Sponsors Are Dropping NFL Players for Protesting. This Is What We Mean When We Say ‘White Supremacy’


by Michael Harriot, The Root

I want to show you something.

It is the first message I received Monday morning after the NFL protests over the weekend.

A Denver car dealership announced that it will “evaluate” Denver Broncos star Von Miller to decide whether it wants to continue its endorsement deal with the All-Pro linebacker. Last year, Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall lost two endorsement deals when he decided to join Colin Kaepernick in protesting during the national anthem.

CenturyLink terminated its agreement with Marshall in a statement that said in part:

While we acknowledge Brandon’s right, we also believe that whatever issues we face, we also occasionally must stand together to show our allegiance to our common bond as a nation. In our view, the national anthem is one of those moments. For this reason, while we wish Brandon the best this season, we are politely terminating our agreement with him.

A few days later, Air Academy Federal Credit Union tweeted its separation from Marshall:

These corporations completely ignored the statement these players were trying to make and instead bent to the sentiment largely held by white people that the protests are unpatriotic.

That last sentence is not conjecture. An October 2016 Quinnipiac poll, the only extensive national poll on the subject, found that 74 percent of African Americans agreed with “not standing during the national anthem in order to protest police violence in the black community,” while 63 percent of white respondents disagreed.

The results mirror a Harris poll taken exactly 50 years earlier (pdf) where 85 percent of people said they felt “the demonstrations by Negroes on civil rights” hurt “the advancement of Negro rights.”

This is what we mean when we talk about “white supremacy.” White supremacy is not starched white pointed hoods and swastika armbands. That is terrorism and violence. White supremacy has nothing to do with hate.

White supremacy is the structural mechanism built into American society that values whiteness over everything by default. It is not a preference or even a prejudice. It is the dismissive apathy that disregards the freedom and equality of people. It is the repeated placing of white discomfort over bloody black pain.

White supremacy is hearing every single protesting player loudly say, “This has nothing to do with dishonoring the troops or disrespecting the American flag” but still nullifying their words simply because white people feel that the actions of the black players are disrespectful.

White supremacy is white middle managers and grocery store clerks booing the .0000485 percent of the population who possess the talent, dedication, work ethic, skill, intelligence and physical ability to work in one of the most profitable industries in the world and say they are “lucky to play in the NFL” because it is “a privilege.”

White supremacy is an overweight person sitting in a Connecticut armchair criticizing those players about a missed tackle, bad play call or a fumble while simultaneously screaming at them to “stay in their lanes.”

White supremacy is the most powerful man in the world calling for NFL owners to “fire those sons of bitches” for protesting the mistreatment of their race and saying “this isn’t about race.”

White supremacy is people like this agreeing with Trump:



Many of these individuals would probably say they are “the least racist person you know.” None of these corporations hate black people. Hate has nothing to do with it.

They are doing what Trump wanted them to do because it’s the way America works. In this country, some people’s opinions are worth more than others’. Some people’s feelings are worth more than others’. Some protests are worth more than others. Some blood … you get what I’m saying.

These individuals and companies all believe that the actual words, actions, freedom and even blood of the black players using the NFL’s platform to address injustice and equality are inferior to the personal feelings of their white detractors who get the heebie-jeebies when they see black people performing any action they feel is objectionable. That’s not racism.

That’s white supremacy.

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