NFL Star Michael Bennett on Refusing to Go to Israel, Black Lives Matter & His Love for Angela Davis
In a Democracy Now! exclusive, we speak with Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, who made headlines when he pulled out of an Israeli government-sponsored trip to Israel for NFL players. We are also joined by Dave Zirin, sports editor for The Nation magazine. The two discuss the role of sports in politics, including Olympian John Carlos, as well as Colin Kaepernick’s support for the Black Lives Matter movement that inspired players throughout the country at all levels to take similar actions.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn to our Democracy Now! exclusive. Earlier this month, professional football star Michael Bennett made headlines when he pulled out of an Israeli government-sponsored trip to Israel for NFL players. In an open letter, Bennett, who plays for the Seattle Seahawks, wrote, “One of my heroes has always been Muhammad Ali. I know that Ali always stood strongly with the Palestinian people, visiting refugee camps, going to rallies, and always willing to be a ‘voice for the voiceless.’ I want to be a ‘voice for the voiceless’ and I cannot do that by going on this kind of trip to Israel.” Bennett’s words struck a chord with his teammates. In the end, only five out of the original 13 players ended up traveling as ambassadors of goodwill for Israel.
Well, yesterday, I spoke with Michael Bennett and Dave Zirin, a sports editor for The Nation magazine. I began by asking Michael Bennett about his decision not to go to Israel.
MICHAEL BENNETT: I decided not to go because, you know, doing some—my research on Palestine and Israel and all the things that were going on, I’ve seen so many similarities between the Black Lives movement and the Palestinian movement. And, you know, I figured if I was going to go to Israel, I should be able to go see both sides. And, you know, I didn’t want to be an ambassador for a certain government if I wasn’t sure if I agree with everything the government was doing. So I thought it would be better to go on my own time, you know, and figure out my own situation when I get there.
AMY GOODMAN: How did this trip end up getting planned?
MICHAEL BENNETT: You know, they contacted us during the last year in the summertime, and, you know, they were talking about this trip. And I thought it was just more of like a trip that you get to go see Israel. I didn’t know it was like an ambassador trip and all the extra stuff. So, you know, once I found out about that, some of my friends called me and was like, “Oh, did you know this? And did you know that?” And when they called me, I just decided to—you know, I was like, “Oh, well, I can’t. I can’t do this. I don’t want to be an ambassador for something that I don’t agree with.”
AMY GOODMAN: Michael, what kind of response did you get to posting that letter? [read more…]
As American as Refusing to Stand for the National Anthem
Late last year, George Gittens, who goes by Dr. Natural, got a call from Nessa Diab, the host of Hot 97’s afternoon show. Dr. Natural is a holistic-health advocate in Brooklyn who has long dreadlocks and maintains a raw, vegan, alkaline diet. Diab was hoping Dr. Natural would speak at an event she was putting on with her boyfriend, a professional football player. “I said, ‘Cup-ernick?’ ” Dr. Natural said recently. “ ‘Who’s Cup-ernick?’ ” Diab clarified that her boyfriend was the San Francisco 49er who had knelt during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality in America, causing dozens of other athletes to join him in solidarity and then-candidate Trump to suggest he find another country. “I didn’t know his name,” Dr. Natural said. “I just knew him as the guy who took a knee.”
Early on the Saturday of Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, Colin Kaepernick, the guy who took a knee, walked onto a stage at the Audubon Ballroom, on West 165th Street, flanked by a floor-to-ceiling mural depicting Malcolm X. Kaepernick was hosting his second Know Your Rights Camp, and explained the venue’s significance to the 240 young people in attendance: In 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated here while delivering a speech of his own. “There’s a lot of people out there that don’t want to see you succeed,” Kaepernick told the crowd. “But the people in this room do.”
Kaepernick was joined by three of his 49ers teammates at the all-day event, which covered the intersectional bases of modern activism. In addition to Dr. Natural’s presentation on the environmental importance of filtering your water and using a squatty potty, there were sessions on the history of policing, financial literacy, and college admissions. Carmen Perez, the executive director of Gathering for Justice, to which Kaepernick had recently given $25,000 as part of his pledge to donate a million dollars to social-justice organizations across the country, led a role-playing exercise for engaging with police. Dr. Natural didn’t believe Diab when she said they could get more than 200 kids to show up on a Saturday morning, so he hadn’t brought enough pamphlets on “maintaining a positive mental attitude.” “I’m sure some of the motivation was to meet Kaepernick himself,” Dr. Natural said. “But, hey, whatever works.” [read more…]
NFL Quarterback Investing Thousands into Milwaukee Organizations
He created a stir by sitting down during the national anthem, taking a stand to raise awareness about social justice issues in America, and 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick isn’t just talking the talk..
CBS 58’s Amanda Porterfield shows us how he’s walking the walk right here in Milwaukee. Urban Underground has been helping teens on Milwaukee’s North side for 17 years.
Sharlen Moore is busy running the show with just 3 others on staff, and a small budget.
“It’s huge for us,” says Moore.
So it’s no surprise that even a football star’s agent had to call twice to get her attention.
“He said what could you do with 25,000 dollars. I said we could do a lot with 25 thousand dollars. And I started to name all of the things,” says Moore.
New computers, stipends for the kids that come here after school instead of the streets, and newer vans than the ones they have now which are 20 plus years old.
“Some weeks after we received a check in the mail for 25,000 dollars. Couldn’t believe, I just couldn’t believe it. That this was Colin Kaepernick and that he was supporting our organization all the way in Milwaukee,” says Sharlen Moore.
Besides Urban Underground, Colin Kaepernick gave another $25,000.00 to the “I Will Not Die Young Campaign” here in Milwaukee.
Both organizations focus on keeping young inner city, mainly African American kids alive and moving in a positive direction, an issue Colin Kaepernick stood up for by kneeling.
“A lot of times people talk about it but the one thing I really value and appreciate with Colin Kaepernick, is that he actually put his money where his mouth is,” says Moore.
This is all part of Kaepernick’s initiative to donate $1 million dollars, money from his own salary to organizations across the United States. [read more…]
Colin Kaepernick keeps promise to drive change
As the executive director of a small non-profit, Sharlen Moore is happy to talk with anyone who wants to know more about her organization and its work with economically disadvantaged teenagers.
So when a man from California called last fall, she thought nothing of it. Didn’t even realize until after they’d hung up that the Cat Collins she’d been talking with works with Colin Kaepernick.
Then a check for $25,000 arrived.
“For (larger, national non-profits), that’s a drop in the bucket. For us, $25,000 is huge. We can do a lot with $25,000,” said Moore, whose Urban Underground offers leadership training, helps with college preparation and applications, and provides job opportunities for teens in Milwaukee.
“We’re not getting funds like that,” Moore added. “To have made such a large gift is beyond meaningful for us. It is beyond meaningful.”
Kaepernick ignited a firestorm when he refused to stand for the national anthem as a way of calling attention to racial oppression and police brutality, a protest that spread quickly throughout the NFL. As he and players from nearly a third of the teams in the league knelt, raised fists or stood with arms locked, there was a loud chorus of criticism from those who felt they were being disrespectful.
But the protests stirred some to action. And it’s those actions that could continue making an impact long after the images of sideline protests have faded. [read more…]
Colin Kaepernick Spreads Knowledge & Love Uptown…
On Saturday, January 14 approximately 200 students convened at the Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz Educational and Memorial Center. Upon arrival students and chaperones were greeted by numerous happy faces. They were handed a notebook, pen, and shirt that were all emblazoned with the phrase “I KNOW MY RIGHTS.” Standing by the landing that holds the statue of Malcolm X hands raised in mid speech was outspoken athlete and activist Colin Kaepernick.
The Know Your Rights Camp (KYRC) is an ongoing campaign for youth fully funded by Kaepernick. It raises awareness on higher education, financial literacy, how to properly interact with law enforcement and so much more. It began in Oakland, followed by New York City, and will continue adding more cities to it’s roster. Upstairs in the ballroom that was covered in vibrant floor to ceiling murals of Malcolm and his journey was a catered breakfast by SweetChick Life. Colin Kaepernick walked around to interact with everyone, snapped a few selfies and engaged in conversation.
The event was officially underway when Kaepernick made his way to the stage and welcomed everyone. He immediately shared the significance of choosing the venue; it was the last place Malcolm X spoke and where he was assassinated. For me, it was a full circle moment. I felt blessed to stand in a sacred place, participate in an event aimed towards educating the youth, during MLK weekend that was created and facilitated by a professional athlete who uses his platform to demand change for some of our most vulnerable populations.
The KYRC facilitated discussions that kicked off with Ameer the lead speaker, a PHD candidate who told us that solidarity transcends social media, that support comes in different ways when you support a movement. One must arm themselves with knowledge and respect their elders and allow them the opportunity to tell their stories. Ameer urged the students to connect throughout generations by acknowledging the people that put in work for them. To take a moment to ask their abuelita to tell them cuentos from when she was young. [read more…]
Colin Kaepernick’s “Know Your Rights” Program is Providing the Youth With Major Keys to Success
Colin Kaepernick has been a powerful voice for the Black community since his controversial boycott of the national anthem during NFL games. He’s donated $1 million to community charities and is now set on empowering the youth with key tools they need to navigate everyday obstacles in life. For the second “Know Your Rights” event, a free campaign for youth fully funded by the San Francisco quarterback to raise awareness on higher education, self empowerment, and interaction with law enforcement, Kaepernick and other celebrity figures gathered at the historic Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, NY to give back.
At the venue where Malcolm X gave his final speech before being assassinated in 1965, Kaepernick and others provided kids with a history lesson on the Civil Rights activist and his significant impact on equality and racism in America. “We are trying to give them resources and knowledge,” the NFL explains. The kids sat-in on five workshops including “History on Policing,” “Knowing Your Rights,” “Health and Healthy Eating,” “Financial Literacy,” and “The Importance of Higher Education.”
The camp also centered the workshops around a 10-point program to help guide the students.
The event brought in 240 local students, who all received school essentials, the Autobiography of Malcolm X, Beats by Dre headphones, pamphlets to encourage healthy eating, and interesting DNA kits including a year membership to Ancestery.com “so they can really find out where they come from.” The 240 gift bags, valued at over $168,000. [read more…]
Colin Kaepernick says 49ers fans showed “Character” this year
There is a shadow narrative when it comes to 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
It says that Kaepernick doesn’t want to return to the team.
However, sources close to Kaepernick say that all things being equal, the 49ers would be his first choice.
The narrative says that his teammates don’t support him.
However, Kaepernick won the team’s Len Eshmont Award last season – an honor voted on by teammates and given to the player who best exemplifies courageous and inspirational play.
The narrative also says that fans are tired of Kaepernick and want him to move on.
Yet Kaepernick feels greatly supported by fans in the Bay Area. Here’s what he told sfgate.com after the 49ers season finale.
“It would have been very easy for (49ers fans) this season, with everything that’s going on, to turn their back and they didn’t,” he said. “To me that means a lot and it shows the character of the people.”
Kaepernick was also impressed with how fans interacted with him, particularly around his protest against racism, discrimination, violence, and malnutrition. [read more…]
An Honest Statistical Evaluation of Colin Kaepernick
When Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee suggested that Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan may want to keep Colin Kaepernick around if he becomes the San Francisco 49ers’ next head coach, the response was predictable. It was split between those who are in favor or at least would be willing to take a wait and see approach, and then those who spit out their morning coffee, drove their cars off the side of the road or fell out of their chairs backward onto the floor. Ok, so maybe I’m just imagining those reactions, but there are obviously those who very clearly think that would be a grave mistake: and they are passionate about it.
After all, Colin Kaepernick is a very polarizing figure, and was, to a lesser extent, even before his national anthem protest. What’s strange to me, though, is that Kaepernick seems to be the only quarterback in the NFL who gets evaluated by the media and fans completely devoid of any statistical analysis. When it comes to Kaepernick, let’s not bring stats into it. [read more…]
Start listening to Colin Kaepernick — and learning
In 1966, in Soldier Field, Martin Luther King, Jr., called out police brutality and demanded better from our country before marching with nearly 30,000 others to City Hall.
On Sunday, an act of peaceful protest related to racial inequalities took place at Soldier Field, and it was met with boos.
Of course, many will scoff at comparing 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to King. After all, Kaepernick is wealthy and famous and perhaps has not directly been subject to the most severe forms of racism.
But what they have in common is that when Kaepernick kneels during the national anthem, he’s calling on us all to pay attention to inequalities in our country with an act of peaceful protest. His kneeling is not about disrespecting the nation but asking this nation’s citizens to live up to its promises to protect us all equally, which it unequivocally does not.
Kaepernick’s protest has further highlighted a general lack of knowledge and complete disconnect among white Americans about black American history, particularly to resistance movements.
A history book would have been more helpful than a megaphone in the hands of former Alderman James Balcer, who held a rally Sunday outside Soldier Field against Kaepernick.
“Any time you want to leave, you can leave (America),” Balcer said, according to reports.
Balcer isn’t alone in his distaste for Kaepernick’s protest. Despite that men of color helped make Mike Ditka rich and famous, the blustery, fact-immune former Bears coach has apparently taken no time to understand the inequities and biases that black people face. [read more…]
Colin Kaepernick is making good on his pledge to donate $1 million
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made a promise, and so far he’s making good on it. He caught the eyes of the nation this season when he made the decision to kneel, as opposed to standing, during the national anthem before games in protest of racial inequality. During a postgame news conference in September, Kaepernick pledged to donate $1 million to different organizations of his choice.
“I will donate $1 million plus all the proceeds of my jersey sales from the 2016 season to organizations working in oppressed communities — $100,000 a month for 10 months,” he said.
It appears he’s doing just that. At the end of November, he announced that he made a donation of $25,000 to the Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) organization, which is “dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all black people,” according to its website.
Kaepernick recently unveiled his website, which details his donations. The site houses an itemized list that informs visitors as to where the money was distributed. He said he started the website “to make sure not only that I’m transparent in what I’m doing, but that these organizations are transparent with where the money is going, as well.”
So far, $200,000 of the $1 million has been allocated. In October, Kaepernick dished out gifts of $25,000 each to the Silicon Valley De-Bug, Causa Justa/Just Cause, Urban Underground and Mothers Against Police Brutality. In November, in addition to his gift of $25,000 to the BYP100, he donated equal amounts to Gathering For Justice/ Justice League, Communities United for Police Reform and the I Will Not Die Young Campaign. [read more…]
Colin Kaepernick donates to Black Youth Project 100
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has made a donation to the Black Youth Project 100 organization. Its national chapters, including Chicago’s, are “dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all Black people.”
Leaders in both BYP100’s Chicago and national offices did not say how much Kaepernick donated, and the quarterback did not specify during a Wednesday afternoon conference call with reporters.
Despite that, Tasha Viets-VanLear of the Chicago chapter of BYP100 said Kaepernick’s donation will go toward “chapter-specific ideas and endeavors centered around advancing our Agenda to Build Black Futures.”
According to BYP100, the Agenda to Build Black Futures is “a set of economic goals and structural changes that could improve the lives of Black people living in America.”
“We envision a more economically just society that values the lives and well-being of ALL Black people, including women, queer, and transgender folks, the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated as well as those who languish in the bottom 1% of the economic hierarchy,” BYP100 wrote on its website.
BYP100 has been a vocal presence at several protests and demonstrations in Chicago since the release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video last year. [read more…]
The History of Black Protest and the Hypocrisy of Stephen A. Smith
“Of all Americans, Negroes distrust politicians most, or, more accurately, they have been best trained to expect nothing from them; more than other Americans, they are always aware of the enormous gap between election promises and their daily lives.” – James Baldwin (Notes of a Native Son, 1955)
Colin Kaepernick is not a novelty. Far from an anomaly, the 49ers quarterback is part of a storied history of Black political protest. From refusing to stand for the National Anthem, to exercising his right not to vote, Kaepernick’s actions are part of lineage of skepticism over mainstream politics. The presidential election, of course, represents the height of mainstream politics. Blackskepticism, however, should not be read as lack of interest in politics, but rather a struggle to expand what is meant by politics. Black skepticism says that if voting is the only way to be political, then we’re in trouble.
Colin Kaepernick is part of a tradition that predates the “Star-Spangled Banner,” the song thatbecame the US National Anthem in 1931, and the ratification of the 15th Amendment which enfranchised Black men. This struggle predates Black folks fleeing the hellish conditions of chattel slavery being diagnosed by Dr. Samuel Cartwright (1851) as having a disease that he called drapetomania, to explain why Black people were risking their lives to escape antebellum oppression. Black people have been fighting for the human right to be free since the first Africans were kidnapped and brought to the North American colony of Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619. From rebellions on slavers like the Amistad, to something as seemingly innocent as learning to read — our ancestors died not (exclusively) for the right to vote. Many of our ancestors were fighting against systems of oppression/oppressors for our right to be free. [read more…]
49ers’ Colin Kaepernick sat during national anthem and sparked national debate; what’s your contribution?
My sister is one of the bravest people I know. And not because she served in Iraq — where she endured the trauma of facing death daily, of guarding entrances with guns bigger than her leg, of trying to cram the spilled intestines of her comrade back where they belong. She is so brave because she returned to America and continued her fight for veterans.
My sister, Oakland native Nicole Hart, started her own nonprofit in Arkansas, ARVets, to help provide veterans much needed basic services. She could be making millions. She is that bright and likable. Instead, she is spending her young adulthood hustling to secure basic services — jobs, housing, education — for veterans and their families. She exhausts her own means toward this effort because it is so needed.
And the reason it so needed? Because too many Americans feel like honoring veterans happens during national anthems at sports events. Because our affection for soldiers and their sacrifice is mostly confined to a two-minute rendition of a song. [read more…]
Should we dismiss Colin Kaepernick’s cause because he doesn’t vote?
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick cited “oppression” as the reason he won’t vote. So how are African Americans oppressed after the abolishment of slavery, the outlawing of discrimination and eight years of a mixed raced man as President?
First of all, public education funding is based on parcel tax, consequently poor black and brown students don’t receive the same resources as wealthy white schools because property taxes are much higher in white suburbs than they are in poor minority neighborhoods. Such a taxation system is inherently biased.
In the criminal justice system, blacks, whether wealthy or not, are arrested, convicted and sent to jail for longer terms than whites under the same circumstances and for the same crimes.
In law enforcement, we continue to witness the tragic shooting of unarmed blacks by police. [read more…]
Colin Kaepernick Had No Choice but to Kneel
For one, the idea that to not stand while the anthem is played signals a lack of allegiance to one’s nation is simplistic to the point of stretching plausibility, seemingly designed more as a way to hate on someone than to grapple with the complexities of the real world. Is patriotism a matter of either/or? Perhaps in terms of military service, although we find gray lines even there.
Elsewhere, however, critique and even scolding are fundamental facets of loving. What would be unpatriotic of Kaepernick, given his views, would be to refrain from sitting out the national anthem out of an unreflective sense of patriotism as an on/off switch. Kaepernick thinks his country is capable of changing and wants to help it do so.
How else was he supposed to say so in a way that would get attention, which is rather basic to contributing to an ideological moment? Was he supposed to tweet? Say some stuff in locker-room interviews? No. The writer pens editorials. The artist crafts portraits, music or plays. The community activist marches. The athlete might wear a certain kind of shirt—or sit out the national anthem. To tar him as a traitor to the nation is as flimsy as calling a white person a racist for wearing dreadlocks. [read more…]
Colin Kaepernick’s ‘I Know My Rights Camp’ cements his status as a cultural superhero in the black community
“Dad. Does Colin still have a game on Sunday?”
The question was a smart one for any football fan to ask – particularly one who’s rooting hard for Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers.
It was 12:49 a.m. in Oakland late Friday night. My 10- year-old son, EZ, and I, made the trek there from New York and we were dragging. For our bodies it felt like 4 a.m.
We were invited by Kaepernick to attend a camp on Saturday morning and I had just gotten a text from Colin. [read more…]
Colin Kaepernick and Nessa Donate $60K worth of Backpacks
Colin Kaepernick and Nessa donated $60,000 dollars worth of backpacks to students in Harlem and South Bronx.
Having worked with organizations in Harlem and South Bronx, Nessa and Colin wanted to give back to both communities by lessening one burden by providing Nike backpacks to students.
“Having a new backpack to start off the new school year helps give each student a fresh start,” says Nessa. “When we looked at everything when it comes to supplies, we found backpacks were an investment for most parents. As for the student, we wanted to ensure we found one that could last for more than a year and that was sturdy, durable and versatile for students to use for books, sports equipments or art materials, and traveling.” [read more…]