick’s action sickened me. His kneeling was clearly a non-violent protest. And you know what, fuck this American pride bullshit. You know what America does to black men? In the last week, as a response to the BLM protests, 5 of us have been found hanging, and the police rule these suicides. That’s what they do to us and they still expect us to stand and dance for their flag. And why is that exactly? Because they love America so much?
Naaaah… half the people that I’ve met who are super critical of Kaep are no more patriotic than I am. They don’t believe in the government, and often don’t even think voting is important. They don’t know or appreciate the importance of the Supreme Court — don’t even know a single justice’s name — but somehow feel justified in espousing a loud opinion about what’s right and wrong. I think, if you’re going to debate right and wrong, you actually need to have done some research. And I don’t mean 10 years ago. I mean now. I understand that maybe you went to a good school, and maybe had some good opportunities, but now you’re just a drunk dude sitting next to me at a bar. When’s the last time you read… anything? Facebook posts don’t count.
Ugh… Now I gotta take a deep breath, because thinking about these things makes me angry and often jumbles my thoughts. I think about all the dumb-ass double standards I hear from white men about this issue, and every single other issue, and it’s hard to sort through them. It’s hard to even take what some people say seriously because you know they don’t actually believe it (or anything), they just want to prove you wrong. It’s always about proving the black man wrong, no matter how right he is. And it’s exhausting.
But… I’m ready to be a fan again. Wherever Kaep signs, I’ll be a fan. I’m gonna get me a jersey, and I’m gonna try to get him to sign it. I’m gonna maybe wear it to bars… although I’m 37 and probably too old to wear jerseys. More importantly, I’ll be proud. It obviously won’t be the same as watching my uncle, but Kaep cared enough about us to take a stand and do something, and that makes him family. I can’t wait to see him on the field again. That’s gonna be a good day.