Salute to former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and filmmaker Ava Duvernay for the epic limited series, “Colin in Black and White,” now streaming on Netflix.

Anything that shines a light on Kaepernick surely will cause some polarizing reactions because it seems either you love the former 49er-turned-activist, or you loathe him.

However, one scene in “Colin in Black and White” has truly gotten his haters, and even supporters, up in arms because he, incorrectly, compared the National Football League combine in which scouts from NFL teams poke and prod potential players so that they can make an informed decision on their new investment, to a slave auction in which slaveowners would poke and prod kidnapped Africans so that they can make an informed decision on their purchase/investment.

While the NFL combine does look like a slave auction visually, athletes of all races participate voluntarily in the combine as they pursue their dreams of riches and glory on the gridiron.

Therefore, the voluntary aspect of the combine is the opposite of a slave auction.

Furthermore, if an organization plans to invest tens of millions of dollars into a prospect, over analysis is understandable and intelligent.

But that does not mean professional sports teams do not have an issue with trying to control (own) players or trying to keep their African-American players in their place.

At one time, professional sports teams owned a player’s rights for life unless the team decided to trade the player to another team.

Thanks to baseball icon Curt Flood, free agency became a reality in sports several decades ago, and players have more of a say-so on what owner owns their rights.

But let’s look at the money, or lack thereof, aspect of slavery versus playing professional sports for hundreds of thousands or millions.

While slaves typically did not make money, some earned money on the side and could possibly make enough money to buy their freedom and the freedom of their loved-ones.

Therefore, making money does not necessarily mean someone does not own you.

But if a person can control your movement, your speech, your action and your political beliefs, that person owns you regardless of how much money you make.

Back to the actual NFL combine.

At the combine, scouts go over a person’s body just like at a slave auction.

At the combine, scouts drool over how much of a physical specimen certain athletes are.

At the combine, scouts drool over how much money a good boy could make for them.

Furthermore, at the combine scouts drool over how much a potential player could bring in via the draft as if a person is a financial investment.

At the combine, players walk around basically butt naked like captured Africans did centuries ago, getting paraded in front of mostly wealthy White men ready to purchase their rights for the next several years.

Therefore, it is understandable how Kaepernick came up with his analogy, despite being a little off base.

Despite ownership of a slave, during slavery a slaveowner never really knew when the slaves would rebel.

That presented a huge problem because slaves often outnumbered White people on various plantations and all it would take to change the system would be for those slaves to unite and fight back.

As a result, slaveowners forbade slaves from learning how to read.

Slaveowners would restrict the movement of slaves so that they could not escape the plantation or unite slaves from other plantations in major revolts like the late, great Nat Turner.

Unfortunately, some of that good ole boy thinking exists in the NFL, probably more so than other leagues.

Infamously, former Houston Texans coach/general manager Bill O’Brien traded De Andre Hopkins, arguably the best wide receiver in the game to the Arizona Cardinals for peanuts, because, among other reasons, he felt Hopkins had too much influence in the locker room.

Infamously, former Houston Texans owner Bob McNair caused a player revolt when he compared his players to prison inmates, saying that the organization should not let the inmates run the prison or the asylum.

Hopkins’ punishment for recognizing his power and the power of his teammates was actually a reward because he is now a true Super Bowl contender with the Arizona Cardinals.

However, for outcasted players like Kaepernick and his former teammate Eric Reid, their punishment for not staying in their place seems like permanent banishment.

During slavery, a Negro that did not know his or her place received a lashing or death for their uppity attitude.

Now, if a Negro does not know their place, the punishment is the powers-that-be trying to make sure that their career and livelihood dies.

Some who have criticized “Colin in Black and White,” especially the slave auction scene have said he is evil and has an anti-American spirit.

But if America’s spirit is always silencing the Black man and keeping the Black man in his supposed place, why would any Black man want to be anything else but evil or anti-American?

If speaking out against injustice is evil or anti-American, sign me up.

If speaking out against racism and discrimination is evil or anti-American, sign me up.

America is the greatest country known to man.

But it is also a racist country.

So that side of America should cause people to be against that.

Wannabe White media personalities like Jason Whitlock said that Duvernay and Kaepernick should be embarrassed by “Colin in Black and White.”

In actuality, America should be embarrassed by “Colin in Black and White,” because of the real racism that brother had to endure growing up as a biracial kid in an all-White environment.

Furthermore, America should be embarrassed that racism remains a problem centuries after this country came into existence.

That problem still exists because of the original sin of slavery.

Todd A. Smith
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