Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Tune In the Pacifica Radio Earl Ofari Hutchinson Show Hosts On-Air Townhall Tuning Out the Superbowl Saturday, February 5 9:00 PDT Noon EDT KPFK Radio 90,7 FM streamed at kpfk.org
I will not watch the Superbowl. Let me first back up. I am the consummate NFL junkie. I have watched a whole or part of nearly every NFL Monday Night game since its start in 1970. I have watched more Sunday night, Thursday night, and Saturday NFL games than many coaches. I have attended countless NFL games in Los Angeles, almost all of them the Superbowl contender Rams games. I have even traveled to other cities to attend NFL games. Most importantly, I have watched every Superbowl since the first one in 1967. I have even sponsored Superbowl game community parties.
Colin Kaepernick’s anti-police abuse protest, his subsequent blackballing, and the boycott by many Blacks of the NFL didn’t damper my NFL passion and support. But this did. Former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores potential landmark lawsuit against the NFL that charges the NFL owners, and management with systemic racism in its non-hiring of Black head coaches. Flores knows that suing the NFL means that he can likely kiss any chance of a head coaching job goodbye.
Here’s why he took a stand. In the most telling line in his suit, he called the NFL a modern-day plantation. The numbers back him up. There are thirty-two non-Black owners. I use the non-black qualifier instead of “all-white” only because Jacksonville Jaguars’ owner Shahid Khan is Pakistan-American.
The NFL has done better in hiring Black GMs. There are now seven of them. But it’s the position that is most visible, commanding, prestigious, and media, fan, and player identified that’s the jewel in the crown in the NFL. That’s the head coach spot. Ten NFL teams have never had a Black head coach. Barring a drastic change, thirty-one of them on Superbowl Sunday will still not have a Black head coach. This is in a league where most players are Black.
The NFL has been on a big charm campaign since the Kaepernick fallout to prove that it’s not racist. It has paid lip service to backing Black Lives Matter, slapped end racism slogans on players’ helmets, churns out PSAs touting diversity, shelled out millions to minority community improvement organizations.
Flores, though, is not suing the NFL and is unemployed as a head coach because the NFL is inherently racist. His problem, and that of other Black aspiring head coaches, is the structure of the NFL and who runs it.
The NFL is not and never has been a democracy. It’s a quasi-militaristic, top-down organization. It’s run by an entrenched elite core of billionaire owners who set the tone and determine policy for the league. They are called “key owners.” Some of them can trace their NFL family pedigree back to the founding of the NFL nearly a century ago. They are mostly conservative Republicans.
Some are very outspoken Republicans. They routinely kick in thousands to GOP candidates. Some have been deeply involved in GOP political campaigns, including serving as finance managers for GOP presidential candidates. They all imposed the tacit, unspoken blackball of Kaepernick from the league. It was no surprise that former GOP presidential candidates such as Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, and Donald Trump bragged that some of their tight pals are NFL owners.
Flores is being held captive not to the racism or petty whims of NFL owners, although a healthy dose of that is there too. But to the NFL’s rigid, unbending and unyielding arrogance of power, insular structure, and mindset that is virtually immune from any outside influence. This was evident in every challenge to the NFL elite, be it the threat of player strikes, contract negotiations, the dust-up over CTE trauma and dangers, the criticism it gets for shaking down cities and states to put taxpayers on the hook for everything from luxury boxes to new stadiums.
The NFL has the muscle to keep their books hush hush and demand the players play more games, thus radically increasing the injury hazard. It has the muscle to knock down the player’s revenue take and not guarantee any long-term health benefits to the players.
The fan base is no small point when trying to figure out why Flores may become a pariah. The NFL’s fan loyalists initially shouted down Kaepernick and the Black players when they made the mildest of protests by taking a knee or some other equally tepid gesture during the playing of the national anthem before kickoffs.
Those loyalists are not African American or Hispanic for the most part. They are blue-collar and conservative middle class, white football junkies who year in and year out, pack stadiums, plop down tens of millions for tickets, and assorted NFL paraphernalia.
The NFL power brokers have the supreme dominance to enforce their take or leave it imperium on the players, fans, and politicians. That’s precisely why Flores doesn’t have an NFL job. That’s why I will not watch the Superbowl.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of Kaepernick (Amazon) Free Amazon Read https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074NZ8L94 February 3 and 4th. He hosts the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network. His political affairs commentaries can be found weekly on thehutchinsonreport.net.