The simple timeline goes like this: NFL quarterback kneels during the American national anthem in protest against police brutality towards African-Americans during the 2016 NFL season: fellow players join in: outrage ensues: president makes protest about anti-Americanism. However, Colin Kaepernick's initial stand has turned into something much bigger, something which has struck two very different, yet equally as passionate, chords.
Riding high on the horse of gun-ho patriotism, and oblivious to the submissive and respectful act of kneeling, Trump suggested to his Alabaman crowd a few weeks ago: "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now... he is fired'?" Given that nearly 70% of the NFL is comprised of African-Americans, Trump's comments read as a racial attack, felt not only in the league, but in broader American society too.
Enter hip-hop, a genre that has never just been about the music: it has always kept a steady connection to blackness, immortalised by Public Enemy frontman Chuck D as "the Black CNN." It is hardly surprising that hip-hop artists have gathered in vocal support of Kaepernick's stand, and in powerful opposition to Trump's careless and divisive remarks.
Social media was set ablaze with hip-hop voices, young and old alike. Accompanied by a picture of Tommie Smith and John Carlos' black power salute during the medal ceremony at the 1968 Summer Olympics, the gangsta rap icon turned TV star Ice-T tweeted, "People... Using sports as a platform for PROTEST is nothing new... Do your History." A day later, hip-hop mogul Diddy uploaded an Instagram post combining the video of Trump's inflammatory remarks with the caption, "THE LINE HAS NOW BEEN OFFICIALLY CROSSED!!! Time to show him and them #blackexcellence #LETSGO EVERYONE REPOST THIS ASAP pls!!!!"
T.I., a key figure in the emergence of Atlanta's trap sound, reposted a glut of memes on Instagram that range in their criticism of Trump's remarks, one calling for a boycott of championship team's customary presidential visit, another noting how Trump referred to white supremacists as "very fine people" yet declared peaceful protesters as "sons of bitches." Not the best look for the president of a country whose constitution's preamble seeks to "ensure domestic tranquillity."
J Cole went a step further, calling for an outright boycott of the NFL: "You and me have the power to deny them our attention ($$ to them) until they make a wrong situation right." Cole also highlighted Kaepernick's current unemployment, a further source of controversy: "Same ones who speak out against Trump today, are the same ones that denied a qualified man a job because he took a stand against injustice."
While the conversation has unfortunately veered from the discussion of vulnerable black lives to patriot spiel, the response of NFL players and hip-hop artists alike demonstrates a black unity that is so often underreported. Hip-hop, so often a cultural bogeyman, has united in the face of bigotry. The Black CNN persists in the digital age.