Kirk Ferentz said last week he’ll support his team’s decision to kneel together or stand together, as long as they do it as a team.
This isn’t my decision to make, or even to advise, but a tear will come to my eye Sept. 5 if the players kneel, choose to support one another and oppose the wicked racism that infects our country’s DNA.
And to all those alleged Hawkeye fans who choose to use the American flag as a blindfold, the ones who say they’ll stop supporting the team if they kneel, we have one word for you.
Your fictional America doesn’t and shouldn’t exist anymore. Not at Kinnick Stadium. Not anywhere.
Our society murders, beats, chokes, belittles, violates, humiliates, pushes down, and steals from Black people. People kneel during the Star Spangled Banner to protest that violence and demand reform, not to disrespect a song or a flag. The real disrespect is to deny someone their right to protest.
The University of Iowa Athletic Department might say otherwise, but they don’t need you anymore. You’re not worth the hassle. They don’t need your money, and they don’t need the embarrassment that comes from fans who get butthurt when people stand up or kneel down for what is right.
Maybe you’re a veteran. Maybe some of your closest family members are veterans, like mine. Many Iowa players also have veterans in their families. They are not disrespecting them by kneeling. They honor them by kneeling.
Besides, this isn’t about your feelings. This is about African-Americans who have been suffocated by the very country that African-Americans built.
More than producing good football players, Ferentz has said over the years he wants to help produce good people. This will be the ultimate test of Ferentz’s philosophy.
So let’s say all the players kneel. And let’s say that upsets your sensibilities enough that you decide to end your relationship with the Hawkeyes. Here is a year-by-year breakdown of how much your hissy fit will affect the UI’s short and long-term outcomes.
The Hawkeyes kneel during the first game – but oops! – you’ve already bought your tickets for the season, so the only thing you can do is not go to the games, in which case the UI already has your money, or you sell the tickets to someone else, in which case the UI still has your money plus people in their seats.
You’re not someone who buys tickets. You usually watch on TV, so you decide not to watch. But that doesn’t matter, either, because the Big Ten’s media contracts are so valuable they could play in front of an empty stadium the entire season and still make money.
They. Don’t. Need. You.
Financially speaking, they don’t need any of us. As sports revenue goes, fans are gravy.
Meanwhile, since you’re not willing to watch the Hawkeyes, you’re left with the alternative of watching other teams or spending your Saturday afternoons pulling weeds in your lawn.
No one goes to the games and they play in front of an empty stadium because of COVID-19, in which case Big Ten Network conveniently doesn’t show the Hawkeyes kneeling, so you start to watch the game in ignorant bliss until media tweet pictures of them kneeling. And then what are you going to do, stop watching?
No you won’t, because you need Hawkeye football the way a baby needs milk.
With COVID-19 relatively contained – *knock on wood* – the tickets you chose not to buy out of spite have been sold to someone else. The UI Athletic Department has no idea whether Section 105, Row 48, Seats 14 and 15 were bought by you or some recent Iowa grad who’s proud to be an alum of a school with a strengthening moral compass.
You discover how much you love pulling weeds and continue to boycott Hawkeye football on television. Meanwhile, with American sports almost back to full strength, ESPN, Fox, and other media companies back another 18-wheeler full of money into Kinnick as Bruce Harreld and Gary Barta swim through it like Scrooge McDuck.
Person 1: Hey, remember two years ago when the Hawkeye football team knelt to demonstrate against the horrific treatment of Black people?
Person 2: Yeah, I’m glad they did that. That was the right thing to do.
Person 1: And remember those people who were, like, ‘Grrrr I’m angry and I’m done with the Hawkeyes because they knelt’?
Person 2: Nope.
Person 1: Yeah, me neither.
Now is the time to stand up for the rights of Black people. Actually, that time began in 1619, but since we don’t have a time machine, now will have to suffice.
Supporting the players when the game starts is one thing. Supporting them before and after the game is far more important. It speaks to who Hawkeye fans are as human beings. Who we all are.
And if someone wants to renounce the Hawkeyes for doing the right thing, fine, let them. Let the ignorant drown in their arrogance. Let them suffer through their fantasy.
Let them go away while the rest of us start to make America, at long last, great.
* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.