In the Black community, the one word we’ve used to describe our awakening from the socially inherited slumber of white supremacy is “woke.”
To us, that refers to someone breaking through the conventional logic of our times, to analyze and acknowledge the greater, less talked about truisms of our society, most of which are buried under large piles of oppression and supremacy.
While we don’t have a definitive date/moment for when Colin Kaepernick became “woke,” we do know that he began using his platform as a famous NFL star on Aug. 14th during a preseason game against the Houston Texans. With no grand pronouncement or declaration, he sat during the national anthem because the nation it glorified was not living up to the standards it set for itself.
No one noticed, no one asked him about it, and Kaepernick did not court any attention. He sat during the national anthem the next week in Denver and once again, there was no reaction, and no call for attention. It wasn’t until the third preseason game when Steve Wyche of the NFL Network noticed Kaepernick’s silent protest and reported it, causing the current media storm enveloping the nation.
Since that day, 18 other athletes have joined in on the protest, ranging from U.S. Woman’s Soccer star Megan Rapinoe to one of Kaepernick’s preseason opponents, Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall. During the NFL kickoff game between the Broncos and the Carolina Panthers on Sept. 8th, Brandon Marshall took a knee in solidarity with Kaepernick and the many movements around the country aiming to bring attention to, and halt, state-sponsored murders.
While Marshall received an unfortunately predictable amount of racist backlash on social media, what makes him slightly different is that he actually lost an endorsement due to his public commitment to social justice. On Sept. 10th, Air Academy Federal Credit Union released him from an advertising endorsement deal. Now, CenturyLink has also decided to end its sponsorship agreement with Marshall as a result of him taking a stance against injustice. The statement on their website reads:
“We completely respect Brandon Marshall’s personal decision and right to take an action to support something in which he strongly believes. America is anchored in the right of individuals to express their beliefs. 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.”
Lost in the heavily-PR-crafted jargon of white safety, is the ironic nature of using “bonding” as the reason to extinguish a relationship with a partner under fire for exercising his constitutional rights. What’s sad is that their reaction is the predictable mediocrity of the white moderate, where equality may be important, but not at the expense or routine or discomfort (or routine discomfort). Yet, still today, one can log onto the CenturyLink website and find it adorned with smiling Black faces, apparently of a family wholly uninterested in protecting one another from the pernicious scourge of excessive force, disproportionately aimed at unarmed Black men and women.
— eSirteric (@eSirteric) September 13, 2016
Well if companies like CenturyLink and the Air Academy Federal Credit Union are going to stop supporting athletes who refuse to stand for the anthem in protest of police brutality, it’s time for the collective Black community to stop supporting these businesses with our money.
The phrase, “Shop where you’re welcome” is truly indicative of how we, the public, can amplify our voices and our influence directly through our spending power, which is over 1.2 trillion dollars. Although Brandon Marshall has lost two endorsements, he has already stated that he will continue to kneel. If he can remain resolute and courageous, we can do the same with how we spend our money.
Let’s be clear: any company that dissolves a working relationship with an athlete who is protesting social injustice, is making a definitive statement about their views on the quality and importance of Black lives in America. By terminating relationships with those who fight racism and prejudice, they are acquiescing and agreeing with the mob, the people on Twitter who angrily toss racist-tirades and epithets at people of color.
While they are more than free to exercise their constitutional rights to align their brand with spokespeople who represent their views, we are also inclined to spend our money in establishments that truly believe Black lives matter.
Lincoln Anthony Blades blogs daily on his site, ThisIsYourConscious.com. He’s author of the book, “You’re Not A Victim, You’re A Volunteer.” He can be reached on Twitter @lincolnablades and on Facebook at Lincoln Anthony Blades.