racism

Fan with a sign that reads, "we hated Kaepernick before it was cool (fot football reasons, not because we're racists)"
Many fans who object to protests by NFL players during the US National Anthem insist their opposition has nothing to do with race (photo from Idaho Statesman)

In 2016, Colin Kaepernick continued a tradition in US sports by staging a protest against racial injustice during the playing of the US national anthem. Following his initial protest, Kaepernick said:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Kaepernick’s comments were in reference to a series of deaths of unarmed Black American men, such as Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice. Reactions to Kaepernick’s protest were split. Within the NFL and beyond, many Black athletes, performers, fans, and even some coaches and officials joined in the protest against state violence in Black communities. At the same time, many others vociferously objected while claiming to not be racist. The image above illustrates the color-blind racism of the objectors; an anti-black statement of on-going hatred (“We hated Kaepernick before…”) is modified by a racially neutral phrase (“For football reasons”). The denial of racism when protesting an anti-racist protest obscures the ongoing operation of racism as a multifaceted construct that disproportionality targets Black Americans. Moreover, it prevents understanding of the US’s failure to provide equal protections for all citizens when state violence and poverty disproportionately affects Black communities.

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Following a season of protest and activism, Colin Kaepernick has been frequently passed over by teams in need of a quarterback.
Following a season of protest and activism, Colin Kaepernick has been frequently passed over by teams looking to sign a quarterback. (Photo by Gerry Melendez/ESPN)

With NFL training camps well underway, teams looking to sign a quarterback have passed over Colin Kaepernick time and time again. It appears he may be serving his ultimate punishment following a year of protest and activism. Amid those who defend NFL decision-makers as simply making choices for “football reasons,” there has also been a chorus of critics who see (black) players as responsible for his remaining on the sidelines.

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Parminder Singh (left) and Harnarayan Singh (right). Photo from The Toronto Star.

My PhD research explores South Asian experiences in ice hockey. Why, you ask?

  1. Because the South Asian community in Canada has become some of the most devout and enthusiastic hockey fans you will find on this planet.
  2. We don’t talk about race in Canada; therefore, there is very little literature about what it is like to be a “visible minority” playing in Canada’s game (a game that remains pretty white-dominated).
  3. Lastly, because the Punjabi broadcast of Hockey Night in Canada has become a significant development for hockey culture and Canadian media more broadly.

Two years ago, I conducted a study via Twitter to try and see how people made sense of Hockey Night in Punjabi. It was a term paper that eventually made it’s way into the Sociology of Sport Journal. This was well before the “Bonino Bonino Bonino” call went viral during the 2016 NHL playoffs and before the broadcast moved from CBC online to OMNI television. This post is compiled from excerpts from the article in an attempt to translate some of the material for a popular audience. Please keep in mind that a lot has changed with the broadcast and it’s online presence since the study was first conducted.

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