Leave it to President Donald Trump to take us to new levels of absurdity.
After the president threw himself into the debate about whether NFL players should kneel during the national anthem at football games, some team owners joined hundreds of players this week to lock arms in a show of unity. But what exactly are they unifying around?
If NFL owners, some of the richest white men in the country (including a few who supported Trump’s campaign), are entering the fray, these national-level sports protests may have lost all meaning. That’s not unintentional. Jerry Jones, oil tycoon and owner of my Dallas Cowboys, even knelt before the anthem on this week’s “Monday Night Football.”
No, Jones isn’t joining the movement against police brutality or racial justice highlighted by former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whom Jones and his owner buddies are blacklisting. Jones, in fact, knelt with the players, but everyone stood during the anthem, purposely avoiding the original protest.
Jones and the owners are helping Trump to intentionally whitewash the spirit of dissent that Kaepernick ignited. And the hijacking of what protest actually means happened here in the city, too. On Wednesday, more than a dozen City Council members took a knee on the steps of City Hall with a Kaepernick jersey in a show of solidarity with NFL players. That’s right, not only are NFL owners suddenly super-woke, local politicians want you to believe that they, too, are protesters.
Absurdity might not be a strong enough word for the council’s political theater. After all, it was the council, led by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who not so long ago pushed to add nearly 1,300 cops to America’s largest police force amid historic protests about overpolicing and record-low crime. With the infusion of extra police power, the NYPD created specialized, heavily armed anti-terror units, the Strategic Response Group and Critical Response Command, tasked with policing protesters in the city.
Some of these politicians who helped empower police to arrest actual protesters have also been protested in their own districts. There are countless young people of color, longtime grass-roots activists, tenant associations and immigrants in this city actually fighting the system. Mark-Viverito and her cohorts — who love to use political stunts like symbolic arrests — are the system.
Elected officials shouldn’t be taking a knee, they should be having a damned seat.
Josmar Trujillo is a trainer, writer and activist with the Coalition to End Broken Windows.