Category Archives: Sports

100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues, a look back at what was lost

by Rob Ruck, University of Pittsburgh

During the half century that baseball was divided by a color line, black America created a sporting world of its own.

Josh Gibson slides into home during the 1944 Negro Leagues All-Star Game. 

Black teams played on city sandlots and country fields, with the best barnstorming their way across the country and throughout the Caribbean.

A century ago, on Feb. 13, 1920, teams from eight cities formally created the Negro National League. Three decades of stellar play followed, as the league affirmed black competence and grace on the field, while forging a collective identity that brought together Northern-born blacks and their Southern brethren. And though Major League Baseball was segregated from the 1890s until 1947, these teams played countless interracial games in communities across the nation.

After World War II, Jackie Robinson hurdled baseball’s racial divide. But while integration – baseball’s great experiment – was a resounding success on the field, at the gates and in changing racial attitudes, Negro League teams soon lost all of their stars and struggled to retain fans. The teams hung on for a bit, before eventually folding.

Years ago, when I worked on a documentary about the Negro Leagues, I was struck by how many of the interviewees looked back longingly on the leagues’ heyday. While there was the understanding that integration needed to happen, there was also the recognition that something special was forever lost.

A league of their own

Given the injustices of the 1890s – sharecropping, lynchings, disenfranchisement and the Supreme Court’s sanctioning of segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson – exclusion from Major League Baseball was hardly the most grievous injury African Americans suffered. But it mattered. Their absence denied them the chance to participate in a very visible arena that helped European immigrants integrate into American culture.

While the sons of white immigrants – John McGraw, Honus Wagner, Joe DiMaggio – became major leaguers lionized by their nationalities, blacks didn’t have that opportunity. Most whites assumed that was because they weren’t good enough. Their absence reinforced prevailing beliefs that African Americans were inherently inferior – athletically and intellectually – with weak abdominal muscles, little endurance and prone to cracking under pressure.

The Negro Leagues gave black ballplayers their own platform to prove otherwise. On Feb. 13, 1920, Chicago American Giants owner Rube Foster convened a meeting at the Paseo YMCA in Kansas City to organize the Negro National League. A Texas-born pitcher, Foster envisioned a black alternative to the major leagues.

Members of the Chicago American Giants pose for a team portrait in 1914. Rube Foster is seated in the center of the first row wearing a suit.

Northern black communities were exploding in size, and Foster saw the league’s potential. Teams like the American Giants and the Kansas City Monarch regularly competed against white teams, drew large crowds and turned profits. Players enjoyed higher salaries than most black workers, while black newspapers trumpeted their exploits, as did some white papers.

Other leagues cropped up; the Negro National League was soon joined by the Negro American League and the Negro Southern League. Some years, the Negro National and Negro American Leagues played a Negro League World Series. The leagues also sent their best players to the East-West All-Star Classic, an annual exhibition game in Chicago.

But the Negro National League’s ascent was stunted after Foster was exposed to a gas leak, nearly died and suffered permanent brain damage. Absent his leadership and hammered by the Great Depression, the league disbanded in 1931.

Life in the Negro Leagues

A proving ground

Gus Greenlee, who ran the popular lottery known as the numbers game, revived the league in Pittsburgh in 1933 after a sandlot club called the Crawfords, which included the young slugger Josh Gibson, approached him for support. He agreed to pay them salaries and reinforced their roster with the addition of flamethrower Satchel Paige.

Satchel Paige. 

Greenlee went on to build the finest black-owned ballpark in the country, Greenlee Field, while headquartering the Negro National League on the floor above the Crawford Grill, his renowned jazz club in Pittsburgh’s Hill District.

Pittsburgh soon became the mecca of black baseball. Sitting along America’s East-West rail lines, the city was a requisite stop for black entertainers, leaders and ball clubs, which traveled from cities as far away as Kansas City. Its two teams, the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords, won a dozen titles. Seven of the first 11 Negro Leaguers eventually inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame – stars like Cool Papa Bell, Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard and Satchel Paige – played for one or both squads.

The sport, meanwhile, became a major source of black pride.

“The very best,” Pittsburgh-born author John Wideman noted, “not only competed among themselves and put on a good show, but [also] would go out and compete against their white contemporaries and beat the stuffing out of them.”

Satchel Paige and the Crawfords famously defeated St. Louis Cardinals ace Dizzy Dean in an exhibition game in Cleveland – just two weeks after the Cardinals had won the 1934 World Series. Overall, Negro League teams won far more games against white squads than they lost.

“There was so much [negativity] living over [us] which we had no control [over],” Mal Goode, the first black national network correspondent, recalled. “So anything you could hold on to from the standpoint of pride, it was there and it showed.”

Sacrificed on integration’s altar

For Major League Baseball, no moment was more transformative than the arrival of Jackie Robinson, who, in 1947, paved the way for African Americans and darker-skinned Latinos to reshape the game.

But integration destroyed the Negro Leagues, plucking its young stars – Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, Roy Campanella and Ernie Banks – who brought their fans with them. The big leagues never considered folding in some of the best black teams, and its owners rejected the Negro National League owners’ proposal to become a high minor league.

Like many black papers, colleges and businesses, the Negro National League paid a price for integration: extinction. The league ceased play after the 1948 season. Black owners, general managers and managers soon disappeared, and it would be decades before a black manager would get a chance to steer a major league ballclub.

Major League Baseball benefited from talent cultivated in the Negro Leagues and on the sandlots that sustained the sport, especially in inner cities. But when those leagues crumbled, prospective black pros were relegated to minor league teams, often in inhospitable, southern cities. Many Negro League regulars simply hung up their cleats or played in the Caribbean.

The playwright August Wilson set his play, “Fences,” which tells the story of an ex-Negro Leaguer who becomes a garbageman in Pittsburgh.

“Baseball gave you a sense of belonging,” Wilson said in a 1991 interview. At those Negro League games, he added, “The umpire ain’t white. It’s a black umpire. The owner ain’t white. Nobody’s white. This is our thing … and we have our everything – until integration, and then we don’t have our nothing.”

The story of African Americans in baseball has long been portrayed as a tale of their shameful segregation and redemptive integration. Segregation was certainly shameful, especially for a sport invested in its own rhetoric of democracy.

But for African Americans, integration was also painful. Although long overdue and an important catalyst for social change, it cost them control over their sporting lives.

It changed the meaning of the sport – what it symbolized and what it meant for their communities – and not necessarily for the better.

Soul of the Game is a 1996 made-for-television movie about Negro league baseball.


Republished with permission under license from The Conversation.

Modern Day Hockey Created by Blacks?

As the NHL All-Star Weekend comes to a close in St. Louis, this is a great time to reflect on the black origins of modern hockey. American history has always promoted the myth of the original thirteen colonies. In truth, at the time of the American Revolution, there was no such thing as thirteen colonies. There were actually nineteen – six of those colonies did not agree with the Revolution. Those colonies became Canada where Black men created modern hockey!

Below is an ESPN segment about the Black origins of Hockey.

Out of the four major professional sports in the United States (football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey), ice hockey has been the Whitest. Nearly all of the National Hockey League’s (NHL) players are White, and the well-known history of the sport would make people believe that Caucasians created and developed the sport on their own. Our knowledge of the roots of hockey has been based almost solely on the historical records maintained by early White historians. Because of this, the misconception that hockey is a White man’s invention has persisted. We know today, such an assumption could not be further from historical fact.

While history books showcase White players that date back to the 1800s, the roots of the sport actually comes from Native Americans, and the game was revolutionized by African Canadians. It was Black hockey players in the later half of the nineteenth century whose style of play and innovations helped shape the sport, effectively changing the game of hockey forever. 

According to the book “Black Ice,” written by George and Darril Fosty, the sons and grandsons of American slaves who escaped to Canada were not given the proper credit for innovating the game.

The first reports of hockey being played dates back to 1815 along the Northwest Arm, which is a river south of Halifax in Canada. At that time, the region was not home to a large White settlement, but was instead the site of a small Black enclave. Reports say that the residents would play hockey in the winter months, when the river froze over. It is unknown whether or not these were the first ice hockey games, but it does mean that Blacks were playing the sport well before it became popular in the late 1800s.

As the development of the sport into contemporary ice hockey took place, the first organized indoor game was in Montreal in 1875, and by the mid-1890s, there were hundreds of teams in Canada and Europe. At this time, there was the first recorded mention of all-Black hockey teams, which appeared in 1895. By 1900, the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes (CHL) was created, and it was headquartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The NHL by contrast was not created until November 26, 1917.

The CHL was initially a church league formed by Black Baptist Ministers and church administrators who wanted to use the league to help Blacks climb up the social latter and gain equal footing with the White community. They used sports as the catalyst. The league was based on faith and emphasized sportsmanship and athleticism over brute force. The league used the Bible as their rulebook.

The league featured more than 400 African Canadian players who were typically natives from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. As the game continued to develop, the CHL featured more faster-paced action on the offensive end of the rink than the White leagues, which played a more physical style of game. It has been reported that the slap shot, which has been a staple for more than a century, was first used in the CHL, about 50 years before it became popular in the NHL. The league also revolutionized the goaltender position by allowing the goalie to play in an upright position, which allowed him to use his feet to a much greater degree.

At times, the top Black teams were able to defeat the best White teams. Typically there would not be a rematch, and those victories were not well-publicized.

The CHL flourished until World War I, but the league collapsed, and it was pretty much forgotten about. The innovations that came out of the league were later credited to White players, and the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto did not recognize the accomplishments of the league.

During the nineteenth century the English introduced the concept of competitive sports to much of the world. In an age of the Victorians and Victorian ideals, sports were regarded as models of teamwork and fair play. Many believed that sports could raise the lower classes and non-White races to a higher level of civilization and social development. All was well, the theory held as long as White men continued to win at whatever sport they played. Hockey was no different. By recognizing Canadian hockey Stanley had accomplished something more. He has given the game “royal acceptance” removing its status as a game of the lowly masses and creating a tiered sport based on club elitism and commercialism. It is no secret that the Stanley Cup was only to be competed for by select teams within Canada. At the time of its presentation, it was a symbol for self-promotion all the while serving a “supposed need”. In time, those who controlled the Challenge Cup controlled hockey, effectively creating a “bourgeoisie” sport. A sport that now, by its very nature, would exclude and fail to recognize Black contributions.

The most noted moment of Blacks in hockey happened when Willie O’Ree broke the color barrier in the NHL in 1958, even though Black players greatly contributed to the game years before the NHL existed.

Today there are no monuments to the Colored Hockey League. There is no reference to the league in any but a few books on hockey. There is no reference to Henry Sylvester Williams, James Johnston, James Kinney or the scores of players who wore the Colored League uniforms. There is no reference in the Hockey Hall of Fame of the impact that Blacks had in the development of the modern game of hockey. No reference to the Black origin of the slap shot. There is no reference to the Black origin of the offensive style of goal play exhibited by Franklyn. There is no reference to the Black origin of goalies going down on ice in order to stop the puck. There is no reference to the Black practice of entertaining the crowds with a half-time show. It is as if the league had never existed. For hockey is today a sport Whiter in history than a Canadian winter.


Republished under fair use claim, from OriginalPeople and Our Weekly material.

NFL tells players patriotism is more important than protest – here’s why that didn’t work during WWI

 By Chad Williams

The recent decision by the NFL regarding player protests and the national anthem has yet again exposed the fraught relationship between African-Americans and patriotism.

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The NFL is attempting to shut down protests like this one by members of the Cleveland Browns. AP Photo/David Richard

The controversy has taken place nearly a century after another time when African-Americans painfully grappled with questions concerning loyalty to the nation and the struggle for equal rights.

W.E.B. Du Bois. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

In July 1918, at the height of American participation in World War I, W. E. B. Du Bois, the acclaimed black scholar, activist and civil rights leader, penned arguably the most controversial editorial of his career, “Close Ranks.”

“Let us, while this war lasts, forget our special grievances and close our ranks shoulder to shoulder with our own white fellow citizens and the allied nations that are fighting for democracy,” he advised his fellow African-Americans. Du Bois acknowledged that this was “no ordinary sacrifice,” but black people would nevertheless make it “gladly and willingly with our eyes lifted to the hills.”

Pressured from league owners, white fans and the president of the United States, black NFL players are now faced with the dilemma of closing ranks and forgetting their “special grievances,” or continuing to protest against racial injustice.

The history of African-Americans in World War I, as I have explored in my work, offers important lessons about how to confront this challenge.

The NFL, race and the national anthem

Last season, during the playing of the national anthem, dozens of NFL players kneeled, locked arms and raised their fists in protest against police and state-sanctioned violence inflicted upon African-Americans. Their actions elicited a fierce backlash, much of it fueled by President Donald Trump, who encouraged his overwhelmingly white base of supporters to boycott the NFL so long as players, in his view, continued to disrespect the flag. Seeking to avoid further controversy, on May 23, Commissioner Roger Goddell announced that for the upcoming season, “All team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.” Not following this directive could result in teams being fined and players subject to “appropriate discipline.”

Approximately 70 percent of the players in the NFL are African-American. They have also been the most visible faces of the national anthem protests, which began in 2016 with quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is currently unemployed and suing owners for collusion to keep him out of the league.

I see the decision by the NFL as an unmistakable attempt to police the actions of its majority black work force, impose what amounts to a loyalty oath, and enforce through intimidation and threat a narrow definition of patriotism. The message is clear: Either demonstrate unqualified devotion to the United States or be punished.

African-Americans and World War I

African-Americans confronted the same stark choice during World War I.

In previous conflicts, African-Americans had sacrificed and shed blood for the nation. But patriotism alone has never been enough to overcome white supremacy. By 1917, as the United States prepared to enter the world war, disfranchisement, Jim Crow segregation, and racial violence had rendered African-Americans citizens in name only.

Black people thus had every reason to question the legitimacy of fighting in a war that President Woodrow Wilson declared would make the world “safe for democracy.” African-Americans immediately exposed the hypocrisy of Wilson’s words, while also seizing the opportunity to hold the United States accountable to its principles. They did this, in part, by serving in the army, as some 380,000 black soldiers labored and fought to not just win the war, but to also make democracy a reality for themselves.

African-Americans also recognized the importance of protest. Discrimination and racial violence continued throughout the war, highlighted by the East St. Louis massacre in July 1917, where white mobs killed as many as 200 black people. In response, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People organized a Silent Protest Parade in New York City, where more than 10,000 black men, women and children peacefully marched down Fifth Avenue carrying signs, one of which read, “Patriotism and loyalty presuppose protection and liberty.”

‘Closing ranks’ and the costs

Just as it does today, protesting racial injustice during the war carried risk. The federal government wielded the repressive power of American nationalism to crush disloyalty to the United States. The Espionage Act (1917) and Sedition Act (1918) severely curtailed civil liberties by criminalizing “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language.”

“100 percent Americanism” entailed the policing of immigrant communities, restricting freedom of the press, jailing anti-war activists, and monitoring African-Americans, including W. E. B. Du Bois, for potential radicalism. This pressure, along with the personal desire to demonstrate his loyalty to the nation, compelled Du Bois to soften his critiques of the government and issue his call for African-Americans to “close ranks.”

“The words were hardly out of my mouth when strong criticism was rained upon it,” Du Bois later remembered. Even during a time of war, most African-Americans refused to set aside the “special grievances” of segregation, lynching and systemic racial abuse. And Du Bois paid a heavy price. William Monroe Trotter, the fiery newspaper editor and civil rights leader from Boston, branded Du Bois “a rank quitter,” adding that his one-time ally had “weakened, compromised, deserted the fight.”

But African-Americans, having fought for democracy, would surely be rewarded for their loyal service and patriotic sacrifices, Du Bois reasoned.

To the contrary, they were greeted with a torrent of racial violence and bloodshed that came to be known as the “Red Summer” of 1919. White people, North and South, were determined to remind black people of their place in the nation’s racial hierarchy. Race riots erupted throughout the country and the number of African-Americans lynched skyrocketed, including several black veterans still in uniform.

The NFL’s decision is essentially an attempt to appease the mob in 2018.

Echoing the backlash following World War I, the vitriolic reactions to the national anthem protests reflect what happens when African-Americans physically and symbolically challenge an understanding of patriotism rooted in white supremacy and racist ideas of black subservience. I believe the NFL has acquiesced to the threats of President Trump and the unrest of its white fan base by establishing a policy that requires black players to remain docile, obedient employees, devoid of any outward expression of racial and political consciousness, which sole purpose is to entertain and enrich their owners.

And now, the NFL wants black players to “close ranks” by giving them the false choice between standing for the pledge or hiding their protest in the locker room, conveniently out of sight of fans in the stadium and away from television cameras.

The league ignores any mention of the “special grievances” of police brutality, racial profiling and antiblack harassment that remain alive and well. Ironically, the NFL has been the one to transform the flag into a political weapon to silence black activism, protect its corporate interests and maintain a racial status quo. Displays of patriotism and loyalty to nation are meaningless when not accompanied by the actual freedoms and protections that come with being a citizen.

W. E. B. Du Bois would spend the rest of his life questioning his decision for African Americans to “close ranks” during World War I. He ultimately recognized that until America reckoned with its racist history and embraced the humanity of black people, the nation would remain deeply wounded. At the age of 90, reflecting on the questions that shaped his decades of struggle, Du Bois pondered, “How far can love for my oppressed race accord with love for the oppressing country? And when these loyalties diverge, where shall my soul find refuge?”

The ConversationLike the battlefields of France 100 years ago, the football fields of NFL stadiums are just one place where African-Americans have historically sought to answer these questions. And simply closing ranks has never been sufficient. In this moment of racial repression and moral mendacity, when the ideals of democracy are undermined daily, the debate over national anthem protests reminds us that the fight to affirm the sanctity of black life is much longer and deeper than a Sunday afternoon game.


Re-published with permission under license from The Conversation

Chad Williams, Associate Professor of African and Afro-American Studies, Brandeis University

Boycott NFL if Players are Forced to Stand for Anthem

According to a CNBC article, the NFL will vote whether to require players to stand for the "National Anthem" during their next meeting.

If the NFL owners vote for the requirement, they will be on the wrong side of history. The "Star-Spangled Banner" as it was originally written contained four verses, however, only the first verse is sung as our National Anthem. The third verse, celebrated the death of slaves fighting to free themselves, see the video below.

According to VICE, “African-American males are only six percent of the United States population, but comprise nearly 70 percent of the players in the National Football League.” The NFL’s 32 teams earned around $12 billion in 2015 with merchandise sales over $1.55 billion.

If the NFL benefits immensely from the work of black men, why doesn’t it address serious issues of concern to America’s black community? Specifically, why hasn’t the NFL addressed the issue of unarmed black men being killed by law enforcement? "If you're Comfortable with My Oppression, then You are My Oppressor".

If the NFL votes to force players to stand, civil rights organizations including those that receive "bribe" funding from the NFL need to call for a boycott. I will personally boycott the NFL, just like I did when the WNBA took a stance against its players, and hope others will join me.

As Nick Canon's spoken word poem recently stated, "Stand For What!"

Colin Kaepernick and other players refusing to stand during the national anthem has elicited a greater uproar from the NFL than the existence of police brutality and the killing of unarmed black teens and men. To paraphrase MLK's "Letter from Birmingham Jail", "You deplore the demonstrations taking place by NFL Players. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations."

It's bad enough that the league seems to have sanctioned Kaepernick by refusing to hire him, but forcing Black players to stand in direct opposition to their belief or self-interest is unconscionable. If you don't support athletes and entertainers when they stand up for your rights, don't expect them to continue speaking out.

A group of pastors has already called for a Blackout of the NFL, see their video below.

Let's be clear, Colin Kaepernick was standing up for others when he refused to stand; it is very unlikely, he would have personally been a victim of police brutality because of his fame and wealth. He put all that on the line to protect not only his rights but yours and mine as well.

$60 Million in Public Money For a Soccer Stadium? NO!

Yesterday, St. Louis MLS owners and the City of St. Louis announce charitable partnerships. How insulting! Bribing us with our own money? 

If the voters approve giving millionaires $60 million dollars of public money, those millionaires will give the voters $5 million of their own money back over a 20 year period ($250,000 per year). There were allegations of corruption during the previous stadium proposal. St. Louis, if you give me $60 million, I'll give $10 million back, and actually do some good with it; how's that for a great deal? 

I played soccer recreationally when I was younger, but nothing organized or for an actual team. When my family moved back into the City of St. Louis, my youngest son attended Lexington Elementary school which had a soccer program that he played in which I believe was funded by a sports or soccer foundation. I like soccer and I certainly do not have a problem with professional soccer returning to St. Louis. However, there are plenty of better ways to spend $60 million dollars than on a soccer stadium that the City would have no ownership interest in. St. Louis already owns a stadium and an arena and should maintain those properly before spending money on someone else's stadium.

The City has much more urgent problems than trying to fund a soccer stadium. The City of St. Louis has one of the highest homicide rates in the country and just recently, a man died after being shot at the Busch Stadium Metro Link stop. Public money needs to be spent on public problems.

Here's my idea for that money. Contact Habitat for Humanity, Rankin, Larry Rice and other organizations involved with the homeless. Every time I go downtown to the St. Louis Public Library, City Hall, Municipal or Circuit Court buildings, you can't help be see the tragic sight of homeless people with nothing to do and nowhere to go.

St. Louis homeless encampment downtown on Locust near 15th street.

According to the 2015 homeless census, there were more than 1,300 homeless people in St. Louis City alone. If I had not developed legal skills, I and my family might have been among them when both my wife and I lost our jobs. Computerization, artificial intelligence, and robotics will take away half of all jobs in the United States, and that estimate might be low. In the future, it won't be an immigrant taking away your job, it will be a computer or a robot. How many paychecks are you away from being homeless? 

Crews of homeless can be trained with the skills to rehab city-owned homes. As those homes are rehabbed, some of the homeless people that participated in the rehab can use sweat equity earned towards rent or home ownership. For example, a rehabbed three bedroom home can house a homeless family or three single men or women each with their own room. They could continue using sweat equity to pay rent while building additional skills that will eventually lead to employment and being able to pay actual rent. 

Once place in sweat equity housing, those new tenants could put those new skills to use as part of a revitalization crew. Those revitalization crews would perform maintenance projects in the neighborhoods where they are placed. Cleaning up vacant lots and properties, planting and maintaining urban gardens, assisting with repairs to the homes of elderly, disabled and low-income homeowners.

The homeless population benefits from learning and applying new skills, meaningful employment and the prospect of a decent place to live. The neighborhood benefits from having vacant city-owned property being put back into good use, neighborhood improvement projects and sources of nutritious neighborhood grown produce. 

Once some of the formerly homeless individuals have been stabilized, they would receive assistance with Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) paperwork and applications to attend St. Louis Community College, Rankin or other trade schools. 

This is just one example of how I would spend $60 million and how public money can and should be spent. However, public money should never be spent simply to make rich men richer. When you hear politicians fighting hard to give your tax money to rich men, you need to replace those politicians with others who fight hard to make your tax dollars enrich your community rather than individuals.

Colin Kaepernick Is Not Alone Anymore – Fellow Athletes Join His Protest

Colin Kaepernick is the latest athlete following the example of Muhammad Ali and others using their celebrity status to bring attention to injustice and oppression to bring about change. Many Black people had become so accustomed or comfortable with the status quo, that many of us were not speaking out when we should. Others have remained silent because of fear of lossing their job or being criticized. However, there comes a point at which a person must ask themself, how much disrespect, humiliation, injustice and oppression are they willing to accept and ignore. 

Unfortunately, at least one black high profile former 49ers great, Jerry Rice, has been critical when he said, 'All Lives Matter,' Kaepernick should 'respect the flag'. During last year's debate about the Confederate Battle Flag, we pointed out similarities between the history of oppression and injustice that occurred under the U.S. Flag. 

Victims of their own ignorance

Jerry Rice and others are victims of their own ignorance. Rice obviously doesn't know the racist history behind the "National Anthem". “The Star-Spangled Banner,” was written by Francis Scott Key, a slave owner, about the Battle of Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812. One of the key British tactics during the war was active recruitment of American slaves. 

The "Star-Spangled Banner" as originally written contained four verses, however, only the first verse is associated with our National Anthem. The third verse, celebrating the death of slaves who’d freed themselves, contains:  "No refuge could save the hireling and slave from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave". 

Francis Scott Key was Washington D.C.'s District Attorney from 1833-1840 and he used his office and its influence to vehemently defend slavery. Key prosecuted a doctor who lived in Georgetown for possessing abolitionist pamphlets. In the case of U.S. v. Reuben Crandall, Key sought to have the defendant hanged, asserting the property rights of slave owners carried more weight than the free speech rights of those arguing to abolish slavery. Key conspired with pro-slavery Congressmen to pass a series of "gag rules"  in 1836 to quash all anti-slavery petitions and prevent them from being read or discussed.

Meritorious manumission was the legal act of freeing a slave because of some distinguished service to his white master, including snitching on or some other betrayal of fellow slaves. A legacy of meritorious manumission is the "House Negro" where some in the Black community are still willing to sell out others within the community in order to increase their own level of comfort or wealth at the expense of others. Some are so brainwashed by a lifetime of propaganda that they don't even realize that they are participants in a racialized process.

Colin Kaepernick has been taking a whole lot of heat since he made the decision to sit during the national anthem in protest of the way people of color are treated in the United States. On Thursday night, Kaepernick once again refused to stand while the Star Spangled Banner was sung, but this time, he wasn’t the only one.

Kaepernick was joined in his protest Thursday night by fellow 49er Eric Reid, a safety, who knelt beside the quarterback as the national anthem rang out through the stadium before they played the San Diego Chargers. Reid also serves as the representative for the player’s union and has been supportive of Kaepernick all week, despite the uproar over his protest.

"I believe in what [Kaepernick] is doing," Reid told ESPN. "I believe that there are issues in this country—many issues, too many to name. It's not one particular issue. But there are people out there that feel there are injustices being made and happening in our country on a daily basis. I just wanted to show him I support him. I know there are other people in this country that feel the same way."

When the song ended, the two players stood and embraced. "It was amazing," Kaepernick told ESPN. "Me and Eric had many conversations and he approached me and said 'I support what you're doing, I support what your message is, let's think about how we can do this together.' We talked about it at length and we wanted to make sure the message that we're trying to send isn't lost with the actions that come along with it."

Those actions have now expanded, as Kaepernick on Thursday pledged to donate $1 million of his salary to community organizations focused on social justice causes.

"I've been very blessed to be in this position and make the kind of money I do, and I have to help these people. I have to help these communities," he said. "It's not right that they're not put in the position to succeed, or given the opportunities to succeed."

"The message is that we have a lot of issues in this country that we have to deal with. We have a lot of people that are oppressed, we have a lot of people that aren't treated equally, aren't given equal opportunities. Police brutality is a huge thing that needs to be addressed," he added.

However, it is not only his teammates who are joining Kaepernick’s protest. Seattle Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane also sat while the national anthem was sung on Thursday night before the start of their game against the Oakland Raiders. In Oakland, Lane was the only member of either team to sit down during the anthem. He said he didn't know Kaepernick personally, but was "standing behind" him. After the game, he said, "It's something I plan to keep doing until I feel like justice is being served."

As of Saturday afternoon, Kaepernick's has become the top-selling jersey overall in the team shop, ahead of Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, NaVorro Bowman, and the customizable jerseys. We're excited to see the support people are demonstrating. When entertainers and athletes speak up for us, we must stand with them.

The 49ers have played four exhibition games this year and Kaepernick has not stood for the national anthem at any of these games. Nobody seemed to notice until  his first game in uniform, which was last Friday. Kaepernick explained that he wasn’t standing as a protest of the way the lives of minorities are continually snuffed out by those who are sworn to serve and protect them. He noted that the only consequence for these “murders” is a paid vacation.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

It is good to see other teammates and professional football players standing beside Kaepernick and standing up for all African American lives in America. Hopefully, their numbers will grow and they will continue to use the national platform at their disposal to help bring awareness to the systemic racism plaguing not only the country in general but the criminal justice system in particular. 

Active Duty Military Members and Veterans Stand in Support of Kaepernick

U.S. military veterans are speaking out in support of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose protest against the national anthem prompted a wave of criticism claiming he had disrespected veterans by not paying tribute to the American flag.

The hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick took off on Twitter this week in response to the right-wing outrage, and as Kaepernick himself clarified that his sit-down protest was only meant to critique state violence and oppression against people of color.

"I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country," he said Sunday. "I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. [But] people are dying in vain because this country isn't holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody."

The hashtag began trending Tuesday night as veterans posted photos of themselves in their military gear and noted the hypocrisy of the backlash against Kaepernick.

"I'd never try to shame someone with 'patriotism' in order to silence their 1st amend Right,"one wrote.

"Don't use my service—or that of any veteran—to justify the silencing of black Americans. Not on my watch," said another.

Meanwhile, others pointed out that even the national anthem itself has a racist undertone, with one verse ending in a celebration of slavery. And as Oakland, California-based writer Elizabeth Ann Thompson wrote for The Progressive on Tuesday, "instead of being offended and reacting to Kap's protest, we should emulate his teammates in trying to understand where he is coming from. He is giving voice to the voiceless. He is speaking for Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray and the countless other black and brown folks who are killed by the police every year."

Kudos to you Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid and Jeremy Lane, and Kudos to all the others speaking out in support.


Complete version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" showing spelling and punctuation from Francis Scott Key's manuscript in the Maryland Historical Society collection

O say can you see, by the dawn's early light, What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming, Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight O'er the ramparts we watch'd were so gallantly streaming? And the rocket's red glare, the bomb bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there, O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes, What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep, As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses? Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam, In full glory reflected now shines in the stream, 'Tis the star-spangled banner – O long may it wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore, That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion A home and a Country should leave us no more? Their blood has wash'd out their foul footstep's pollution. No refuge could save the hireling and slave From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave, And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand Between their lov'd home and the war's desolation! Blest with vict'ry and peace may the heav'n rescued land Praise the power that hath made and preserv'd us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto – "In God is our trust," And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.


Some of the material in this post was republished with permission under license from Addicting Info and Common Dreams

WNBA Boycott Ended

On Friday, July 21, 2016, I announced a personal boycott of the WNBA and asked others to join me in support of the black female basketball players who took a stand against police brutality.

I am happy to report that the WNBA has withdrawn the fines to both the organizations and the players. For any of you that joined us in our short boycott or wrote to the WNBA, thank you. The next time you watch a WNBA game or purchase merchandise, remember the power your choices and dollars have. Use that power to bring about the change you want. 

The beverage boycott, however, is still active.

We can no longer allow others to silence us or tell us how to complain or protest. 

"It's foolish to let your oppressor tell you to forget the oppression they inflicted on you"

WNBA, If you want our support, you need to support us!

The WNBA fined the Indiana Fever, New York Liberty and Phoenix Mercury $5000 each and their players $500 each for wearing black warm-up shirts that violated the league's uniform policy. The players wore the t-shirts in acknowledgment of recent shootings by and against police officers.

We must support those who take a stand for us. When athletes and celebrities speak up against injustice, they often become targets. The WNBA is trying to silence these women by fining them. If we don't stand up for them, why would they take a stand the next time? We can't expect people to put their career in jeopardy for us if we remain silent. Show these women you appreciate their gesture and support them by putting pressure on the WNBA to reverse the fines. 

Today, I left the following message using the WNBA's contact page.

As a black basketball fan, I was offended to hear that your organization fined players for wearing t-shirt honoring black shooting victims. As mentioned by one of the player's representatives, "You have a league that is 90 — if not above 90 percent African American — and you have an issue that is directly affecting them and the people they know and you have a league that isn't willing to side with them." Until you reverse the player fines, I will be boycotting the WNBA and asking others to join me on my blog, court.rchp.com, a sited dedicated to providing free legal information. If you want our support, you need to support us! 

Just as the league allowed players to wear stand with Orlando t-shirts, to honor the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, I expect the same consideration when the victims are black instead of LGBT.

I urge our readers to share this page with others and stand in support of these players that same way they stood in support of those shooting victims and their families. Send a message to the WNBA and any other organization that believes it's okay to disrespect our causes and issues while at the same time expecting us to support them with our attention and dollars.

If you believe as I do that it was wrong for the league to allow players to wear t-shirts showing support for some shooting victims but not others, boycott the WNBA until they reverse those fines. Don't watch the games or purchase any WNBA merchandise. Change truly does start with us!

23 Ways You Could Be Killed If You Are Black in America

Alicia Keys and an A-list roster of celebrities including Beyoncé, Rihanna, Adam Levine, Jennifer Hudson, Queen Latifah, Pink, Chris Rock, Bono, and others, are demanding change and explain why it's time to take action to heal the long history of systemic racism in America.

In January, we mentioned how black entertainers need to pool their talent and resources. Taking a stand against oppression and injustice with the video, "23 Ways You Could Be Killed If You Are Black in America", is a great first step.

See, "Protest Songs Inspired by Police Killings" and "The Secret Meeting That Changed Rap Music and Destroyed a Generation".


NBA Players Speak Out

This year’s “ESPY Awards” which aired on ABC yesterday, opened with NBA stars Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James delivering a message regarding last week’s death of two African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement, and the Dallas attack on police officers that left five dead and several others injured. 

ESPY Award (short for Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Award) is presented  to recognize individual  and team athletic achievement and other sports-related performance during the previous calendar year.

Muhammad Ali was honored during the Espy's.

On July 13th, during the ESPY awards gave a tribute to Muhammad Ali the boxing great an humanitarian who passed away on June 3rd of this year. Ali's tribute was a hightlight of the In Memoriam portion of the show. Basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spoke about his friend and said that Ali had the ability to make the impossible seem real and he also said, "Every athlete handles fame in their own way. Some people revel in it. Some people aren't so comfortable with it. Muhammad Ali used it to speak his mind." Kareem said that he hopes that other atheletes will take notice of the legend and remember what it is that made him "The Greatest". Chance gave a musical tribute after Kareem's statement. 

Kareem Abjul-Jabbar and Chance The Rapper Honor Muhammad Ali at 2016 ESPY Awards 

I am certain the attention and reflection of Muhammad Ali's life after his death has inspired many atheletes and entertainers to take a stand and speak out about injustice motivated by the Greatest's extrodinary example. See, "Muhammad Ali's Memorial Service – Tributes of Greatness".

Muhammad Ali’s Memorial Service – Tributes of Greatness

Dr. Kevin Cosby set the tone and delivered an outstanding and fitting eulogy to Muhammad Ali.

My brother and uncle attended the Muhammad Ali memorial service in Louisville yesterday. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend, but I was able to watch it thanks to Bounce TV's live coverage. Bounce TV is majority owned and operated by African Americans. We need more stations like Bounce to overcome the racial bias of white media.

World leaders, stars and regular people from all over the world of all faiths and stations in life were inspired and in awe of Mr. Ali's greatness not as a boxing champion, but as a person and humanitarian. Muhammad Ali's memorial included speakers of many religious faiths. Rabbi Michael Lerner's eulogy was a remarkable example of Ali inspired activism.

Lonnie Ali, Muhammad Ali's wife, displayed tremendous poise and strength with her remarkable tribute to her husband.

As I watched Muhammad Ali's memorial service, I couldn't help but be reminded of all the other great inspiring American Black men and women who transcended their circumstances or professions and helped changed the world such as Frederick Douglass, Mary McLeod Bethune, Booker T. Washington, A. Philip Randolph, Ida B. Wells, Dorothy Height, W.E.B. Dubois, Jessie Owens, Jackie Robinson, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Maya Angelo, Harry Belafonte, Michael Jackson, Thurgood Marshall, Paul Robeson, Barack Obama, St. Louisans (Annie Malone, Frankie Muse Freeman, my uncle Dick Gregory) and many others. As a people, we are capable of amazing feats and humanity, especially considering the history of our circumstance.

Billy Crystal Eulogy Speech at Muhammad Ali Memorial Funeral:

Bill Clinton Delivers Eulogy at Ali Funeral FULL Speech

Although, President Barack Obama couldn't attend the funeral of Muhammad Ali because his daughter was graduating the day of the funeral, President Obama paid a moving tribute.

Use Ali's example of intelligence, wisdom, courage, humility, and humanity to inspire you to see through the lies of history and stand up for yourself and others.

See our post, "Muhammad Ali: Humanity's Champion