The Louisville Cardinal

Pan-African department hosts “Take a Knee” discussion

By Shelby Brown–

Since Colin Kaepernick protested the National Anthem by taking a knee, similar protests and debate have sparked across the nation. U of L’s department of Pan-African studies discussed that debate in its “#TakeAKnee: Exploring the Intersection Between White Supremacy and Sports” panel Nov. 7.

Panelists included professor Cedric Powell and Laura McNeal of the Brandeis Law School, Pan-African Studies Department Chair Ricky Jones and Nicholas McLeod. McLeod is a doctoral student in the Pan-African studies department.

The panelists argued the narrative has shifted from Kaepernick’s original reason for taking a knee, police brutality. Instead, athletes are accused of being unpatriotic and disrespectful to veterans.

Powell related the shift to revisionism. Along with protests of police brutality, debates have sparked this year about Confederate monuments, their place in history and their removal from public spaces. Many argue removing statues erases history. Others say the monuments are a reminder of slavery.

“The Civil War becomes not a war of oppression to reinforce and subjugate people of color, it becomes a war to save magnolia trees and mansions,” Powell said.

Jones says the issue goes beyond the NFL.

“What it’s really about is the inhumane treatment of black people in the country that’s been going on since the country has been around,” Jones said. “It’s about police brutality. It’s about the court system.”

Panelists said athletes like Kaepernick begin their careers as early as middle school. McLeod played football for three years in college, suffering multiple injuries.

“From a young age, football players are taught to ignore pain. We’re taught to go and simulate war. Our coaches are generals,” McLeod said.

He said the process begins with recruitment. According to McLeod, black athletes are taught to believe sports are their only option. As a result, he said, education comes second.

McLeod said young athletes are depoliticized and away from rallies and campus events, noting the lack of athletes present.

“(The athletes have) limited social and racial consciousness,” McLeod said. “It’s about the murders that are happening that we’ve become used to. It’s about justice.”

McLoed said some high schools now discipline students for taking a knee. Sometimes, students are kicked off the team. McNeal believes it’s because students are seen as a threat, as future activists and freedom fighters.

McNeal said these administrators are infringing on students, many who are black.  First Amendment rights, he said, explains why this creates material disruption.

McNeal said material disruption is subjective. It attempts to keep the status quo, silence the movement and keep the majority in power.

“What’s the proper response to take a knee? Take another knee,” McNeal said.

Photo by Joseph Lyell/ The Louisville Cardinal