Columnist warns NFL that a ban on kneeling would be “hollow”

The NFL has a league meeting this week, kicking off today, where they will discuss a number of items relating to the rules of the league and various business interests. One possible item on the agenda has to do with the National Anthem protests which several players were still engaged in last season. It’s possible that the league may reverse its previous stance of leaving personnel decisions to the individual teams and place a ban on kneeling covering all 32 teams. That would be a total flipflop on the part of Roger Goodell if it happened, but it’s far from a sure thing.

Weighing in on the subject is Jarrett Bell, NFL correspondent for USA Today Sports and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. Bell clearly has some strong feelings on the subject and he implores the league to do precisely nothing. He questions whether or not the league really “gets it” when it comes to the Anthem protests and then goes on to declare that any such ban would be a “hollow” gesture now that the two main antagonists (Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid) are no longer employed.

[A]n anti-kneeling policy would seem rather hollow with Colin Kaepernick and his former San Francisco 49ers teammate, safety Eric Reid, out of work as they pursue collusion cases against the NFL. That Kaepernick, a quarterback in his prime, can’t land a job in a league with a fair share of sorry passers, is about as un-American as it gets. Reid’s only legitimate sniff on the free agent market abruptly ended when he wouldn’t promise Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown that he wouldn’t kneel to further protest police brutality and other social injustices victimizing African-Americans.

The NFL is fashioned as a meritocracy, open for the best players to claim jobs based on competition. Yet in the case of Kaepernick and now Reid, we know better. Whether they can prove collusion or not, this is what being blackballed looks like.

While it may come as a surprise, Bell and I are pretty much on the same page as to what the NFL as a whole should do, though we obviously come at the question from completely opposite perspectives. Bell goes on for an additional dozen paragraphs railing against the unfairness of it all and how players who use the platform of the playing field to espouse their own personal politics shouldn’t be “blacklisted.” He shrugs off the idea that the protests are bad for business without offering any other explanation for football’s tanking ratings over the past two seasons. He further insists that it’s somehow an invasion of a player’s privacy to ask them how they plan to behave (with regards to the Anthem) during hiring interviews. Apparently, the business interests of the franchise are of no consequence in Mr. Bell’s view.

As to what the author would like to see done by Goodell this week (aside from the aforementioned “nothing”), he curiously suggests that Goodell avoid a new position where, “teams can devise their own anthem policies.” That’s an odd reading of the rules from an expert. As we discussed back when Eric Reid was bringing his grievance, NFL rules simply state that the league “takes precedence in the event of ‘conflicting club rules.’” But when there is no rule in place at the league level, the teams are free to run their operations as they see fit. The NFL has no rule about Anthem protests, so the situation Bell seeks to avoid is actually already the status quo.

And that point brings me back to where we started. Though for very different reasons, I too feel that Roger Goodell should “do nothing” about Anthem protests at this point. The time to do so would have been when Kaepernick first started this entire mess. But too much water has gone under the bridge at this point and Goodell lacked the spine to bring the situation under control when it would have counted. Now it would look like cowardice or failure finally drove him to do his job.

Jarrett Bell sings the praises of the NFL for traditionally being a meritocracy, where the best players claim jobs through a process of competition. But there’s more than simple, raw numbers of completed passes, yards gained, tackles or interceptions which go into deciding which player is the best fit for each team. The teams should be left to pick who they want to start and, in the same spirit, be able to make their own rules about player behavior on the field. Then, as in a true meritocracy, the fans will vote with their wallets and television viewing habits as to who got it right.

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Why America needs a new approach to school desegregation



This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Despite all the time and effort invested desegregating the nation’s schools over the past half century, the reality is America’s schools are more segregated now than they were in 1968.

Keep that statistic in mind as the nation marks the 64th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education – the 1954 Supreme Court decision that famously mandated the desegregation of U.S. public schools.

If the vision of educational fairness expressed in the Brown decision is to be achieved, the nation must deal with the underlying driver of racial segregation in schools: the inclination of white citizens to hoard educational resources.

I make these arguments as one who has studied school segregation up close for over a decade.

Racial segregation has proved resilient over the last half century. It circumvented court orders and reappeared in housing patterns shaped by school zoning policies. It adapted by moving down to the classroom level to take the form of tracking students into gifted and talented programs or Advanced Placement classes. It has become alloyed with economic segregation so that low-income students and students of color end up concentrated in the same schools. The consequences have been predictably dire for students relegated to these increasingly underfunded and racially isolated schools.

Why school segregation persists

The historical record shows that the desire for predominantly white educational spaces has undermined desegregation orders from 1954 to the present. For example, willfully resistant interpretations of the charge to desegregate “with all deliberate speed” in Brown v. Board delayed substantive action on school segregation for over a decade.

This resistance has only increased in sophistication and effectiveness over time. Carefully choreographed legal and political strategies slowed desegregation of schools. The 1992 Freeman v. Pitts Supreme Court decision made it easier to lift desegregation orders and opened the way for a national swing back toward racial segregation in schools.

This new segregation is not directly enforced by law, but indirectly through school zoning, housing patterns, and recently by neighborhood secessionist movements.

All of this permits affluent white families to continue to monopolize premium educational resources.

Charter schools have not been able to slow this resurgence of school segregation. Neither did the federal No Child Left Behind law. In fact, there are reasons to believe both have made segregation worse.

Corrosive effects of segregation

Students of color in racially isolated schools experience lower academic outcomes. Their dropout rates increase.

My own research has shown how school segregation communicates corrosive messages to students of color. My colleagues and I spent 10 years interviewing students in an Alabama school district that had its federal desegregation order lifted. These children watched as the district’s predominantly white leadership moved immediately to rezone and resegregate their schools.

Students assigned to the district’s underresourced all-black high school reported concluding that they were regarded as “bad kids,” “garbage people,” or “violent or something,” and therefore not worthy of investment.

Perhaps worse, the black students in the newly resegregated school read the harm being done to them as intentional and often saw no hope of redress. One student remarked: “I feel like this is an injustice, the way we were brought here to fail. And now it is becoming a reality. I think five or 10 years more down the line it’s going to be horrible. Seriously, it’s going to be horrible.”

Where schools have been desegregated, the negative academic effects are significantly reduced. Rucker Johnson, associate professor in the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, has found that desegregation raises income levels and wealth accumulation across generations, and even improves health outcomes across students’ lifespans.

The psychological effects of desegregation, however, are more complicated. Desegregating schools provides more balanced access to resources, but puts students of color in schools staffed primarily by white educators who still often harbor implicitly and explicitly racist attitudes. Children of color pay a price for this.

For white students, school desegregation has no measurable negative effects on academic performance and graduation rates. Meanwhile, school desegregation provides many positive social effects for all students, including reduction of racial prejudice and generally becoming more comfortable around people of different backgrounds.

Possible remedies

So, what lessons have been learned from America’s failed efforts to desegregate its public schools?

The first is that the desire for racially segregated schooling evolves in response to efforts to promote racial equity in schools. This implies that lawmakers should not presume integration of schools will help communities “outgrow racism.” Desegregation orders, where needed, need to be permanent.

Second, geography has always been used as a proxy to preserve school segregation. Communities need housing policies that effectively inhibit the creation of racially and economically segregated neighborhoods.

Third, adequate and equitable funding is needed across school districts. There is nothing magically educational about sitting next to a white person in school. The primary problem is the way resources disproportionately follow white bodies.

Finally, the teaching profession must be fully diversified. Fifty-one percent of students entering public schools are persons of color, but more than 80 percent of teachers are white. Placing children of color in predominantly white schools and counting on color-blind professionalism to protect them is not an adequate plan. Research conducted by my colleagues and I reveals how this approach misunderstands the way racism operates and leaves children of color exposed to psychological and pedagogical harm.

America’s school systems need to recruit, support and retain teachers who identify with the experiences of the students they serve. Additionally, all teachers must be educated to recognize the constantly evolving forms of segregation in the nation’s school systems, to protect students from its worst effects and to join the struggle to build a better system.

Jerry Rosiek, Professor of Education Studies, University of Oregon

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