Along with three friends I spent many a Sunday afternoon shivering my ass off at the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium watching Jim Brown set so many rushing records that many of them still stand today, decades later. I was such a fan that when accusations later surfaced in regards to his horrible behavior towards a number of women in his life I quickly gave him a dispensation, telling myself that the accusations were just the way white society wanted to tear a black man down. I took that dispensation back years ago, but still greatly admired the man.
After all, upon retirement, he started the Amer-I-Can Program in Los Angeles, which engaged at-risk young men by providing real mentoring that leads to life-altering interventions and real changes. The program — one of the first of its kind — became a national model and was replicated here in Cleveland with varying degrees of success, due primarily to the lack of character of the people he put in charge of it. As a manager, however, he left much to be desired. But the real point was, Jim Brown was attempting to do something when others were sitting on the sidelines doing nothing. That made him more of a hero to me than any of his exploits on the gridiron.
But alas, I think that Jim Brown, at age 82, is now out of step with the current state of affairs and thinking in black America. He recently said “I’ll never kneel and I will always respect the flag,” before an HBO premiere of Hard Knocks, a film which is chronicling the Cleveland Browns in training camp.
When asked how he would resolve the issue of players taking a knee, Brown said, “Well, if you take the bottom line, what are we talking about? We’re talking about freedom to express one’s self, and if you don’t break any rules then you have that particular right.” But then he appeared to want to have his cake while eating it too by saying, “I am not going to denigrate my flag and I’m going to stand for the National Anthem.”
I’m disappointed that Brown is buying into the argument being put forth by Donald Trump and others who feel that athletes should remain silent on social issues. They conflate taking a knee when the National Anthem is being played with disrespect for the flag, the country and our brave service men and women. But nothing could be further from the truth, and they in fact know it.
First, the National Anthem, like the statues of traitors such as Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and Stonewall Jackson, should be relegated to the dustbin of history. The third stanza of the song penned by Francis Scott Key goes, in part:
“No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave ..”
Key was literally saying that slaves engaged in fighting to be free should be hunted down and killed. And we blacks are supposed to stand for lyrics like that?
But the real issue has nothing to do with a lack of respect for the National Anthem or the flag; it’s about players raising awareness in regards to the plight of blacks that are still losing their lives due to overly-aggressive policing. It’s about players finally moving off of the plantation.
The simple fact is, Trump and the owners want the players to just shut up and play football. They are genuinely afraid that if the players keep raising the issue by kneeling it could erode their fan base and therefore hurt their profits. For them, it’s all about the money. Of course, the majority of white Americans don’t care to be reminded of the racism that is still far too prevalent in American society, they just want to have a few beers and enjoy the game.
It was recently announced that LeBron James’ production company is teaming up with HBO on a project tentatively entitled Shut Up and Dribble. I can only imagine what that’s going to be about. Maybe Jim Brown should have waited until it comes out before talking about an issue he clearly is out of touch with.
From CoolCleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.