Looting does more than just cause property damage, allow for stealing, and get some people in legal trouble—it can actually accomplish political goals. Instances of looting can affect those in power who resist underlying demands for social change, forcing them to objectively consider the issues and take them more seriously.
In 2016 Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, was not supportive of the players' right to take a knee during the national anthem He claimed the protests disrespected the armed forces.
League commissioner Roger Goodell.
Responding to the dispute in September 2016 over whether Colin Kaepernick and other players should be permitted to take a knee during the national anthem, Roger Goodell made an ambiguous statement, but it was one that did not openly support Kaepernick. In it, Goodell said he appreciated the fact that players had a public platform. He also said that they have the right to "want to see change in society." At the same time, he made it somewhat clear that he didn't agree with the tactic. Goodell hinted that the protest was disrespectful to patriotic sentiment. "I think it's important to have respect for our country, for our flag, for the people who make our country better; for law enforcement, and for our military who are out fighting for our freedoms and our ideals," he said. "These are all important things for us, and that moment is a very important moment. So, I don't necessarily agree with what he is doing." In 2018, the league even voted to fine players who decided to take a knee.
But in 2020, he came around Only after nationwide uproar over police killings.
A screenshot from Goodell's 2020 video.
In a video released by Goodell in June 2020, he announced a shift in his view on the peaceful kneeling protest during the national anthem. "We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of Black people. We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier, and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League, believe Black lives matter," he said. The video came amid uproar over the killing of George Floyd and nationwide protests nearly every night. In the video posted to Instagram, he went on to give his condolences to the families of Black people murdered in racially-motivated incidents. He included the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, as well as "all the families who have endured police brutality." A number of NFL players later released a video for the league saying the league condemns all forms of racism.
Roger Goodell knew all along that taking a knee wasn't about the flag When Goodell reacted to Colin Kaepernick taking a knee as if it were unpatriotic, he knew that it wasn't intended that way.
Sterling Munksgard / Shutterstock.com
The protests were designed to call out police violence in particular. He made it clear that it was about enduring racial inequality.
When the quarterback started his protest in August 2016, he was explicit about its cause: ongoing racism in the U.S. "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," he told NFL Media in 2016. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way," he said. "There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder." His protest was responding in particular to the racist—and often fatal—treatment of people of color by law enforcement. The month prior, Alton Sterling became the latest Black man shot and killed at the hands of the police. The Louisiana officers involved in the case claimed that Sterling was reaching for a gun when they killed him, but cell phone video shows Sterling was already pinned down. After the incident, Kaepernick spoke out, writing on his Instagram: “This is what lynchings look like in 2016!” He added: “Another murder in the streets because the color of a man’s skin, at the hands of the people who they say will protect us. When will they be held accountable?” The difference in the way law enforcement treats Black and white Americans extends even to players in the NFL themselves. A Georgia police officer choked and body-slammed former NFL player Desmond Marrow when he was already in handcuffs. Retired NFL defensive lineman Matthias Askew was stun gunned in front of his 7-year-old daughter during a routine traffic stop.
He explained that he got the idea from a Nate Boyer, military vet Boyer told Kaepernick kneeling would be more respectful than sitting during the national anthem.
Retired Army Green Beret Nate Boyer is credited with convincing Kaepernick to kneel during the national anthem. During the first games that Kaepernick protested during the national anthem, he simply sat on the bench rather than standing with the rest of the team during the anthem. Boyer was among many Americans who had been angered by Kaepernick's decision to sit. Boyer himself is even a former NFL player, having played a brief stint for the Seattle Seahawks. Instead of letting his feelings get the better of him, he wrote a letter voicing his concerns to Kapernick. Boyer explained all that the flag and the anthem meant to veterans like himself. To his suprise, Kaepernick reached out, asking to meet with him in the team's hotel lobby. They discussed their differing feelings about the flag and the protest. As Boyer later explained to NPR: "I suggested him taking a knee instead of sitting even though I wanted him to stand, and he wanted to sit. And it was, like, this compromise that we sort of came to. And that's where the kneeling began." Boyer came up with the idea of kneeling because he thought it was more respectful. As he pointed out in the same interview, someone kneels when they're being knighted, or asking someone to get married. It's a sign of paying respect.
Clearly, his intent was not to be unpatriotic He expressly sought out the counsel of veterans to be respectful of their sacrifice.
Kaepernick made clear from the start that he was not trying to be unpatriotic or to disrespect the armed forces, which is why he sought out the most respectful way of voicing his dissent. In fact, the opposite could be argued: Protest is patriotic. As one journalist wrote: "It is a nationalist insinuation to suggest that a flag could be 'disrespected' through protest. Airing one’s voice is a hallmark of a democracy, not a threat to it." By using his position of power to speak out for the voiceless, he was fighting for equality and advocating for some of America's most foundational values. In exercising his right to free expression, he was fighting for "freedom, liberty, and justice for all." Longtime NBA coach Gregg Popovich argued that what Kaepernick did was the essence of patriotism. "Being a patriot is somebody that respects their country and understands that the best thing about our country is that we have the ability to fix things that have not come to fruition for a lot of people so far," he told ESPN. Popovich continued, saying: "Being a critic of those inequalities does not make you a non-patriot. It's what makes America great, that you can say those things and attack those things to make them better. That's what a lot of other countries don't have."
The owners talked extensively about it There was even a league-wide summit on it.
Ken Durden / Shutterstock.com
Teams such as the Dallas Mavericks and the New York Giants were discussing whether to allow or disallow the practice altogether. Goodell even organized a summit in 2018 in which 30 of the top owners, players, and league executives got together to discuss the kneeling protests. The three-hour, closed-door meeting was a rare opportunity for players and owners to meet and discuss the topic together. In the meeting, Eric Reid—Kaepernick's former teammate and the first NFL player to join his protest—said he felt the league had "hung [Kaepernick] out to dry." According to the New York Times, he added: “Nobody stepped up and said we support Colin’s right to do this. We all let him become Public Enemy No. 1 in this country, and he still doesn’t have a job.” The owners, for their part, were more concerned that continued ire from President Donald Trump over the protests was becoming a black mark on the NFL. The Eagles owner, Jeffrey Lurie, warned against being "baited" by Trump, saying the NFL needed to present a united front.
And there were an inordinate number of news articles about it Coverage appeared in nearly every major newspaper.
Not only did discussion of Kaepernick's protest appear in nearly every major news outlet, from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal to cable news networks, the NFL's own media outlet conducted an exclusive interview with Kaepernick in which he explained his position. For example, the New York Times published 27 articles in the two weeks (Aug. 30—Sept. 12) following the initial incident. Similarly, The Wall Street Journal published the article, "Sixteen Thoughts on Colin Kaepernick" Sept. 7, 2016 discussing the issue. And NFL Media interviewed him immediately after the game Aug. 26, 2016 when he took a knee. What's more, the media discussion lasted for years. The articles and stories have not stopped since Kaepernick first kneeled in 2016.
Taking a knee to show objection to something is a simple concept It even exists in other mammals.
Kneeling is one of the most understandable and recognized positions a person can take. It is a simple position to enter into for the person kneeling and is easily identified by observers. It takes its cues from a core principle in mammalian nonverbal behavior: reducing the body's appearance shows respect, esteem, and deference. According to an article in Scientific American, kneeling "...is seen, for example, in dogs and chimps, who reduce their height to show submissiveness. Kneeling can also be a posture of mourning and sadness. It makes the one who kneels more vulnerable. In some situations, kneeling can be seen as a request for protection." The act is so obviously polite that it has stood as a sign of respect for thousands of years. For example, Christianity cites it in numerous instances in the Bible. In Psalm 95:6 it states, "Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;" in Chronicles 29:29, "Now at the completion of the burnt offerings, the king and all who were present with him bowed down and worshiped," and in Mark 10:17, "As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" to name a few.
The NFL is a huge organization. Goodell has a complete organization of lieutenants and advisors that could have helped explain it to him.
The NFL has close to 3,000 employees according to LinkedIn. As the head of an organization with such a large staff, Roger Goodell clearly has a litany of support available to him. Roger himself is a highly paid executive, earning over $34 million according to the NFL's 2014 Form 990, with other reports showing his earnings greater than $40 million each year from 2013 to 2018. With compensation this high as the head of a large organization, he obviously has a lot of assistants, advisors and officers reporting to him. His list of first officers includes a number of highly paid executives, with a CFO, EVP & General Counsel, EVP of Media, EVP of Business Ventures, EVP of Football Operations and EVP of Human Resources, each earning over $1 million per year. Additionally, the organization's Form 990 shows over $6 million paid to Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrisson LLP, one of New York's top law firms. Obviously, he has plenty of attorneys available to advise him, too. Any number of these colleagues likely could have explained the meaning behind the protests, had he so asked. That Goodell continued to misunderstand seems to represent willful ignorance on his part.
The Washington Redskins are finally changing their name This is a similar about-face as Goodell.
Although Redskins' owner Daniel Snyder previously vowed he would never change the team's name, following a "thorough review" the team announced this summer that it would be "retiring" the name. After 87 years of bearing the name—and many protests later—the Redskins will be no longer. The announcement was made in July, only after weeks of looting. "Dan Snyder and coach [Ron] Rivera are working closely to develop a new name and design approach that will enhance the standing of our proud, tradition-rich franchise and inspire our sponsors, fans and community for the next 100 years," read a statement from the team, posted online. Some commentators have proposed the Washington Warriors or the Washington Redtails. The latter is a nod to the Tuskegee Airmen, the first Black pilots in the armed forces. The team had not given a timeline for when the name, along with corresponding logos, merchandise, and jerseys, will be changed. One advocacy group, Rebrand Washington Football, urged the new team name and logo not to fall into the old issues that plagued the last one. They explicitly said the new name should avoid all Native American references. Any Native American cultural references “would only perpetuate racist imagery that the change would aim to eliminate," the group said in a statement.
People with an agenda can't be objective about ideas that threaten it. Those people might deliberately be unsupportive of true and just causes. They are willfully blind to evidence that challenges their position. Even if changing their behavior or policies could save lives.
When people benefit from the existing way of doing things, they are naturally reluctant to see it change. It’s human nature to want to preserve things that are helping you, even if those things are morally questionable. People have an unwavering ability to make excuses or simply be slow to understand the reasoning for any argument that will cost them money or power. One example might be an oil executive who struggles to accept that climate change is real. He cites the outlier studies showing it isn’t necessarily human-made. Exxon, it was recently discovered, knew about climate change as early as the 1970s. The oil company employed scientists to study the phenomenon and came up with climate models that showed how damaging carbon dioxide could be. And yet, the company publicly disavowed the entire phenomenon for decades. Another example is the 1970s tobacco executives who wouldn’t accept that smoking caused lung cancer. They found, or paid for, studies that suggested cancer could have other causes. As recently as the 2010s, Philip Morris continued to argue that its top-selling product, Marlboro Gold (formerly known as Marlboro Lights), reduced the risk of cancer. In the corporate environment, business goals and profits have historically superseded doing good for society. The concept of 'doing good' was meant for non-profits whereas for-profit companies served shareholders. A threat to profits could ultimately become a threat to the entire company itself. With so many examples and the obvious way of human nature, it's clear that many people can become compromised based on their incentives.
Protesting alone doesn't always change minds The long-term effects of protest are often limited by chance, longevity, and existing power structures. The political climate has to be exactly right for protesting to succeed.
Racist incidents continue. And in popular culture, racist symbols are still permitted. And they show no sign of slowing down. If anything, developments in technology have only showed the insidiousness of racist violence in the U.S.
The Cleveland Indians refused to change their name Even under increased pressure, the Indians name remained unchanged. This is just one symptom of a broader disrespect for Native American tribes.
For years, there were ongoing protests against the Indians’ team name, mascot, and common game chants. They recently removed their mascot, Chief Wahoo, but they have opposed changing the team name. Despite this, owner Paul Dolan said in 2019: “Not only are we adamant about keeping the name Indians, but the Commissioner (Rob Manfred) is similarly supportive of the name.” In July, Dolan agreed to meet with Native American groups to discuss the name, but he did not make any promises to change the name. Many indigenous people have been pressuring the stakeholders for years to change the name they say is offensive. Even with mounting pressure, the Indians have yet to announce an official name change. In August, some 80 businesses and organizations signed a petition asking for a name change. “We’ve been shouting it, and marching and chanting, 'Change the name, change the logo' for so long. And somewhere along the line, they missed the first half of that message. And now they're hearing that part of the message," said Philip Yenyo, the executive director of the American Indian Movement of Ohio. A local Cleveland graphic designer has even come up with a suggested new logo and team name: the Cleveland Spiders. It hearkens back to Cleveland's local team in the early 20th century.
Hundreds of Confederate statues remain They are displayed in 31 states and Washington, D.C. Even states that were never in the Confederacy bear the marks of that uprising.
There are at least 700 Confederate statues spread across 31 states and Washington, D.C. Other estimates put the number of Confederate memorials as high as more than double that, or nearly 2,000. The statues exist far outside of the former Confederate states themselves. The Confederacy itself was only 11 states. Virginia and Texas continue to have the highest number of Confederate statues of any state. Virginia has well over 100 Confederate statues—with more than 41 dedicated to General Robert E. Lee alone. Many experts argue that the statues—the majority of which were erected long after the Civil War—are there to inculcate values such as white supremacy. “All of those monuments were there to teach values to people,” Mark Elliott, a history professor at University of North Carolina, Greensboro, told the History Channel. “That’s why they put them in the city squares. That’s why they put them in front of state buildings.” For every Confederate statue that has come down in the past few months, ten still remain.
The "All Lives Matter" slogan was acceptable for a long time Even the vice president used it. Such slogans show a total disrespect toward what Black Lives Matter is trying to accomplish.
Among certain groups of Americans, saying "all lives matter," or being actively against the Black Lives Matter movement was still acceptable. Even now, after support for the Black Lives Matter movement has grown rapidly in the past few months, still only 63% of Americans support the Black Lives Matter Movement. Some 68% of Republicans are actively against it, according to the same Washington Post-ABC News poll. As recently as June of this year, Vice President Mike Pence refused to say "black lives matter." Instead, he repeated again in a TV interview: "I really believe that all lives matter." "All lives matter" might seem like an innocuous term, but its meaning is ignorant at best and racist at worst. Activists have often used the metaphor of a house on fire: if a neighbor's house is on fire, there's no sense in saying "All houses matter" and spraying water on the house that is not on fire. "No one's saying that your life doesn't matter," blogger Ayanna Lage told CBS news. "What we're saying… is all lives can't matter until black lives matter."
Confederate flags and symbols have continued to be permitted in many places They adorn everything from private property to public land. They even fly in state houses.
Confederate iconography continued to be displayed in spite of concerted efforts by protesters. In parts of the South, both in former Confederate states and otherwise, Confederate flags, bumper stickers, and other paraphernalia are ubiquitous. They can be seen flying in front yards or hanging off the back of a truck. Craft sites like Etsy even sell Confederate flag masks and candles. Barry Isenhour is a member of Virginia flaggers, a group that wants to erect an enormous Confederate flag outside of Richmond, Virginia. He told the BBC that the Confederate flag is just misunderstood. "They fought for the family and fought for the state. We are tired of people saying they did something wrong. They were freedom-loving Americans who stood up to the tyranny of the North. They seceded from the US government not from the American idea," he said. Confederate flags even fly worldwide, as a sign of rebellion, white supremacy, or even just American kitsch. They can be seen in Ireland, Brazil, and Germany, among others. Things may be slowly changing. In 2020, however—after rioting—some of the most powerful people started to change their minds. For instance, Mississippi, where the state flag has long included a Confederate flag, even decided to completely redesign it and remove the Confederate symbol.
Protesting has been happening for decades to demand racial justice And it's not always effective. Nor does it necessarily translate into legislative change.
Both Black and white Americans have been speaking out against racial injustice for centuries. Some of the earliest protests led by Black activists took place as early as the first decade of the 20th century, led by W.E.B. DuBois. Since then, thousands of protests have demanded an end to racial inequalities, often with limited success. The late 1950s and early 1960s are remembered as a decade of protest for Black Americans. Led by Martin Luther King and others, those protests pushed for equal access to voting rights, education, and private businesses. While that movement eventually saw results, many changes only happened after King's death, long after the protests themselves. The nature of protests has evolved since that time, ranging from legal challenges, to political pressure, culminating in the widespread protesting and rioting seen in 2020. One political scientist found that protests can garner "common sense" understanding around issues such as same-sex marriage. But that shared understanding doesn't necessarily translate to concrete action or legislative change.
Police reform efforts failed Dozens of plans to retrain police have been costly and ultimately, ineffective. Even the notion of police reform is unwieldy in a justice system comprised of so many different departments.
Five years after Eric Garner's death, the Justice Department announced it would not levy any criminal charges in connection with the murder. Then New York Deputy Attorney General Alvin Bragg argued in The Washington Post that the decision "highlights the urgent need to reform the federal criminal law governing excessive force. Congress needs to do away with the requirement of proof that officers have acted 'willfully' when they use excessive force." Garner's case was just one of many where police who killed Black civilians did not face legal repercussions. Even with the addition of body cameras, implicit bias training, and other attempts at reform, the continued lethal force against Black people proves that those attempts for reform have failed. Even after protests reoccurred since Kaepernick's initial protest, no significant state or federal legislation was enacted. The efforts on the local level were often piecemeal or superficial. Some have argued that the idea of police reform itself is "fundamentally flawed." Law enforcement in the U.S. is. comprised of 15,000 separate agencies, meaning each reform would need to be enacted independently. Experts on police violence such as Alex Vitale have suggested that the problem of excessive force goes far deeper than reforms can touch: the scope of policing has simply become far too vast. Police today are asked to deal with issues such as mental illness, substance abuse, and homelessness—all things that they have no expertise in. If we want real change, we need to vastly revise what police officers are asked to do. “At root, they fail to appreciate that the basic nature of the law and the police, since its earliest origins, is to be a tool for managing inequality and maintaining the status quo. Police reforms that fail to directly address this reality are doomed to reproduce it," Vitale wrote.
Colin Kaepernick’s efforts failed He couldn't garner even half the country's support. And he has never been able to play professional football again.
It's difficult to point to any concrete change catalyzed by Kaepernick's protests. His choice to kneel certainly caused a lot of conversation, but for some people it only seemed to create more animosity for the Black Lives Matter movement. That criticism only intensified after the election of President Donald Trump. The president has strongly criticized both Kaepernick and the other protesters. "You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there, maybe you shouldn't be in the country," Trump said in 2018. Though some NFL players and members of the public supported Kaepernick, a 2018 Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that only 35% of Americans agreed with Kaepernick's right to protest. By 2020, that percentage had climbed to little more than half of Americans. His protest also seems to have tanked his promising football career. By 2017, Kaepernick found himself unsigned, with many suggesting he was being blackballed. He went on to score a major publicity deal with Nike, but he has never again played professional football. In 2020, after the looting, Kapernick has started to garner more support from the league and Goodell.
As ugly as it may be, there's no denying that looting can also achieve its underlying goals.