Fantasy Football, Reality Basketball
September 8, 2017 10:11 PM   Subscribe

Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the National Anthem as a protest against injustice inspired imitation across the United States. Those protests were matched by vehement opposition from fans and equivocation and denial by the NFL, where, to little surprise, Kaepernick remains unsigned. The NBA, however, has taken a decidedly different approach to the issue: “None of us operates in a vacuum. Critical issues that affect our society also impact you directly,” the letter reads. “Fortunately, you are not only the world's greatest basketball players — you have real power to make a difference in the world, and we want you know that the Players Association and the League are always available to help you figure out the most meaningful way to make that difference." posted by gusottertrout (50 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
Let's talk about Alek Torgersen instead. Alek is an exciting rookie quarterback, who last year led Penn to tie the top of the notoriously athletics intense Ivy League, in the FCS, the second tier of college football. How hot was he in this second tier? Well, he didn't make this list of the top 10 quarterbacks, or this one of the top 10 matchups (i.e. a list with 20 QBs) but he did make honorable mention on this top 10 list.

After this stunning college career, Alek Torgersen wasn't one of the 10 quarterbacks drafted, but he was given a grade of 4.96 out of 10 by the NFL, with "practice squad potential early" and the potential to be another Zac Dysert. He was picked up by the Atlanta Falcons during the offseason, and took the field in their first three games, although I can only find one description of how that went: "Things got much worse when rookie Alek Torgersen came in, going 2-for-8 for 25 yards and an interception."

Alek was recently featured in the article Falcons release 20 players with no surprises, as an "also released" in the final paragraph. The hometown paper didn't spell his name right. After only three days on the market, he was picked up by the Washington football club.

I say all of this not to bury Alek Torgersen, who is a thousand times better than me at football, even if that's still only good enough to be a backup's backup at best. I just think it's important that we understand the calibre of the sorts of players that (two different!) NFL teams have asked to play, instead of Colin Kaepernick. 114 different quarterbacks took snaps in the preseason (Alek Torgerson took 20, tied for 92nd). Colin Kaepernick, who has played in the Super Bowl, who is the 11th best active quarterback by career QBR didn't take one.

There's a nice article breaking down that Kaepernick is actually a very good quarterback -- no Alek Torgersen he. I also like this article from Slate pointing out how the NFL brass and their defenders are incredibly racist even when trying to point out how not-racist they are (four anonymous NFL coaches and GMs tried to defend the NFL to the supine MMQB column -- every single one only managed to compare the biracial Kaepernick to various black quarterbacks).
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:47 PM on September 8 [65 favorites]


Yeah, I'm really more interested in the comparison between the NBA and NFL than in entirely rehashing the much discussed Kaepernick situation. I thought the article on the continuing effect of his protest and the reactions to that effect was a good one and made for a strong contrast to the NBA seemingly actively encouraging social activism.

The NBA taking that stance is laudable on its face, but may carry some additional, perhaps hidden, burdens for the league and/or its players in how it will work out in practice.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:02 AM on September 9 [7 favorites]


I don't really follow the NBA, but Silver seems to be pretty good at PR decisions. MLB and the NFL hoard their video rights jealously, while the NBA lets the GIFs flow. They didn't force David Sterling out right away but once players started protesting, the blow was quick and final.

I think some of it is that the NBA is the runt of the litter and has to make smarter decisions to stay alive. Some of it is that individual players matter relatively more. And I think some of it is that the NBA is just the least drenched in deep old whiteness.
posted by fleacircus at 1:07 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]


And yet, the longer the teams keep Kaepernick off the field, they keep him and these other protests in the spotlight. The Browns and Seahawks have been in the news lately for building on Kaepernick's foundation.

Which is sort of perfect, really.
posted by rokusan at 1:08 AM on September 9


In the NBA individual players matter more, have longer careers, and are overwhelming (over 80%) black. The NBA also has the highest percentage of black coaching staff. Think of the greatest basketball players of all time. Jordan, LeBron, Kobe, Shaquille, Magic, Kareem, Wilt, Bill Russell, etc. Black folks have been the stars and heroes of basketball for 50 years now.

Now so the same for the NFL. A more diverse mix, but notice how many of the QBs are white, and how many of the RBs are black.

It's no surprise that the NBA is a little more woke.
posted by leotrotsky at 4:38 AM on September 9 [4 favorites]


"I think some of it is that the NBA is the runt of the litter and has to make smarter decisions to stay alive."

Isn't that the NHL? Basketball's revenues are about $8B vs just over $4B for hockey.

(Football and baseball are like $13B and $10B, give or take.)
posted by rokusan at 5:18 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


The NBA has a fan base much less likely to tolerate ownership telling "those people" to get in line & wait their turn for equal rights. Some retired players (Charles Barkley) are also pretty vocal on social issues & seem to have a lot more latitude to voice those opinions on-air.

There's a couple of snippets of Popovich talking politics from earlier this summer that make me want to start a Draft Pop campaign for 2020.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:25 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


NBA Players Association is also the only real competent union in professional sports so Silver needs to take care of Labor. There are lots of reasons why this is, many related to things mentioned above.
posted by JPD at 5:37 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]


I'll never forget how Kap started getting attention in the mass media, then I believe it was a 49ers Monday night football game against Seattle Seahawks, the Seattle players all locked arms and stood during the pledge of allegiance, defying Kap's brave stand. Now one of the Seahawks, Michael Bennett, has, it seems, been harassed by police. At least one Seahawk has their eyes opened.
posted by uraniumwilly at 5:48 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]


I believe it was a 49ers Monday night football game against Seattle Seahawks, the Seattle players all locked arms and stood during the pledge of allegiance, defying Kap's brave stand.

That is in no way what the Seahawks were doing. The locking arms was a compromise if I recall correctly, between players who wanted to stand normally and players who wanted to take a knee - it was a gesture of at least sympathy, not defiance.
posted by corb at 7:20 AM on September 9 [9 favorites]


Some retired players (Charles Barkley) are also pretty vocal

And Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:32 AM on September 9 [5 favorites]


NBA Players Association is also the only real competent union

Not only is the MLBPA a competent union, it is demonstrably more powerful and effective than any other sports union. MLB has no salary cap. Players have routinely endured lockouts and have striked to maintain or increase their leverage. They have the highest salaries and the best pensions of any American sport.

I gotta go for now. I'd love to expand on this later because my senior thesis in college was literally about the intersection of the civil rights movement and labor movement as seen through the rise of the MLBPA. Perhaps this isn't the thread for it though... may need to make my own fpp.
posted by Groundhog Week at 7:38 AM on September 9 [28 favorites]


"I think some of it is that the NBA is the runt of the litter and has to make smarter decisions to stay alive."

Isn't that the NHL?


I think the NHL is so small in terms of the US pro/semi-pro sports market it doesn't even qualify as "runt"; afterthought might be better.
posted by nubs at 7:39 AM on September 9


Groundhog Week, when you have a chance, I would love to hear more.
posted by d. z. wang at 7:55 AM on September 9 [11 favorites]


I just can't help feeling that if you play a song in a public gathering, the placement of both my ass and my hat should be my business and no one else's.

"People died so you could hear that song!" Well, for one, no they didn't. They died for a lot of reasons, the prevailing whims of their government among the foremost, but the notion of a dying soldier being cradled by his sergeant and whispering "...at least now they can PLAY THAT SONG" is cornball to the point where Captain America would call bullshit. I mean the real Captain, not the limited-edition neo-Nazi Cap recently gracing Marvel comic pages.

Secondly, if he died so I could be proud to be an American WHERE AT LEAST I KNOW I'M FREEEE, it's funny how that freedom extends only as far as "when we play this song, either stand up and take your hat off or some asshole will threaten you with violence." That was too many syllables for that other, lesser song, if I can classify Lee Greenwood's jingoistic warblings as "music." I suppose it meets the formal definition as much as, say, Nickelback.
posted by delfin at 7:56 AM on September 9 [18 favorites]


"I think some of it is that the NBA is the runt of the litter and has to make smarter decisions to stay alive."

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf did the Kaepernick protest in 1996.
posted by srboisvert at 8:00 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]


That is in no way what the Seahawks were doing. The locking arms was a compromise if I recall correctly, between players who wanted to stand normally and players who wanted to take a knee - it was a gesture of at least sympathy, not defiance.

Just because you intend a gesture to be read one way doesn't mean it will be taken that way, nor are people obligated to take it the way you intended.

At some point, you don't get to say "We're not taking a side." Because not taking a side is an active vote for the status quo.

and the status quo is institutional racism and white supremacy.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:18 AM on September 9 [4 favorites]


As someone who doesn't watch much sports, this is pretty fascinating to me. My husband will often show me interview clips of his favorite players, and I often feel sorry for the athletes who look so clearly put-upon to answer demeaning questions like "what were you thinking when you dropped the ball that lost the game for your team?" There is definitely some racial tension in those post-game interviews, with four black guys sitting on a podium being peppered by twenty white people with cameras. I know it's their job to address the questions, so my sympathy is not bottomless, but I'm glad to see that the NBA union actually sticks up for its players.
posted by samthemander at 8:33 AM on September 9


What we need is for someone to stand with their hand over their heart and sing the national anthem with pride and to then walk over and shake hands with the person taking a knee. We need to emphasize that people with these two viewpoints are not enemies. It will take both the person willing to draw attention to injustice AND the person who believes our country still has the greatness needed to bring change. It is imperative we change the us versus them narrative.
posted by double bubble at 8:34 AM on September 9 [6 favorites]


I'd imagine there's a lot to do with the NFL's propaganda-level sponsorship by the Pentagon. Not sure how much of that sweet sweet military money goes to the NBA.
posted by nevercalm at 8:41 AM on September 9 [4 favorites]


Now one of the Seahawks, Michael Bennett, has, it seems, been harassed by police. At least one Seahawk has their eyes opened.

Bennett's eyes have been open for awhile now. Like, you pretty obviously are unaware of Bennett and his politics.
posted by edeezy at 8:43 AM on September 9 [12 favorites]


Bennett's eyes have been open for awhile now. Like, you pretty obviously are unaware of Bennett and his politics.

That, having absolutely nothing to do with the entire team locking arms and standing, after Kap's sitting during the anthem.
posted by uraniumwilly at 9:08 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


Except we're talking about an interpretation of that act. For instance Marshaw Lynch, who was there locking arms when he was a Seahawk, has sat through the National Anthem through all of the Raider preseason games. Either way, I don't think the players themselves are the correct target for criticism here...
posted by Drumhellz at 9:23 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]


I thought the arm-linking was dumb. It was also a year ago. Maybe look into some of Bennett's activism from the last year, including the fact that he sat out the anthem during preseason (i.e., took a strong public position on the issue before he was assaulted by police).
posted by edeezy at 9:29 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]


Except we're talking about an interpretation of that act. For instance Marshaw Lynch, who was there locking arms when he was a Seahawk, has sat through the National Anthem through all of the Raider preseason games.

I know. Lynch and others have caught on. That's great.

When it comes to interpretation: this nation's backlash against Kap for sitting during the anthem was harsh and profound in its condemnation. What was the Seattle Seahawks response? Standing and locking arms. That's a nonverbal "fuck you, Kap - you stand alone," if there ever was one.

It's nice that some of the players are now taking a stand.
posted by uraniumwilly at 9:32 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]


I feel like we're on the same side here big picture, my point is that we shouldn't be judging the (largely PoC) player base for taking awhile to buck the system and support Kap. The problem really is with the ownership scaring people into thinking they'll lose their jobs and dreams if they step out of line.
posted by Drumhellz at 10:32 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


What we need is for someone to stand with their hand over their heart and sing the national anthem with pride and to then walk over and shake hands with the person taking a knee.

OK, I'm waiting for the NFL (and the American people) to walk over and shake hands with Kaepernick. Do it.

our country still has the greatness needed to bring change.

Our country still has some people fighting against oppression to bring change. Greatness has nothing to do with it.
posted by splitpeasoup at 10:55 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


I'm not a pro sports watcher but I'm completely fascinated by how offended people are by Kaepernick. As if he were a child molester or serial killer, not a one-time political protester.

It seems to me that black people treat being a pro football player as a very prestigious and important job (like being a doctor or a corporate executive or a professor). After all, being a football player takes a great deal of skill, training and hard work. An accomplished professional has a lot of leeway when it comes to expressing strong opinions. When someone like that speaks up about Black Lives Matter, people listen.

But white people don't treat a black athlete as an accomplished and respected professional. They see the athlete's skill as coming directly out of their blackness, rather than coming from decades of hard work and deliberate practice. They're like an idiot savant or a race horse or possibly a lottery winner. They didn't work hard to get where they are, so they don't see them as having opinions worthy of consideration. Of course they react badly when a black athlete has opinions outside football.
posted by miyabo at 11:59 AM on September 9 [25 favorites]


The mlbpa is a shadow of what it once was.

The salary cap is basically settled law that came out of negotiations around the time the league was nearly bust, but today it's at the core of why the union works. Absent breaking the cap superstars in the NBA benefit from rising all boats. Superstars in MLB mostly don't benefit from that.
posted by JPD at 12:09 PM on September 9


What we need is for someone to stand with their hand over their heart and sing the national anthem with pride and to then walk over and shake hands with the person taking a knee.

Something like this?
posted by ghost phoneme at 12:12 PM on September 9 [5 favorites]


In hindsight, I think I should have included some mention of activism in MLB in the original post, but since social activism along the lines of that being looked at in the NBA and NFL is far less common, it sort of goes under the radar. The reasons for this are somewhat obvious with the amount of black players in the league only being around 7%, getting near the number in the late fifties a decade after integration. (SABR link on baseball demographics history.)

But that shouldn't be an excuse for MLB just because there isn't much in the way of visible player protest or outward tensions like there are in the NFL and NBA, just the opposite. So I'm disappointed I let that slide in the post. MLB has a powerful player's union like the NBA, but the culture in the league is much more conservative where ideas of team and tradition combined with a 162+ game season and white player dominance create a very different culture than the NBA.

One of the challenges the NBA faces that indirectly relates to social activism is in the increased power of the top flight players around the league. Since in the NBA a single player can mean more to a team than one player would in any other league, the best players can exert tremendous influence on their teams and even reshape the league through movement between teams, joining friends to create superteams. The NBA's salary cap and complex rules around player movement and team payrolls aren't without their critics in that top tier of players, even as the NBA claims their necessity for team balance and league survival. Encouraging player activism isn't going to stop at the edge of the hardwood and only look outward.

This puts an entirely different level of pressure on the NBA to do the right thing, whatever that might be, and encourages players to look at their own situation within the league and challenge anything they might question as unfair. How a quasi-monopoly corporate industry balances social justice and business concerns will be a compelling thing to see in the coming years, especially with a new CBA agreement needed soon. Then there are the potential outward pressures the league and players may face over unknown future conflicts that may cause more serious disruption than the league seems to anticipate. Supporting activism in the abstract and at the minor disruption end is one thing, standing firm as the conflict and costs escalate might be another thing entirely. It'll be interesting to watch.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:37 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


MLB also has a ton more players who aren't US citizens, with obvious consequences for their activism (it's a different kind of risk for them than it is for a citizen, plus they may feel more inclined to use their platform for activism more directly related to their home country).
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:01 PM on September 9 [2 favorites]


I believe it was a 49ers Monday night football game against Seattle Seahawks, the Seattle players all locked arms and stood during the pledge of allegiance, defying Kap's brave stand.

It was the season opener against the Miami Dolphins on the 15th anniversary of 9/11 (which had a lot to do with their decision).
posted by The Hamms Bear at 5:13 PM on September 9


this I can get behind
posted by asra at 5:27 PM on September 9 [2 favorites]


"notoriously athletics intense Ivy League"
That's so cute!
NBA starters from Ivy (NYT)
posted by Ideefixe at 6:07 PM on September 9 [2 favorites]


The vast majority of NFL fans knew exactly why the Seahawks did the arm-linking thing and what it was supposed to mean (i.e. not "fuck you, Kap"), and arguably that is far more important than what random people on the internet think about it.

I don't know why a post about the blatant racism and lack of support among the (largely white) management and highest echelons of the NFL has turned into a criticism of the (largely black) players within it.

Kaepernick's implicit middle-finger to the racism within the NFL may be one of the most currently publicized, but it hasn't come out of nowhere. For a few years now players here and there have started to more openly resist the demands of an organization that treats them like trained dogs, expecting them to beg, play, and then roll over for the cameras in the post-game interviews.* Marshawn Lynch's fantastic interviews are probably the best example (see the classic I'm here so I won't get fined). Kaepernick's action is an extension of this: moving from small acts of resistance like no longer playing nice for reporters to openly expressing opinions completely independent of the wishes of the league.

Your average NFL player is in a terribly weak position compared to the NFL leadership. The leadership knows this, and exploits it. I think we would be better served asking ourselves why we tolerate an organization that manipulates its employees and treats them like they're cheap disposable toys than judging those toys on their level of resistance.

*Though dogs might actually get more respect--at least a dog's owner remains concerned for their welfare as they age.
posted by schroedinger at 12:13 AM on September 10 [5 favorites]


The NFL has always creeped me out with its "every game is a Nuremberg rally" vibe.
posted by hwestiii at 6:50 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


It seems weird that nobody has mentioned the other reasons Kaepernick hasn't been signed. Like the fact since his first season he's been middling at best in terms of performance, or the fact the Raven's were going to sign him but then his girlfriend tweets an attack against Ray Lewis and Steve Bisciotti, or the fact that there's a question of whether signing him would turn the team into a media circus.
posted by ilama at 7:55 AM on September 10


the fact since his first season he's been middling at best in terms of performance

Go back and read the first comment in this thread.
posted by asterix at 8:27 AM on September 10 [3 favorites]


Go back and read the first comment in this thread.

The only part of that comment that doesn't come off as selling the idea of searching for new talent as a slight against Kaepernick is the SB Nation article about his quality, which I assume is the part of that comment you were referring to, and if that's the case, the question is does testing and finding new talent have to take a backseat just because a veteran player's stats say he's good enough? Even the SB Nation article admits that the stats say he's good enough to be on a team, but stats aren't the only thing that matter.
posted by ilama at 8:46 AM on September 10


or the fact that there's a question of whether signing him would turn the team into a media circus.

Which is a bit of the main point. WHY is it a media circus? Why is this man so controversial, when signing (let's say) domestic abusers and reckless behavers and such gets far less pushback? (I almost said "habitual drug offenders," but recreational drug prosecutions are heavily tainted by racial bias, and PEDs are basically winked at unless you hit the unlucky lottery.)

Even Michael Vick got more opportunities than Kaepernick, and while a fair percentage of Philly fans were and remain outraged by his signing, many more were pacified the moment refs started signalling touchdowns.

The media circus is because of white, conservative fans who won't have any of that Black Lives Matter stuff in Their Sport. Full stop. Football is Blood and Guts and Tribal and Testing of Manhood and More Important. My home state is full of people who still lionize a child rape enabler because he was good at coaching football, if I may mention another example of the mentality.
posted by delfin at 8:55 AM on September 10 [6 favorites]


Yeah, when you're saying that a woman "attacked" Ray Lewis and the billionaire who's steadfastly ignored Lewis's issues over the years, you maybe need to take a step back and ask yourself whether you're on the side of the angels here.
posted by Etrigan at 8:59 AM on September 10 [3 favorites]


To put it another way, why did Tim Tebow wash out? He had Character and Morals and Values and Leadership and all the intangibles and the league eventually said as one "that's nice, but the thing that matters is if you have the skill to PLAY at our level." Which he did not, but that didn't stop him from getting several chances.

This year has, quite demonstrably, given chances to many people who do not have NFL-level QB skills. In multiple cities, in multiple instances. But everyone is refusing to give one to a guy who rather obviously does have those skills and would certainly be a much more qualified backup somewhere. Keeping in mind that with NFL injury rates, "backup" means "eventual starter."

Why is that?
posted by delfin at 9:04 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]



Yeah, when you're saying that a woman "attacked" Ray Lewis and the billionaire who's steadfastly ignored Lewis's issues over the years, you maybe need to take a step back and ask yourself whether you're on the side of the angels here.


So basically you're saying that nobody should lose a chance at a job because their very public SO publicly talks shit about the interviewers. I'm in now way defending Lewis or Bisciotti, but you can't pretend social media doesn't exist and offending interviewers is a smart employment tactic.
posted by ilama at 9:12 AM on September 10


So basically you're saying that ...

Nope, sorry, we're done here. Have fun with your mental exercises.
posted by Etrigan at 9:14 AM on September 10 [4 favorites]


To put it another way, why did Tim Tebow wash out?

Tebow came with a ton of off-field baggage too, he had two personality cults following him at all times, Christian fanatics, and ESPN-media personalities seeking to leverage the Christian fanatics into 24/7 sports infotainment content. He was an unconventional QB to begin with, inaccurate, with a slow and awkward throwing motion, and had his best success on short yardage runs and broken plays. That's pretty impossible to build an offense around as a starter, and while he might have had some small value as a change of pace back up option, or a converted tight end, ultimately that tiny-use case didn't justify accepting all of the other crap that would come along with signing him. And he's admitted he didn't want to play tight end under any circumstances, if he was willing to change positions he might still be in the NFL.
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:03 PM on September 10


This is what we're talking about here?

Ravens Send Ray Lewis Out To Make Kaepernick's Girlfriend The Scapegoat For Him Not Having NFL Job

Ray Lewis’s new role as an Inside The NFL analyst on Showtime saw the former Ravens linebacker immediately inserting himself into the story as he unraveled a bizarre and preposterous story that blamed a tweet by Colin Kaepernick’s girlfriend, Nessa Diab, for the former 49ers quarterback still being unemployed by an NFL team.

posted by ominous_paws at 9:58 PM on September 10 [2 favorites]


It was the season opener against the Miami Dolphins on the 15th anniversary of 9/11 (which had a lot to do with their decision).

That does make uraniumwilly's use of the phrase "never forget" in his first incorrect comment pretty ironic.

For anyone else who has forgotten when kapernick started kneeling and getting attention for it, SBnation has a timeline. Includes this bit, for bonus what-is-your-problem-with-the-Seahawks-dude-really

> Sept. 1 — Jeremy Lane of the Seattle Seahawks sits during the national anthem. Lane became the first non-teammate to join Kaepernick in protest.

There's also a link to this article which might help learning the names of some Seahawks players and how their linked arms was intended and that it was perceived as a protest at the time - not as strong as kneeling, but a compromise that got the whole team on board. Nobody thought it was a fuck-you to Kapernick.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 1:34 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]


Don't forget the other way Tebow is different from Kapernick. I'll give you a hint. It's an imaginary concept that been driving american culture since a short time after the first Europeans came to the continent.
posted by rdr at 5:55 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]


Ravens Send Ray Lewis Out To Make Kaepernick's Girlfriend The Scapegoat For Him Not Having NFL Job

Ray Lewis’s new role as an Inside The NFL analyst on Showtime saw the former Ravens linebacker immediately inserting himself into the story as he unraveled a bizarre and preposterous story that blamed a tweet by Colin Kaepernick’s girlfriend, Nessa Diab, for the former 49ers quarterback still being unemployed by an NFL team.


So to be clear a league with a history of front office and ownership tolerance for domestic abuse and all kinds of other forms of violence is blackballing a player because of a girlfriend's tweet and not because of a protest during the national anthem?

Oh that makes everything better.
posted by srboisvert at 6:19 AM on September 11 [4 favorites]


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