There are no Jack Kemps here.
As they say in baseball, play ball.
But apparently not in the NFL.
Instead of playing the game they are being paid millions to play, whole teams of the National Football League have decided instead to insult the fans who pay their salaries whether watching a game in person or on television.
The method of choice in insults is to refuse to honor all those who died to give these rich spoiled brats their opportunity to play a game they supposedly love. Brats who pretend to a social conscience when they don’t even have the courage to stand up off the field for a cause to which they give nothing but lip service.
One of the most inspiring bosses of my professional life was the late Jack Kemp. Jack was a football player’s football player. The quarterback for the Buffalo Bills who led them to two consecutive American Football League championships in 1964 and 1965, Jack was also totally committed to the Republican century-plus old demand for civil rights.
In 1965 there was a boycott by black players of New Orleans — a protest because of the city’s segregated hotels, clubs, and nightclubs. Jack supported the boycott — but he never failed to stand for the national anthem that gave him the right to play football in the first place. Take a read here from this site on Jack’s life:
The 1964 American Football League All-Star Game was scheduled to be held in New Orleans in January, 1965. Kemp and team-mates Ernie Warlick and Cookie Gilchrist were members of the Eastern Division team. When they arrived at the New Orleans airport, Gilchrist and Warlick hailed a nearby cab. The cabbie told Gilchrist: “You have to take a colored cab”, to which Cookie replied “I don’t care what color it is, we just want a cab!” The driver explained that they had to wait for a cab used only for black patrons. He peered out at Kemp, though, and said “I’ll take you.” Kemp replied that if the cab was too good for his friends, it wasn’t good enough for him.
After similar treatment of the black players at their hotel and other Big Easy establishments, Kemp joined with the rest of the white players on the squad to support the black players in their boycott of the city. In an early civil rights stand, the players held out and the game was moved to Houston.
In other words, the quarterback of the Buffalo Bills had not the slightest hesitation about protesting for civil rights. He did so — repeatedly. But never in a thousand years would Jack Kemp have “taken a knee” when the national anthem was being played at the start of a game. He was one proud, thorough-going American who believed passionately in equal rights, in the principles of “Mr. Lincoln” and “Dr. King” as he always called his heroes — and mine. Later in life as a Congressman from New York it was Jack Kemp who played a key role in making Martin Luther King’s birthday a national holiday. But he never for a moment disrespected the fans who paid to see him play football. Always, always, always Jack Kemp was about respect for others.
Now? Now the NFL is one very long way from the principles of Jack Kemp. Instead of having the guts to take their protest out to America all of these players have decided to give a middle finger to millions of Americans of all races who simply want to watch a football game and see excellence and professionalism on display. Not to mention those Americans who have died in service to their country — whether in uniform or protesting like Dr. King.
These “protests” are not about protest. They are about gutless, spoiled players who make zillions using attendance at their games to give the middle finger to all those who have literally died to give them their chance to play a game.
What about making a real protest? In 1965 — off the player’s field — Kemp supported that boycott of black and white players to get a championship game in segregated New Orleans moved to Houston. The boycott worked — and successfully got the game moved. He didn’t “take a knee” and insult those who sacrificed their lives by refusing to stand for the national anthem. He went outside the stadium and put his name, reputation, and career on the line where it counted.
If these players today want to protest discrimination — here’s an idea. Turn the multi-zillion dollars they receive from their NFL contracts over to their favorite cause. The NAACP or Black Lives Matter or whatever. Or quit the game and run for Congress as did Jack Kemp when he retired.
But for God sakes don’t insult the fans or all those Americans of all races and genders who have had the guts to put on a uniform and go to hostile far distant hell-holes so that rich athletes can get richer while living out their American dreams to be professional athletes. Dr. King had the guts to stand up and protest in the streets of America — and lost his life doing so.
Alas, the players involved here have learned nothing from Jack Kemp. Instead of having the serious guts to stand up off the field and commit their life and money to fighting racial discrimination they have decided to insult their own fans.
And the fans should respond. My suggestion?
If whole NFL teams refuse to even take the field for the playing of the Star Spangled Banner — a national anthem that honors among many things the very freedom and civil rights that Dr. King and others gave their life for? Then, well, not to be inelegant but screw the cowards.
Turn off the games. Don’t go to the games. Stop buying the endless merchandise.
As it were, it is apparently time for the fans of the NFL to “take a knee.” To boycott the NFL by simply closing their wallets and walking away from rich, privileged athletes who couldn’t polish Jack Kemp’s cleats. Much less have the real courage to go outside the football stadium and help — yes — make America great again.
It’s time for the fans to fight back — and take a knee to the NFL.
Jack Kemp at DC Vote Rally in 2007 (KCIvey/Flickr-Creative Commons)