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Activists join the ‘take a knee’ movement

Saeed Shabazz | 11/9/2017, 1:06 p.m.
Black Panther veteran-Zulu Nation King Sadiki “Bro. Shep” Olugbala sent shock waves through the grass roots community when on Oct. ...

Black Panther veteran-Zulu Nation King Sadiki “Bro. Shep” Olugbala sent shock waves through the grass roots community when on Oct. 11 he posted on social media, “I agree with U.S. President Donald Trump and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that Black football players should stand during the playing of the national anthem.” But here’s the kicker: “Then raise their clenched fists up high as was historically done in the 1968 Summer Olympics [in Mexico, City].”

Olugbala told the AmNews, “I think that the gesture of the raised clinched fist is probably going to be a little overboard for most players.” However, he confronted the NFL owners and players during their annual meetings in New York City on Oct. 17 and Oct. 18.

Protesters joined Olugbala across the street from the hotel in Battery Park City, where the owners met after holding a three-hour session with player reps at the NFL’s national headquarters on Park Avenue.

Tarik J. Haskins, a longtime member of the Black Panthers, explained to the AmNews that it was important to protest where the NFL owners were meeting because the “community needs to state publicly its position.”

Early the same day, Carl Dix and Linda Solotaire, members of RefuseFascism.org, staked out the hotel lobby waiting for Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones because of his stance that his players who protested during the national anthem would be benched.

“If you are ready for the revolution and you mean it, then you have to be looking at what are issues of concern to the masses,” Dix said. “What are they thinking about? What are they doing? And that’s the reason that this NFL thing—what the players are doing—is so important.”

Dix continued, “A section of these athletes have decided to use the platform provided to them to speak out against these burning issues facing Blacks, such as being disproportionately murdered by the police.”

The London-based Guardian newspaper publishes a database called The Count that noted in 2016 1,063 people were killed by the police, and approximately a quarter of the dead were Black although Blacks are only 12 percent of the U.S. population. The Washington Post reports that 700 people have been shot and killed by police so far in 2017.

Some observers say that the NFL protests fit into the long history in the U.S. of using a live sporting event as a public platform. “It’s very important that people not only support the NFL players but to also spread the protests,” Dix said.

Olugbala called for a national boycott of NFL games Oct. 22 to coincide with the 22nd annual Oct. 22 National Day Against Police Brutality. “This is a timely call for folks to both boycott the football games on Oct. 22 and to organize their annual protests outside the NFL football stadiums,” Olugbala said.

Minnesota Public Radio reported that 60 demonstrators knelt and held signs outside of U.S. Bank Stadium during the national anthem before the Vikings game. There was also reportedly a protest outside the stadium where the Chicago Bears played.

Olugbala told the AmNews that these protests are a good start, showing the NFL that there is community support for the protest actions of the players. News sources showed photos of a Rams linebacker raising a clenched fist; a Chargers left tackle raised his right fist.

John Carlos, who along with track star Tommie Smith raised his black-gloved fist 49 years ago in Mexico City, told TMZ, “Colin Kaepernick’s higher calling is in the fight for social justice and that his legacy will ultimately be contingent upon that higher calling.”