Denver’s Brandon Marshall kicked off the NFL season Thursday by kneeling before the Anthem in protest. Marshall said that he “prayed long and hard about it” and he “felt it was the right thing to do.” His prayers did not stop him from losing an endorsement deal with Air Academy Federal Credit Union (AAFCU). Marshall knelt to protest injustice and police brutality in particular but AAFCU made it clear they didn’t give a damn about that. This is what happens when you protest but don’t own anything–your fate is always in the hands of someone else. We can stay angry about it or actually correct the issue at the root.
Louis Farrakhan might not be your cup of tea but he does not feel the need to soften his message because the Nation of Islam is funded and ran by black people who love everything he says. Farrakhan has his own institution backing him and that gives him shelter and prosperity, regardless of what anyone else thinks of him. He is unafraid to speak his mind or to lose anyone’s endorsement. His fate is in no company’s hands. Brandon Marshall and other athletes who protest injustice do so at the risk of alienating white supporters and ultimately, companies. Those companies have no particular interest in black liberation and so it is natural for them to pull endorsements when their (colored) spokespersons insist on black freedom. We can either be mad when it happens–and it will again–or get serious about growing our own institutions (corporations) to avoid the problem altogether.
Yes, it is maddening when Brandon Marshall and others are punished for taking a stance. But we should allow that anger to drive us to support our own startups and smaller companies until they are the endorsers of our athletes. It sounds good to say we should boycott this store or that store when these things happen and indeed we should. But unless those dollars find their way to our businesses, the fundamental dynamics have not changed: others control our fate. Black power is what we are really talking about right now. Unless our athletes and each of us as individuals have the power to take any stance we “pray long and hard about” then we are not free. Hell, most of you are afraid to post too much “pro-black” content on your Facebook page, lest your colleagues think differently of you. That is not freedom.
Brandon Marshall took a stance because he felt it was right and it cost him. Plenty of people agree with his stance but unfortunately, they do not own companies large enough to employ him as a spokesperson. True enough, a long history of terrorism has complicated ownership for black people but in this day we must be more determined than ever to change our course. Every dollar we spend can free us or oppress us. That is a choice.
**No one can oppress you unless you give them the money to do it**