In the battle to control the narrative of a controversial story, Uncle Tom-esque black pundits play a crucial role in tearing down black professional athletes who rebel against white sports franchise owners. The fallout from Colin Kaepernick's controversial NFL workout this past Saturday is exposing commentators such as ESPN's Stephen A. Smith and Fox Sports' Jason Whitlock for embracing coonery so they can keep their lofty on-air positions.
Both of them were the first to tweet and go on television to question Kaepernick's intentions and justify why NFL teams have blackballed the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback for the past three years because of his National Anthem protests. On his TV show Monday, Whitlock dismissed black people who criticize his take on Kaepernick as "struggling with their racial identity." Tuesday, Smith also defended himself by yelling, "I'm a black man, you idiots!" and claiming throughout his career he's "taken on the fight on behalf of African-Americans throughout this nation."
Yet Smith insisted Kaepernick antagonized the NFL by wearing a Roots-inspired Kunta Kinte T-shirt and telling team owners and Roger Goodell to stop running from the truth. In other words, Smith believes Kaepernick needs to become a company yes-man just like him.
Friends of mine who know Smith agree he has done great things as an African-American journalist, pulling himself up by the bootstraps to become who he is today. But there came a point when he was suspended for being too black, and he had to make a decision: kowtow to the establishment or get kicked off the air permanently. He took his $40 million and a mule.
The black people Smith addressed in his rant are smart enough to know that you have to be a sellout if you want to be an African-American TV pundit. Reporters such as Jemele Hill and Roland Martin get pulled off the air when they defend African-American views, whether in sports or politics. In the media industry, if you don't support the agenda of the white oppressor, you cannot be part of the narrative.
Though I don't agree with everything Kaepernick has done, I empathize with the way he's been blackballed for standing up to institutional racism. In the late 1980s, the music industry blackballed me because I decided to fight censorship and the First Amendment right to perform explicit lyrics. Because the only sources of information were newspapers, television, and radio, I was branded as hip-hop's bad guy.
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Hollywood's black elite, including Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey, blacklisted actress and comedian Monique because she wouldn't play their game of pleasing the white-run entertainment industry. And when she tried to make her case on Steve Harvey's show, Harvey told Monique she went about it wrong and should have listened to Oprah about kissing ass.
What media companies haven't figured out from Donald Trump and the social media age is that people can do their own research on the internet. They draw their own conclusions as opposed to letting a reporter do the research and deliver the news to them. My 10-year-old son can verify facts simply by asking Siri or Alexa the number of African-American NFL quarterbacks and black sports agents.
The NFL didn't want the media at Kaepernick's workout because the league wanted to control the narrative. Of the 50-plus balls he threw, the NFL would have released footage of only the balls that hit the ground. Kaepernick wanted to control the narrative by having the media and his camera crew there to show him hitting his receiver in perfect stride with a deep ball.
Had the NFL prevailed, Whitlock and Smith would have been the first dudes on camera to claim Kaepernick was washed up. Their reward is a piece of the pie. The ones fighting for the people and equality get placed on the blacklist.