This year’s Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the shooting of Jacob Blake have hastened a long overdue national reckoning on Black citizenship and dignity.
The Black national anthem, authored by the legendary civil rights activist and intellectual James Weldon Johnson, is a sacred song for African Americans. That song, with its depiction of the pain, violence and racial trauma that generations of Black people endured during racial slavery and after, deploys the exact promotion of Black humanity that Colin Kaepernick was pilloried for trying to embody.
Allowing players to wear cleats advocating change and T-shirts encouraging people to vote during pre-game warm ups — while encouraging — is not enough. Efforts to promote unity and social justice during the start of the game elicited mixed results. One lone Chiefs player took a knee and raised a fist while the Texans ducked the entire anthem issue by remaining in the locker room. Cris Collinsworth, the former wide receiver turned broadcaster, announced his support for the players, noting that they were trying to make positive change. Just before kick-off, both sides gathered at midfield in a display of unity, marred by audible booing from the crowd during the requested moment of silence.