Details continue to come out about the supposed unanimous anthem resolution from the owners meeting in which a decision was made about how to deal with players taking a knee during the playing of the US National Anthem in protest of police brutality and racial inequality. For instance, that is wasn’t quite so unanimous.
For those unfamiliar, the resolution basically says that players who wish to kneel or demonstrate in any way are to stay in the locker room. That should they demonstrate — which apparently also includes locking arms or raising a fist or any such thing — the team will be fined.
This resolution was presented as a united from from owners, which is what Roger Goodell always pushes for. But it really wasn’t.
As ESPN’s Seth Wickersham reports, the league never actually had an official vote, but more of an informal poll. And in the poll, Mark Davis not only abstained, but had a few things to say about social justice issues.
Also told that Mark Davis was one of the most eloquent speakers on the social justice issues—and that he abstained from the vote as well.— Seth Wickersham (@SethWickersham) May 24, 2018
As Raiders fans well know, there wasn’t an owner in the NFL and perhaps all of professional sports who was more forward thinking and progressive with regard to minority hiring than Mark’s father, Al Davis. The Raiders had the first minority starting quarterback and head coach in Tom Flores. They had the first African American head coach in Art Shell. And they had the first and still only ever female CEO in Amy Trask.
Mark carries on his father’s legacy (though I suspect Al would have simply been a ‘No’ vote rather than an abstention). He also very much respects the players’ right to protest and demonstrate for social justice issues. He also respects sports figures using their platforms to demonstrate for important issues such as civil rights, which is what these NFL protests have always been about.
Davis had Tommie Smith light the Al Davis torch prior to Raiders game in Mexico City in 2016. Smith is famous for raising a fist during the playing of the National Anthem in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. A powerful and moving symbol by Smith then and a powerful gesture from Mark.
Last season, following Donald Trump’s incendiary comments suggesting “son of a bitch” NFL players should be kicked out of the game and “fired” for kneeling, Davis made it clear that was a turning point in which he could no longer ask his players not to use their platforms as Raiders to stand up (so to speak) and make a show up support for their communities and their rights.
“I had previously told them that I would prefer that they not protest while in Raiders uniform,” Davis said in an interview with ESPN. “And should they have something to say once their uniform was off, I might go up there with them.
“Over the last year, though, the streets have gotten hot and there has been a lot of static in the air and recently fuel has been added to the fire. I can no longer ask our team not to say something while they are in a Raider uniform. The only thing I can ask them to do is do it with class. Do it with pride. Not only do we have to tell people there is something wrong, we have to come up with answers. That’s the challenge that’s in front of us as Americans and as human beings.”
I can imagine, Davis’s words at the owners meeting was something similar to this. Eloquent, powerful, and clearly meaningless to the NFL which pushed forward with its agenda anyway.
Davis is the second known abstention along with 49ers owner Jed York. Jets owner Christopher Johnson has said he will pay any fines handed down to his players should they still choose to kneel during the anthem.