The NFL kneeling protests: An invitation

Tomorrow over the lunch hour I will participate in a symposium sponsored by the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance (CSPG) at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School. With a nod to the Super Bowl that will be played this Sunday a mile or so up the road, the symposium takes up the player protests that attracted attention in high places this season. The symposium is Betrayal or a Right? The NFL National Anthem Protests.

The program is scheduled tomorrow (January 30) at noon-1:15 in Room 120 of the Elmer L. Andersen Library (address: 222 21st Avenue South). It is open to the public but (somewhat elaborate) registration is required via the maroon registration bar near the top of the linked page. If you have any interest in the issue and are in town, I hope you will make it.

The program will be moderated by Professor Lawrence Jacobs, the director of the CSPG, and in addition will also include Professor Douglas Hartmann, Chairman of the University of Minnesota Sociology Department and Frank White (not the former Kansas City Royal), the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) Coordinator at the Minnesota Twins and Curator, Minnesota Black Baseball Project. Professor Hartmann and Mr. White makes this a 2/3 distinguished panel.

Professor Hartmann, incidentally, is the author of a book on the 1968 Olympic protests and their aftermath: Race, Culture and the Revolt of the Black Athlete. You can get a glimpse of Professor Hartmann’s views in this university press release. Professor Hartmann recently elaborated in “On kneeling and remembrance.” Everything old is new again.

I am quite sure that I’ll be the only panelist holding that everything about the NFL players’ national anthem protests is wrong. One question I would like to pose to supporters of the protests is: have they been good for the NFL or the game? They pit billionaire owners and millionaire players — see Ken Belson’s New York Times feature yesterday on Malcolm Jenkins, Jeffrey Lurie et al. — against the man or, in this case, the fan. The entertainment is of the theater of the absurd variety. Those of us who turn to sports to escape if not transcend politics have turned elsewhere.

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