Puzzled By Player Policing Protests? There’s a Good Reason

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2017/10/30/puzzled-by-player-policing-protests-theres-a-good-reason/

President Jimmy Carter, in an interview with the New York Times, expressed disagreement with the professional football players who are kneeling during the national anthem before games as a protest against police brutality.

“I think they ought to find a different way to object, to demonstrate. I would rather see all the players stand during the American anthem,” Carter told the Times’s Maureen Dowd.

Carter’s comment got me thinking. What are some other possible protest tactics that the football players might consider as reasonable alternatives?

The chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Cedric Richmond, a Democrat from Louisiana, sent a letter to the NFL commissioner expressing concern about three specific alleged victims of police — Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, and Eric Garner.

“It is about unarmed African Americans lying in a grave who were shot and killed by police officers,” Richmond wrote, invoking Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail.”

Maybe instead of targeting football or the national anthem, the players and others concerned about police brutality could direct their concerns to the politicians and law enforcement officials who were in office when the problematic policing happened. Rice and Garner both died in 2014, and Castile died in 2016. The president at the time was Barack Obama. His attorney general in 2014 was Eric Holder and in 2016 was Loretta Lynch.

Rice was shot in Cleveland, where the police chief, Calvin Williams, is black, and the mayor, Frank Jackson, is the son of a black father and an Italian-American mother.

Garner died in New York City. The mayor of New York at the time of the shooting, Bill de Blasio, is married to a black woman. De Blasio prominently featured their son and the son’s Afro hairstyle in his campaign advertising.

It’d be one thing if Rice, Castile, and Garner had been gunned down by border patrol officers newly hired by the Trump administration, or by private stadium security guards hired by mostly white or Jewish NFL owners. But to liken municipal police officers in 2014 or 2016 to the Southern segregationists of the 1960s is the sort of thing that prompts head-scratching among those, like Carter, who are old enough to remember those bad old days.

The awkwardness of a police brutality or anti-racism protest targeting Obama, Holder, Lynch, Williams, Jackson, or de Blasio may account for why football games and the national anthem were chosen as an alternative.

That is not to minimize the problems of either racism or abuses by law enforcement, even when the officials include non-racist or black supervisors.

Both racism and law-enforcement abuses and errors are all too real. But, again, where would the protest be? Outside the headquarters of the labor unions representing police officers, who make sure that officers accused of wrongdoing have excellent and vigorous legal representation? Outside the homes of the jurors — including black jurors — who, even after charges are brought by prosecutors, sometimes decide that conduct by police officers does not meet the legal standard for a criminal conviction? Where else, exactly? Maybe I lack the right imagination for this sort of thing.

Abuses or errors by law enforcement certainly aren’t limited to African-American targets; just ask David Ganek, whose hedge fund had to close after prosecutors publicized a raid of his office. The raid was conducted on the basis of a false affidavit. Maybe the NFL players, if they are concerned about miscarriages of criminal justice, should protest outside Preet Bharara’s office at NYU Law School.

Carter’s qualms about the form of the protest — objections that have also been shared publicly by President Trump — signal that the football players are risking a backlash. The players have succeeded in drawing public attention to the problem. Actually solving it, though, is, alas, a tougher puzzle. Body cameras, better training, more diverse police recruiting are all worth trying. But if a solution were simple, then it would be easier to come up with an alternative protest that makes more sense than during the national anthem before a football game.


Ira Stoll is editor of FutureOfCapitalism.com and author of JFK, Conservative.