“That’s just something, I feel, that’s been made into a farce,” Okung said Friday, via the Los Angeles Times. “We are in a sport where we have people of color. Men of color have prominent roles in this league as players. Now is a pivotal time to be able to leverage that correctly.”
Okung, like others, isn’t pleased that the deal that isn’t really a deal failed to address the role of Colin Kaepernick in sparking the effort to bring attention to issues of police brutality and racial equality. Also, the $89 million over seven years simply doesn’t seem like enough to Okung (and he’s not incorrect) to balance out the wink-nod hope that players will now choose to stand for the national anthem.
“I think you’ve got to keep in mind who started this whole thing, who sort of put himself on the line,” Okung said. “There’s definitely some respect there. I believe this is the same league who has effectively blackballed him. So when you’re dealing with a certain group of people, this entity as a league — you try to keep in mind, is this a reparation, or just $89 million? Reparation extends beyond just dollars and cents, in real change in policy and lobbying. I think that should be more at the forefront of what we’re trying to accomplish here.”
Okung believes that the effort shouldn’t fizzle out with the contribution of funds by a league of teams for which the cash is a drop in the bucket.
“It goes beyond just allocating funds from other initiatives that are just as important,” Okung said of an allocation that works out to $400,000 per team per year for seven years. “It’s going to take a real commitment of us, leveraging the platform of the players and empowering us to really talk about these issues, police engagement and brutality.”
And so the deal that isn’t really a deal may not be a deal, if the players who are unhappy with the outcome resist the not-so-subtle urging to stand for the anthem. While resistance could still spark a mandate to stand (not likely) or a decision to revert to the pre-2009 approach of staying in the locker room for the anthem (not out of the question), Okung and others realize that this issue is too big to just fade gradually into oblivion — which is undoubtedly what the NFL craves.
However this one ends, this doesn’t feel like the final chapter. Where it goes from here remains to be seen, and people like Okung, Reid, and Thomas could have important roles in figuring it all out.