The audacity of the NFL's MLK Day tweet

Shalise Manza Young
·Yahoo Sports Columnist
·3 min read

In his incredibly brief but profoundly impactful life, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave dozens of speeches and sermons, and wrote multiple essays.

Within those are innumerable quotes on his beliefs about civil rights, racism and poverty, and fighting for and against them in a nonviolent way.

Yet every year, on the third Monday of January in the United States, we are subjected to people who take to social media for their seemingly obligatory annual post in memory of MLK. People who have no interest in King’s teachings or actively work to undo the marginal gains achieved during his life and since his death.

This year, an alarming number of the people, organizations and corporations who did so were either blithely unaware of how tone-deaf their post was or, for lack of a better word, straight-up gaslighting us.

To wit:

Of all the quotes from all the sermons King gave, this is the one you chose, NFL?

The audacity.

Banning someone from your precious league for peacefully protesting the incessant killing of innocent Black Americans by agents of the state is about as unjust as it gets. Colin Kaepernick broke no laws, unless you consider making a small but vocal cadre of jersey-burning bigots uncomfortable a crime. Kaepernick demanded, as King did before him, that America live up to the ideals written in its most cherished documents.

That hasn’t mattered to NFL team owners, an unknown number of whom seem to side more with the bigots than the Black players whose bodies and brains are bruised for our entertainment on Sundays, and then leave arenas to the realities of racism, the zeroes on their paychecks be damned.

They have made sure in the years since that Kaepernick will never work as an NFL quarterback again. They paid him for lost wages rather than let the world see the lengths they went to to keep him unemployed. They concealed what was really said about the man and those he protested in support of.

If Dr. King were alive today — he’s not because he was martyred, killed for demanding better for his people — he would have been one of Kaepernick’s supporters, as King’s daughter has indicated.

It’s too late this year, but next year, the NFL’s Twitter account might want to take the tack of saying nothing on MLK Day.

Or, given the performative uproar at Kaepernick’s choice of protest, both its method and timing, and the lies spun to misappropriate his meaning, at least be honest and use this quote, from King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”:

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is ... the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’”

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