For Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner; for Geneva Reed-Veal, mother of Sandra Bland; for Samira Rice, mother of Tamir Rice; and for Valerie Bell, mother of Sean Bell — mothers whose children have been killed by police or died in their custody under controversial circumstances — there is no compromise on whether NFL players should continue their protest during the playing of the national anthem.
They understand that the players have much to lose. President Donald Trump has something to lose – racist momentum at the polls for midterm elections bolsters Republican candidacies – if he fails to stick his nose into the fray.
Despite decreased viewership – some of it thought to be directly tied to anthem protests – NFL revenue in 2017 reached a record $14 billion.
Black players like Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliot, who don't support protesting during the anthem and have not figured out that as elite athletes they are virtually irreplaceable don’t have much to lose. Barring debilitating injuries, Dallas eventually will elevate their standing among the 1 percent even more with multimillion-dollar contract extensions.
But none of these men stand to suffer the life-altering loss these mothers have experienced, for while money can buy another yacht, Bentley or Rolex, once a beating heart beats for the last time, no amount of money can buy even one more beat.
While these ladies – whom I had the pleasure of meeting last Friday — will forgive players for protecting their interests and reaching some amicable end to this dispute, they will be left with a sense of emptiness and abandonment if their resistance ends.
“Nobody can take away your voice and your message of what you are trying to say if you don’t let them do it,” Rad-Veal said. “So just like Trump came out and pulled his stunt and turned [the protest] into something that it wasn’t about, the other side was supposed to come back and say, ‘No, sir, this was not about a flag, and you know it’s not about a flag, so stop it.’
“So the stand up from the owners, the players, and the people who took the knee in the first place was to remain on that knee,” she added. “And if you really think about it, with all of the power that the players have, if they all got on one accord and said, ‘We’re not going to take it,’ I guarantee you you’d have a different outcome. Stop that money. You dig into the pockets and you stop that money.”
As we sat around a table on Friday at Grace Baptist Church in the city’s Germantown section, not one among them thought that their child would lose his or her life for selling cigarettes on the corner, brandishing a toy gun or any other unjustifiable excuse. Their children, they say, are dead because, like 70 percent of the players in the NFL, they were African American.
All of women are also clear that Trump, who hijacked the anthem protest and steered the conversation away from the shooting of unarmed Black men by police into an illogical debate over patriotism, is a racist.
“It’s not a secret that he is a racist. He puts it out there and he lets you know that he is a racist,” Carr said matter-of-factly. “What’s insulting to me, still, a lot of our Black people vote for him. They know he doesn’t care two boots about them.
“They say we need change. What change are we going to get? Are we going to go back to the 1800s? Is that the change you want?,” she asked.
“He says he wants to 'Make America Great Again.’ How do you think he wants to make America great again?” Carr said. “Great to him was when whites were making all the decisions, and we were under their feet. That’s what being great again is to him.”
Between the four of them, their respective municipalities have had to pony up $18.5 million in wrongful-death money. Yet they still fight for the justice of other African-American parents who will join them in what the foursome describe as a “club you don’t ever want to be a part of.”
They look maternalistically upon the blackballing of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started the NFL kneeling movement and now, still in his prime, can’t get a job among the 32 teams in the league. This alone is reason enough for them to continue to resist.
They are so close to the issue and so appreciative of the power in the players’ platform. They see them as being in the fight for justice right alongside them. To them, they are not football players. Rather, they are young Black men who, like their children, could have their lives randomly snuffed out by law enforcement, and this is a concern.
“If they want us to, we’ll take a knee right alongside of them,” Carr said smiling. “But please don’t stop bringing attention to this issue. You are right in your fight.”