Celebrating the Olympics and Black History Month

This week in North Philly Notes, we pay tribute to both the Olympics and Black History Month by reposting our Q&A with Tommie Smith for his book Silent Gesture.

Q: Congratulations on your book. Why did you wait almost 40 years to tell your story?
A: My life wasn’t ready to be told in story until there was a closure with my athletic, teaching, and coaching career. The time I needed to devote to such an adventure was too great. You have to begin somewhere to be great. The race began in 1968 and now it is time to tell the journey of “how did I get to this race, and where did I go when it was over?”

Q: You say you “never regretted” your actions on the victory stand, “and never will”—that it was, as you write—”something I felt I had no choice in doing.” Did you think at the time that your protest would become one of the most famous protests in sports history?
A: I do not feel remorseful about the act on the victory stand as it was an act of “faith.” Because I believe in “hope” for our changing society, the evidence of non-equality had to be challenged. At the time, my “visual” on the victory stand was not thought of as a portrait to be classified as a picture of history, but as a cry for freedom.

Q: Do you think that such a protest could take place now?
A: Making the same gesture now is defeat; let us repeat the cry with sounds of understanding and deliverance.
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“This is a book about principle, commitment, belief; and consequences. And the consequences of consequences. Tommie Smith says his gesture was done in the name of human rights, and in these pages, he offers himself up, in the fullest-the complexity, the scars, the pain, and the affirmation of his own humanity. Should there ever be an appointed time, would that I might show half the commitment and courage. Bravissimo!”
Delroy Lindo

Q: Can you briefly describe the Olympic Project for Human Rights and discuss your participation in it?
A: The Olympic Project for Human Rights was a non-violent platform used in the athletic arena as a cry for freedom. It originated on the San Jose State University campus in 1967. I was one athlete who chose to involve myself for the human rights issues.

Q: You and your family received death threats and hate mail before and after Mexico City. Were you prepared for this? How did you handle living in fear?
A: My family received hate mail and death threats which altered our daily routine, but we had to continue to remain calm and socially aware. There are still some [people] who do not change and there are some who have made progress.

Q: You have been “forever linked” with John Carlos (Bronze medal winner at the 1968 Mexico City games) on and off since the Olympics. How has your relationship with him been over the years since your “silent gesture”?
A: I had not known John Carlos until my senior year in college, in 1967. Since then, my response to John has been a respectful acquaintance.

Q: You talk about how San Jose State welcomed you back and dedicated a statue to you and John Carlos. How have attitudes towards you—and your actions—changed over time?
A: When I returned to the San Jose State University for the statue dedication, attitudes were fresh, warm and respectful. The student body and administration was knowledgeable and unafraid in their quest to identify pioneers from the past and ideally, former students such as John Carlos and me.

Q: You have worked as a track & field coach and talk about your coaches in Silent Gesture. Do you have any particular mentors and coaches that influenced you?
A: There are two coaches in my past that I will forever remember because of their knowledge and their social attitude. They were positive “in the time of need.” Lloyd C. “Bud” Winter, my college coach and Bill Walsh, my professional football area coach with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Q: Silent Gesture dispels the rumors that you were a member of the Black Panthers. Your book also clears the record that the Mexico City Olympic Committee did not take for your medals back, or throw you out of the Olympic Village. Can you discuss these rumors?
A: Tommie Smith has never been a Black Panther. I am still in possession of my gold medal—I won the race fair and square, and so the medal is mine. I stayed in the Olympic Village until the race was over, and I returned the next day to get my belongings. As I was leaving, the press was everywhere, so kicking me out of the Olympic Village was a “helpful exit.”

Q: I understand at one point in time you were interested in selling your medals. Is that true? Why did you consider this?
A: I will answer a question with a question…Can you find a Humanitarian donor for $500,000?

Q: You are a hero to many for your actions—who were your heroes?
A: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man who had a Dream of Freedom and Equality, and my father, Richard Smith, who taught me pain is obvious, but how you react is not.

Q:  What do you think yo ur legacy will be?
A: I want to leave a legacy that says, “Tommie Smith was a Man who also had a Dream and a Vision and his Standing was not in vain.”

 

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Fly, E-A-G-L-E-S, Fly

This week in North Philly Notes, we continue the celebration of the Eagles and Ray Didinger, author of The New Eagles Encyclopedia.

Ray Didinger, longtime and beloved sportswriter, was remarkably composed when he visited Temple University Press’ offices in the week leading up to Super Bowl LII. But after the Eagles beat the Patriots in the big game, Didinger, who bleeds green, broke down on camera. Check out this video from NBC Sports’ Post Game Live, which shows Didinger getting emotional.

There is another video, “Philadelphia…This is your moment!” which also features Didinger.

The New Eagles Encyclopedia_smDidinger’s reaction to the Eagles win was also covered in this column by Rob Tornoe that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on February 5.

 

By Rob Tornoe

NFL Hall of Fame writer and analyst Ray Didinger is generally known for his calm and level-headed analysis of the Eagles on NBC Sports Philadelphia and SportsRadio 94.1 WIP (unless your name is Chip Kelly).

But early Monday morning, after the Eagles stunning 41-33 victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, the normally stoic Didinger got emotional when Eagles Postgame Livehost Michael Barkann introduced a guest on set — Didinger’s son, David.

David, who works for NFL Films, embraced his father live on air to celebrate the Eagles first Super Bowl win in an emotional moment that reflects the strong generational bond Birds fans have with their team.

“That scene is being repeated in Philadelphia thousands and thousands and thousands of times,” said former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell.

“It’s [for] everybody that didn’t have a chance that see this. My grandparents, my mom’s parents, my Uncle Kevin,” David Didinger noted as his father fought back tears. “I’ve waited 44 year and I swear I’d never thought I’d see this day.

Of course, Ray Didinger has waited longer for this moment than his son. The Eagles last championship came in 1960, when Didinger was just 13 years old. As he attempted to dry his eyes, he pointed out that he’s lived in the same house for 30 years, and during that time he’s had pigeons, hawks and even cats climbing on the garage.

On Saturday, Didinger’s wife told him when she woke up, there was an eagle sitting on the garage.

“I don’t believe in mysticism… She said to me ‘That’s either got to be the spirit of your father or your mother.’ And I truly believe that,” an emotional Didinger said. “To be able to share this with my son is beyond special.”

Last week, Didinger reflected on his family’s love of the Eagles, and tried to sum up what it would feel like if the Birds managed to knock off the Patriots to win the Super Bowl.

“My parents and my grandparents,” Didinger told Angelo Cataldi on the WIP Morning Show last week. “They’re all gone. But the last time they won this thing in 1960 we were all together in the east stands at Franklin Field watching it happen. If the confetti starts falling on Nick Foles on Sunday night, the first people I’m going to think about are my parents and grandparents. I think that’s true across the city.

“Family is so tied in to what people feel about this team, that everybody is going to feel exactly the same thing, ‘I wish grandpa was here. I was Uncle Bill was here. I wish they could all share in this,’ ” Didinger said. “Or, if they are still here, they’re all gonna share in it together.”

 

Honoring the E-A-G-L-E-S Encyclopedia author on the eve of the Super Bowl​

This week in North Philly Notes, we honor Ray Didinger, author of The New Eagles Encyclopedia, as the team gets ready to compete in Super Bowl LII.

Below is a photo gallery of Ray Didinger at Philadelphia’s City Hall where Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. introduced a resolution honoring Ray, who was honored for his induction into the Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame and for his work covering all sports (not just the Eagles).

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ClarkeEE

Council president Darrell L. Clarke holding up The New Eagles Encyclopedia. Photo by Maria Gallagher.

Ray and Councilman Jones

Ray Didinger (left) with Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., sponsor of the resolution honoring Ray. Photo by Maria Gallagher.

Ray at City Hall

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Ray receiving his honor from Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr.

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Ray Didinger (left) with his book and his son David.

 

Temple University Press’s 2017 Best Sellers

This week in North Philly Notes, we showcase our most popular books of the past year: The Top 10 best sellers of 2017!

  1. Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden Cityby Joseph E. B. Elliott, Nathaniel Popkin, and Peter Woodall. Revealing the physical and cultural intricacies of Philadelphia, from the intimate to the monumental.
  2. The Man-Not: Race, Class, Genre, and the Dilemmas of Black Manhoodby Tommy J. Curry. Introduces the conceptual foundations for Black Male Studies, going beyond gender theories that cast the Black Male as a pathological aspiring patriarch.
  3. The Forest and the Trees: Sociology as Life, Practice, and Promise, Third Editionby Allan G. Johnson. An updated exploration of sociology as a way of thinking.
  4.  Tasting Freedom: Octavius Catto and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America, by Daniel R. Biddle and Murray Dubin. The life and times of the extraordinary Octavius Catto, and the first civil rights movement in America.
  5. The New Eagles Encyclopedia, Ray Didinger with Robert Lyons. The best-selling book on the Philadelphia Eagles, completely updated and expanded.
  6. The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics, Revised and Expanded Edition, by George Lipsitz. A widely influential book—revised to reveal racial privilege at work in the 21st century.
  7. Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past, by Sam Wineburg, How do historians know what they know?
  8. We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change, by Myles Horton and Paulo Freire, edited by Brenda Bell, John Gaventa, and John Peters. Two pioneers of education discuss their diverse experiences and ideas.
  9. Believing in Cleveland: Managing Decline in “The Best Location in the Nation,” by J. Mark Souther. Explores how civic and business leaders used image-making in an effort to reimagine and revive Cleveland in the decades after World War II.
  10. Phil Jasner “On the Case:” His Best Writing on the Sixers, the Dream Team, and Beyond, edited by Andy Jasner. Three decades of reporting by renowned Philadelphia Hall of Fame sportswriter Phil Jasner.

 

What Temple University Press staff wants to give and gift this holiday season

This week in North Philly Notes, the staff at Temple University Press suggest the Temple University Press books they would give along with some non-Temple University Press titles they hope to read and receive this holiday season. 

Mary Rose Muccie, Director

1761_reg.gifGive: Just in time for Christmas, we’ve reprinted P Is for Philadelphia, an alphabet book, beautifully illustrated by Philly school children, that celebrates everything that makes the city great. I’ll be giving it to my 7-year-old niece, Hailey, and can’t wait to read it with her.

Get: Earlier this year I read a review of The Bedlam Stacks, by Natasha Pulley and have had it on my list ever since. Set in mid-1800’s Peru, it’s a combination of science fiction and fantasy, mystery and adventure. If I don’t get it, I’ll be giving it to myself!

Irene Imperio, Advertising and Promotions Manager
Give: P Is for Philadelphia. Although Amazon doesn’t have copies we do!!!  And it’s fun for the whole family!

Karen Baker, Financial Manager2427_reg.gif
Give: I would give We Decide!, by Michael Menser, to my son-in-law because he is very interested in politics and democracy.

Get: I would like to receive I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons by Kevin Hart because I think he is hilarious.

Ryan Mulligan, Editor 

GiveThe Cost of Being a Girl I’ve discovered while publishing this book that there are people on Twitter who search for the phrase “wage gap” just to tell anyone who happens to be talking about it that the concept is a myth – that women’s wages are lower because they have less experience on average and go into lower-paying fields.

2400_reg.gifThe irony is, this book takes that contention head-on by looking at a population where all labor is equally unqualified and low-skilled: teenage workers entering the workforce for the first time in fields like retail and food service. Even here though, Besen-Cassino shows us that male workers are fast-tracked towards management, while female workers are pegged for “aesthetic labor” and “emotional work” that pays less and takes a significant toll on the worker’s well-being. These dynamics not only reveal the biases of the workplace, but set teens on unequal tracks that continue into adulthood. And the book is really compelling reading. So I’d give this book to all those Twitter trolls.

GetLocked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration and How to Achieve Real Reform by John Pfaff.  A lot of criminologists I talk to are really excited about this book. Mass Incarceration is one of the US’s defining issues of the day, of concern across the political spectrum thanks to its disproportionate hold relative to the rest of the world, its effect on American families, and its costs. Pfaff’s contribution, undertaking a sensical review of the dauntingly hard-to-consolidate evidence, sounds like discovering a new verse to a song you thought you knew by heart.

Ann-Marie Anderson, Marketing Director

Give:  2453_reg.gifI’d give a copy of Tommy Curry’s The Man-Not to aid in understanding the stereotypes (and oppression) of black men.

Get: I’ve already received my holiday supply of books to read, but I have just learned about Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, a survey of African American art from 1963-83 which was a crucial period in American art history.  The book purports to bring to light previously neglected black artists, like Sam Gilliam, Melvin Edwards, Faith Ringgold, Betye Saar, and many others.

Sara Cohen, Editor

Give: This holiday season, I’ll be getting my friends and family copies of Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City. As the editor of this book, I learned a ton about Philadelphia’s Gilded Age history, and it’s really changed the way I think about and read 2381_reg.gifour city.  It’s a great gift for the urban historian/architecture critic/fine photography connoisseur/Philadelphian in your life.

Get: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I haven’t read it since I became a mother, and because it’s partially about how weird it is to create and be responsible for another being, I’ve been meaning to reread it.  Plus, 2018 will be the 200th anniversary of the book, and rereading it seems like a great way to celebrate it’s bicentennial.

Aaron Javsicas, Editor-in-Chief

Give: Pennsylvania Stories–Well Told, by Bill Ecenbarger. Bill is a superb writer, and he showcases some 2445_reg.gifof the wonderful weirdness — but also nobility, industry, and the dark side — of our often overlooked commonwealth. From the Pennsylvania pencil and fireworks industries, to the turnpike, to the author’s ride-along with John Updike, to the unfortunately significant presence of the Klan, Ecenbarger treats his subjects with humor, insight, and honesty. I love this state and know a lot of other folks who do too, so this will be an ideal gift.

GetGood Neighbors: The Democracy of Everyday Life in America, by Nancy Rosenblum. National politics over the last eighteen months or so have been quite inspirational — by which I mean, it has inspired me to focus local politics. This book looks like a great way to get your mind around what that means, by examining our neighborly democratic interactions. Local relationships form the underlying fabric that supports our larger democracy, so what makes that fabric strong or weak?

Joan Vidal, Senior Production Editor

GivePennsylvania Stories—Well Told, by master storyteller William Ecenbarger. This compelling collection of articles originally published in the Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine, which features topics that range from Byberry to Zambelli Fireworks to deer hunting to John Updike, makes a perfect gift for anyone interested in Pennsylvania history and popular culture.

Get: the novel Lilli de Jongby Philadelphia author Janet Benton, which tells the story of a young Quaker woman who decides to keep her baby girl after giving birth in an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. Through a series of journal entries that detail her struggles, she sheds light on the daily lives and social norms of the people and communities around her.

2456_reg.gifDave Wilson, Senior Production Editor

Give: Phil Jasner “On the Case”. This book is about the long-time Philadelphia Daily News sports writer and Naismith Hall of Famer who had a tireless work ethic in his quest to report Philadelphia sports. Phil’s son, Andy, also a sports writer, assembled a book showing just a sliver of his dad’s greatest moments and Phil’s passion to report accurately while exhibiting a tireless work ethic. This book is a wonderful tribute by a son to this father. The book shows the amazing relationships Phil had with great Philadelphia sports legends, and the chapter introductions from prominent Philadelphia sports figures make this an entertaining and touching read.

Nikki Miller, Rights and Permissions Manager

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GiveExploiting the Wilderness by Greg L. Warchol as a holiday gift.  As an animal lover, I think this is a great book that offers a look into the wildlife crime that occurs in Africa and what can be done to stop it.

GetLilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly.  I’ve read great reviews about this book and can’t wait to start reading it over the holidays.

Kate Nichols, Art Manager

GiveKalfou: A Journal of Comparative and Relational Ethnic Studies, published by Temple University Press on behalf of the UCSB Center for Black Studies Research. As per George Lipsitz, the Senior editor, “In addition to its featured peer-reviewed scholarly articles, Kalfou devotes parts of each issue to short features focused on the places where ideas, activism, and art intersect.” As Volume 4, Issue 2 was just published, the journal is more important and timely than ever.

Rachel Elliott, Marketing Assistant

Give: 2384_reg.gifThe Audacity of Hoop by Alexander Wolff, because it is a visually compelling book that brings the president, often an inaccessible figure, down to the real world. We get to see him as he is in real life.
GetWe Should All Be Feminists because it has been recommended to me several times already! I love learning more about women’s issues and inclusive feminism and this book explores exactly that!

1912_reg.gifGary Kramer, Publicity Manager

Give: I recently attended the 20th-anniversary party for Ellen Yin’s restaurant, Fork. While the menu has changed since she published her memoir/cookbook Forklore, the recipes and stories collected in her fabulous book are timeless, and still wonderful to read and savor.

Get: I’ve been wanting to read Sherman Alexie’s You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me since it was published. One of my favorite authors has written a memoir about his mother. But I just know this is going to break my heart, so I’ve been resisting it. But if someone gave it to me, I’d feel obligated to read it.

A son’s love letter to his father

This week in North Philly Notes, Andy Jasner, editor of Phil Jasner “On the Case” recalls his father’s work and work ethic.  
I always knew Phil Jasner worked hard.
I always knew he took great pride in outworking the competition.
Even I didn’t know he worked this hard.
What am I referencing?
Compiling Phil Jasner: On The Case, a labor of love which took several years, was no small task. I knew that from the beginning. When you’re in six — count ‘em, six – Halls of Fames, you’ve obviously put countless hours into perfecting your craft.
Phil Jasner On the Case_smGoing through thousands and thousands and even more thousands of articles over a four decade-plus career, I truly saw the work that Jasner, aka Dad, put in every single day.
When you’re a kid growing up, you don’t pay attention to what your parents are going through at work. You’re not supposed to worry about things like that. It’s about being a kid, playing basketball, baseball, or whatever sport it may be, going to school, hanging out with your friends, etc.
Reading through Dad’s volume of copy was a gargantuan task and an amazingly fulfilling one.
There was the day Dad tried to prove that Julius Erving could fly (check out the article in the book). That was just one of about six stories in the Philadelphia Daily News alone, totaling more than 12,000 words. One day! In the world of Twitter that we all now live in, that was so telling about the type of work ethic Dad embodied 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year.
Dad didn’t have a job. He never went to work.
Dad lived his dream every day. How many people can say that? Not many, I imagine.
Sure, there were tough days when flights were delayed, baggage was lost and even a story or two was deleted by accident.
JasnerandSon

Andy Jasner, left, with his father, Phil Jasner at the 1996 NBA Finals

But in the big picture, Dad simply lived a dream. Even though that dream was tragically cut short on Dec. 3, 2010 at the young age of 68, Dad’s readers were never shortchanged. His work shined through on the newspaper pages and on the Internet. The passion and pride was on display in every article.

You could feel Dad’s passion when reading through the articles. I felt that way when compiling the book, which was quite therapeutic and necessary to continue a legacy for years and years.
The hard work will be in print forever. It deserves to be. Dad will never be forgotten and neither will his hard work.
It sure will be etched in my memory forever. Readers of Phil Jasner“On The Case” will certainly feel the same way. How can they not?

The Seeds of the Imagination: Colin Kaepernick’s Gift

This week in North Philly Notes, we repost a September 27 article from The Con by Grant Farred, author of Long Distance Love, about the NFL’s “Take a Knee” controversy.

In his response to his friend Fredric Jameson’s essay “American Utopia,” Slavoj Žižek makes a case for what is all too often lost in the uproar and turmoil caused by a historical event. What is forgotten, Žižek argues, are those “seeds of the imagination” that first created the conditions that made the event possible; the “seeds of the imagination” are overwhelmed by the event and, without the deliberate act of retrieval, lost to history. Žižek has no timetable, but one suspects that he has a longer view in mind than Colin Kaepernick’s decision to take a knee on the 1 September, 2016. It was in a National Football League (NFL) game for the San Francisco 49ers against the-then San Diego Chargers.

Still, there is a resonance about Žižek’s concept in a moment when there is large-scale support for the decision by NFL players, coaches, owners and an assortment of commentators in response to Donald Trump’s condemnation of the “SOB” players who, following Kaepernick’s example, have kept up the tradition of taking a knee. The bi-racial Kaepernick, adopted by a white family in Wisconsin, took his decision because of police violence and mistreatment of other minorities in the United States. This was not a nation, Kaepernick declared, whose flag or anthem he could honour, this was not a nation to which he could pledge allegiance. Kaepernick was, in this regard, following Jackie Robinson, who had, decades earlier, taken the same stand. As, Robinson said, a “black man” signified very differently to him than it did to white Americans. Unlike Robinson, who made this statement after his career had ended, Kaepernick has paid, like Muhammad Ali, a professional price. Since the end of last season, in a league full of mediocre quarterbacks (and even worse backups), Kaepernick has been out of a job.

However, what Kaepernick brought to the fore was politics. The politics of race, police brutality and the unequal treatment of minorities. In the aftermath of the Huntsville rally where Trump criticised the “sons of bitches” footballers for taking the knee, in this weekend’s NFL games, there was an outpouring of condemnation.

Players, from the usually reliable (Seattle Seahawks’s Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett; Marshawn Lynch, once of Seattle, now of the Oakland Raiders; and so on) to the unexpected (Tom Brady, [New England] Patriot in more senses than one, a Trump supporter to boot; the Dallas Cowboys, albeit taking a knee before the national anthem); coaches, from the admirable (Pete Carroll, Seahawks) to the shocking (Rex Ryan, for whom Huntsville was a Damascus experience); owners, well, other than the Steelers’ Rooney family everyone was a surprise. Shahid Kahn (Jaguars), the New England Patriots’ Robert Kraft (like his quarterback Brady a Trump man), Jerry Jones (who participated in the premature knee-taking) to the owners of the Philadelphia Eagles . . . It would seems that the New York Jets’ Woody Johnson, a rather fervent Trump underwriter, is out in the cold by himself. It promises to be a lonely place for Woody. But at least he’ll have the company of the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Pittsburgh Penguins, who only represent the whitest sport in America. He’ll have to do without the likes of National Basketball Association (NBA) superstars Lebron James (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Steph Curry (Golden State Warriors), who want no part of Trump and his White House. Then there’s Robin Lopez of the Chicago Bulls, whose tweet suggests that he expects Trump to be indicted.

What has been lost sight of, in the nigh universal locking-of-arms, taking-of-knees, and expressions of public outrage by commentators from the normally ebullient Chris Collinsworth to the articulate Bob Costas, from the savvy of CNN’s Bakari Sellers to the erudition of MSNBC’s Brian Williams, is how the entire conversation is being overwhelmed by the discourse of respectability, responsibility and, of course, patriotism. The case has made based entirely on the players’ First Amendment right: the right to free speech; their right to protest animated, of course, by the anger fuelled by Trump’s incendiary call to “fire” the “SOBs”.

The players, almost every commentator announces, are patriotic. They have “great respect” for the American flag. Under no circumstances must their protest be understood as a slap in the face of the military. The players are apparently united in their respect for the nation’s armed services, for the police force and all other state institutions whose members work to keep the country safe.

Whatever happened to the “seeds” of Kaepernick’s “imagination?” Have we already forgotten that Kaepernick, like Ali once did (before his conservatism got the better of him), like Robinson and John Carlos and Tommie Smith, understood, correctly, that the problem is precisely the American nation as it is constituted. To be sure, both Carroll and Costas gave voice to this. And, each in their own way, began from the political premise that racism and institutionalised inequality are ingrained in the nation’s fabric; discrimination of African-Americans, Latinos and other minorities is the very stuff of America – you know, like apple pie.

What is more, the dominant line of defence has been, the NFL players “care” about their “communities” and work very hard to contribute to it. These “communities” are never specified, but one presumes that it has to do with kids, and, almost certainly, with kids in under-resourced neighbourhoods.

But . . .  But . . . None of this matters. None of it.

In fact, the only way in which the First Amendment means anything, has any political purchase, is if it begins from the ground that the players, like every other resident of this country, have rights that are in no way contingent. That is, they are free do as they choose – protest, take a knee, stand with their hand over their heart, raise a clenched first – regardless of whether they are “responsible” citizens given to doing good deeds in their assorted “communities.”

What the discourse of “caring” achieves is to imbricate, relentlessly and repeatedly, the players’ right to protest, their right to give voice to their anger, whether it be against police brutality or against Trump’s racist bullhorn (very much in the spirit of Alabama’s own “Bull” Connor), in the discourse of respectability. Because the players, and the NFL, by extension, are responsible stewards of their “communities,” they are then implicitly immunized against the charge of disloyalty to the nation. Their commitment to their “communities” is the surest sign of their investment in America and its values; because they have “great respect” for cops and “deeply appreciate the sacrifice of our brave men and women in uniform” the act of taking a knee on a Sunday afternoon must not be mistaken for a lack of “patriotism.”

Why ever not? Isn’t the very fundament of the rights enshrined in the First Amendment precisely the right to offend? To give offense, again and again? To disrespect the flag, turn your back on the singing of the national anthem or to pour scorn upon American “values?”

In the rush to support or defend the players’ right to protest, what that right means has been reduced to a publicity relations campaign overwhelmed by the discourses of respectability and responsibility. The logic of this defence proceeds from the ground that the players are “worthy” of their rights; they are “upstanding members” of their “communities” who care —  a point with which I am fully sympathetic — about disproportionate police brutality against blacks and the structural inequality that remains a persistent feature of American life.

It does not matter if they are “upstanding” citizens or not. (No one makes the same demands of the owners, those who, like Johnson and Jones and Kraft, remained silent when Trump berated Mexicans as “murderers and rapists,” or advocated predatory sexual behaviour against women, or mocked a specially-abled reporter or . . .). The right to the First Amendment, if it is to have any political salience, must be apprehended as unconditional, something like sovereign. The moment in which support for the players is made to rest upon their socio-political “worthiness,” the discourse of respectability and responsibility veers unthinkingly into political paternalism. Only the “worthy” can give voice to their frustration or anger. Girding this argument is an unreflective and, within the context of the US, historic racism.

Respectability and responsibility (the NFL has its share of miscreants and unsavoury characters, from Lawrence Taylor to Ray Rice to . . .) is installed as the litmus test. There must be no contingency, no dependency upon others burnishing the players’ grievance and anger with their, to mix metaphors, their seal of ethical approval.

There is no need for the players to “nuance” (a term Costas favoured on Monday as he made his way on the talk show circuit) their protest. In fact, they have every right to make, if they so wish, public their disdain for the military or, contrary to what the Steelers so spectacularly failed to do, call one another out, team mate to team mate. Why should one team mate not be divided from another on matters of politics? Why should a league of which, at least, some 70% are black men, not let the mainly white crowds know that they disapprove, in the strongest possible terms, of their – the crowds, as was shown on Sunday and Monday evening – voting tendencies? Why ever not? Why not reiterate the division between black performance (labour, albeit a labour of love, as it is for many) and white consumption? In a moment of historic racial division, it can be argued that the first right is that of enunciating racial difference and the continuing deleterious effect of American racism. From police brutality to the failing Chicago Public School system (ask Chance the Rapper about that) to the intense racial animus that Trump has traded on.

It may very well not, this insistence on the right to unfettered right, to the absolute right to express that right, be the most efficient PR strategy. But, then again, there has never been a protest movement that began by first seeking approval. Or, allowed the fear of sanction to immobilise it. The Montgomery bus boycott, the March to Selma, Ali’s willingness to sacrifice his career because, as he said when he refused induction into the US Army, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong, they never called me Nigger,” owes much to its willingness to offend, to take issue, publicly, with the status quo.

Because of the rush to respectability, because of the visceral impulse to submit to the discourse of patriotism (the first refuge of scoundrels, as I’ve argued elsewhere), Kaepernick’s gift is in danger of being trampled upon. It might serve the NFL players better if they resisted the urge to clothe themselves in the cloak of respectability, if they eschewed the trappings of responsibility.

If, instead, they embraced fully the “seeds” of Kaepernick’s “imagination.” Kaepernick sowed, through his willingness to articulate the politics that informed his act of kneeling, in his stated opposition to the racism that has repeatedly allowed police officers who have ended the lives of black citizens (a point Sellers made on CNN) to be summarily ended without any palpable justice, a seed uncompromised by the desire for respectability. Kaepernick acted as a political “bad boy.”

If that “seed” is lost, if his “imagination” is not properly understood and honoured, if the “seed of his imagination” does not grow into a politics rather than a placatory course of action, then, as Žižek reminds us, there will have been, no matter the amount of ink spilled on this issue, no matter the hours spent trolling the internet or sitting glued to the TV/computer screen offer their opinions on it, fidelity to Kaepernick’s “seed,” to the possibilities a now unemployed quarterback opened up when he first took that knee, in that game more than a year ago against the Chargers.

The only proper way to honour Kaepernick is to recognise the promise of the political “seed” he germinated and then to exceed it. As the Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett senior put it, his NFL-playing sons, Michael and Martellus (tight end for the Green Bay Packers), will continue to protest. Out of one “seed,” potentially another. And so on, and so on. The Seahawks defensive end appears ready to add the force of his political “imagination” to the “seed” Kaepernick planted in San Diego. Who said that defensive ends are the scourge of quarterbacks? Not in this case, one dares hope.

ABOUT GRANT FARRED

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