Cultural News

Bill O’Reilly, Brandon Marshall and the social norm versus political rights

By Matt Johnson

In a response to Brandon Marshall’s kneeling during the national anthem and honoring of the national anthem before the start of the first game of the 2016 NFL season, Bill O’Reilly, Fox infotainment host of the O’Reilly Factor, provided some choice words for the Denver Broncos’ defensive back.

In his traditional, O’Reilly style, he provided us with Marshall’s narrative and what Marshall ought to be doing,

He was raised in Las Vegas…but he worked hard in succeeding and developing his football skills…Marshall received a scholarship, a full scholarship from the University of Nevada. He went to college free. By the way, he was on the same college team as Colin Kaepernick who started the national anthem disrespect. Anyway, Brandon Marshall has played well in the National Football League and recently signed a 32 million contract.

So let’s put this into perspective: poor kid, bad father, develops his God-given skills…[He] is presented with an opportunity to attend college free of charge, then becomes a professional football player, earning millions in our capitalistic system. Nowhere on Earth could Brandon Marshall have done that, but America. Nowhere!

To be fair, bad things do happen in this country, and every country, and they must be confronted. But to disrespect our entire system, when you have reaped so much benefit from it, is fallacious in the extreme.

Brandon Marshall and others like him have an obligation to think about what they’re putting out there because some impressionable folks listened to them. Want to improve things? Good. Disrespecting the anthem? Not good. 

First, Brandon Marshall achieved success in the United States, which happens to be in the Americas, specifically North America. But I get your culture reference nonetheless, Mr. O’Reilly. And I’ll also concede the point about the United States economic system. Indeed there is no equal. But I assert this supports Marshall’s point and political discourse of recognizing social injustice here in the United States. I’ll provide an example in a few moments.

Mr. Marshall never alluded to the injustices of people outside of the United States. Rather, he was bringing attention to the historic and current injustices of those who reside within the incorporated borders of the United States of America.

It has been interesting to watch this entire event play out from the point people noticed Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem to the current onslaught of conservative moral foundations’ applications of authority, sacredness, and tradition to that of the national anthem and national ensign. And of course, Kaepernick, Marshall, and others have been practicing the moral foundations of tolerance and awareness.

But what has been different between these two opposing arguments is who is demonstrating political discourse by way of constitutional rights and who has been demonstrating cultural norms. This of course isn’t the first time cultural norms and constitutional rights have played out.

As an example, there were water fountains for white folks and water fountains for black folks. In addition, black folks at one time were forced to sit in the back of the bus while white folks enjoyed the access of the front of the bus. Or what about black folks having to move off the sidewalk for white folks? Was that constitutional? Or was that a cultural norm; or what about black folks having to utilize The Negro Traveler’s Green BookAnd although these are social injustices of the past, Marshall, Kaepernick and others are utilizing the breaking of social norms during the weekly sacrificial ritual to the American Gods to address today’s social injustices.

But what O’Reilly and many other pundits, who are expressing conservative morals, including some liberals, seem to be misunderstanding is that they are supporting and defending cultural norms in opposition to political rights and today’s social injustices. And in doing so, they are trying to rationalize their cultural position and mask it with some sort of political nationalism by way of attributing false equivalence, guilty by association, and every other fallacious argument in the rhetorical book to that of the political protest by Marshall and others.

And in fact, this set of moral foundations seem to be so embedded in the expressions of many people opposing the political discourse by Marshall, Kaepernick and others, that they are missing out on an opportunity to recognize the importance of what these United States citizens are saying. That is, there are differences of experiences between those of European decent and non-European decent in this country, and it still exists today.

For example, everybody seems to have missed the part where Kaepernick is from Milwaukee. Yes! Milwaukee! You know that one city that recently fell into turmoil after the shooting of a black man by police officers. But that shooting was just the match, just like in Ferguson, Baltimore, and Minneapolis.

According to NY Magazine, Milwaukee is arguably one of the most segregated cities in the United States. And it isn’t just segregated by demographics; that is, black and white neighborhoods. It’s segregated by economics, education, and safety. Whereas white folks in greater numbers experience increased utility in all three of the factors, black folks, and others in general, experience these three factors in diminished utility. And that’s precisely Kaepernick’s and Marshall’s point.

They’re not saying white folks are bad people, although a few people do. They’re not saying that white folks are evil. The whole premise of white privilege is the notion that white folks are blind to their privileges in society. And they’re not even saying it’s necessarily the fault of white folks in general. This isn’t all about white folks and their feelings.

By kneeling they are bringing attention to a reality of the current state of the United States by way of breaking a deeply embedded social norm in favor of political discourse. And make no mistake, this political discourse is their first amendment right. They are protected under the law and isn’t this a nation governed by laws?

Marshall specifically said during his interview,

I’m not against the police…I’m not against the military…I’m against social injustice.

And then he followed that up with a statement of intention to utilize his monetary and physical resources to help veterans and other groups, and make a change is some sort of positive way.

At the end of the day, O’Reilly and I agree, Brandon Marshall is a citizen of the United States. But where we may differ is in Marshall’s right to political protest, even if he is a professional football player with a reach to millions of millions of “impressionable folks” as O’Reilly puts it.

His background doesn’t prevent him from breaking cultural norms, or practicing his constitutional rights. And how much he makes per year doesn’t preclude him from such activities either. To even propose that argument when there are billionaires donating to politicians on both sides of the political aisle just reeks of some serious privilege.

I’m sure O’Reilly agrees with me on the great “American” notion of individualism. And with this notion, Marshall doesn’t owe anybody else anything. He earned his keep. Or as Bill O’Reilly once said to Jon Stewart in a 2012 debate,

Find what you’re good at and make money doing it.

Well that’s precisely what Marshall did. And now he’s practicing his individualism by practicing his political rights to bring attention to the current injustices here in the United States. And yeah, he just happens to be a professional football player who just signed a $32 million deal. So what! He’s a United States citizen.


Matt Johnson is an economics and science writer for The Systems Scientist. You can connect with him directly in the comments section, follow him on Twitter or on Facebook

You can also follow The Systems Scientist on Twitter or Facebook as well. 



Copyright ©2016 – The Systems Scientist


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