Column: The Chiefs Made A Statement, But It Rings Hollow
On Monday, the Kansas City Chiefs released an official statement in response to the countrywide protests following the killing of George Floyd:
Nowhere in that statement was there a direct mention of systemic racism or police brutality. Because of course there wasn’t. It’s always generalizations. These brand solidarity statements are always an exercise in nothingness.
It’s easy to say “listen and learn” or “our collective attention should be focused on the important conversations that are happening in this country.” It’s a lot more meaningful and impactful to actually actively do something.
But the Chiefs’ statement doesn’t even go so far to mention what these “important conversations” are really about. They are willing to call “senseless murders” exactly what they are, but by the end of the same sentence, systemic bigotry and abuse by police becomes simply “inequality.” It’s a toothless word for a time that is desperate for bite.
This is a team in a league that blackballed Colin Kaepernick for attempting to peacefully bring attention to abuse at the hands of police. This is a team with a fanbase who went from adoring Marcus Peters to loathing him when he also began kneeling in protest.
Now swaths of people, no doubt many of them the same exact people who excoriated players like Kaepernick and Peters, are quick to demand “peaceful protest” in the wake of riots sparking across the country fueled by the same anger that was at the core of the players who spent the anthem on one knee. But those people weren’t listening then.
There’s only one form of “protest” these people will tolerate, and it’s the hand-in-hand, flower-crown, inoffensive-to-the-point-of-ineffective sort of protest. They want what allows them to stay comfortably ignorant of the reality that surrounds them. Anything above and beyond that is shattering to the willfully ignorant little box they live in. Everything must coddle them, or else.
This league has been among the happiest to coddle. The NFL and its collective owners and teams — yes, that includes Clark Hunt and the Chiefs — have spent the last three years kowtowing to their most blatantly bigoted and willfully ignorant fans. The NFL, of course, did so in service of the almighty dollar. They obviously felt the percentage of bigots in their fanbase was so high, it made Kaepernick a threat to their bottom line. This has been thinkpiece’d into oblivion over the last three years, and nothing I say here will cover new ground. The simple truth is that the NFL has spent the last three years protecting the delicate sensibilities of their most racist customers.
Bringing it back specifically to the Chiefs, their city is just one of many that saw its police deploy tear gas on peaceful citizens. Other cities are experiencing much, much more sinister abuse by police, but that taste should have been more than enough to draw a defined line.
The Chiefs like to claim a role as a pillar of their community, and now is one of the times it has become important for them to make good on that claim and say more and do more. I simply do not trust them to be that sort of organization. For decades now, this team has coiffed itself the most inoffensively corporate appearance it could muster. It’s difficult to believe now they’ll step outside that bubble. It’s comfortable and insulated there.
I’m just one white dude writing on a Chiefs site hosted by Sports Illustrated. It’s not difficult for me to acknowledge the smallness of my importance or the nonexistence of my impact. I harbor no delusions that my platform means anything. There are much better, much blacker writers and voices than me who are covering these issues all over the place. I suggest you seek them out and actually take in some information instead of spitting your own out. You don’t need to be a scholar. You just need to pay attention. You, me, the Chiefs, the NFL. It’s not difficult to pay attention.