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The National Football League has an image problem: drugs, violence against women, and an epidemic of permanent brain damage among its players leap to mind. Just when it looked like the league might start to become relevant, with San Francisco 49er backup quarterack Colin Kaepernick protesting racial injustice by kneeling during the National Anthem in a preseason game, the Seahawks bungled it all up with a vapid, arm-linking show of unity before the Sunday, Sept. 11 game against the Miami Dolphins. (Their play on the field seemed similarly uninspired, although the Seahawks did win that game.)
Media observers were not impressed. Jezebel, The Nation and The Root all posted columns critical if not condemning of the Seahawks' action. Meanwhile, Kaepernick's refusal to stand during one of America's holiest-of-holies, the Star-Spangled Banner, was truly brave because the NFL is a form of entertainment provided primarily by black men (about 67 percent of the league's players are black) for a primarily white male audience. The idea that black entertainers should do just that—entertain, and otherwise keep their mouths shut—is as old as the slave trade.
What the Seahawks did after Sunday's game should please a white-supremacist audience. Russell Wilson's quote in the team's own article, posted to its website, captures the vanilla flavor of the Seahawks' effort going forward: “If we can change the heart of one person, and let that person change somebody else’s heart and soul and viewpoint, and understand to respect, and learn more about other people and build that bridge like we talked about, that’s what it takes to help the world.”
Jason Johnson of The Root was particularly harsh in his assessment of all this: “While Kaepernick’s activism has inspired some to take a stand, it has inspired the Seattle Seahawks team to take a fence. Unable to take the bold step to protest collectively or the equally acceptable step of not protesting at all, they have chosen the mushy middle: #AllLivesMatter pabulum for those too cowardly to take a real stand but still wanting to be a part of the conversation.”