THE GUARDIAN -- Howard Bryant is a columnist for ESPN the Magazine and the author of The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America and the Politics of Patriotism. He wrote this opinion piece about the controversy surrounding the national anthem protests in the National Football League.
“I was 23 years old in April 1992, when a Simi Valley jury infamously acquitted the four officers charged with the vicious, unknowingly videotaped beating of Rodney King. I was a nobody, just an editorial assistant at the Oakland Tribune attending San Francisco State University, but I had thoughts.
“I believed that despite the national outrage — which was followed by the worst rioting in the history of the nation — an acquittal was the only possible outcome for an America that, in the famous phrase of Martin Luther King Jr, consistently chose order over justice. To acknowledge the guilt of the officers in a court of law, I remember writing, would have required the white mainstream to acknowledge the historical black grievance of police brutality, which it has never done. Secondarily, it would also have to acknowledge that police were not only capable of acting abhorrently but actually did so routinely. White society, I wrote, was not ready to acknowledge either. I concluded the leap was too great.
“Mary Ellen Butler, the Tribune op-ed editor, did not seem to appreciate what she considered a radical opinion, especially coming from a college student whose job it was to open mail and retrieve the afternoon papers. She stripped the story of its life, then published it not as a bold thought piece by a young reporter with thoughts — but as a letter to the editor, just some random dude at a typewriter. It was an insult, a pat on the head to go back to the kids’ table.”