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From Super Bowl Champion to Conservative Thinker: An Interview with Burgess Owens

“These players are heroes to many young black boys. Sadly, now they see their heroes disrespecting the flag and our country. It’s a terrible message to send.”

Mr. Burgess Owens joined Merion West‘s Henri Mattila on February 22nd to discuss the evolution of his personal politics, current issues affecting the National Football League, and the future of professional football. Mr. Owens was a first round draft pick of the New York Jets in 1970, where he played until 1979. In 1980, Mr. Owens was a member of the Oakland Raiders team that won Super Bowl XV.

Mr. Owens is the author of the book It’s All About Team: Exposing the Black Talented Tenth, and Liberalism or How to Turn Good Men into Whiners, Weenies and Wimps.

Thank you for joining me today, Mr. Owens. Could you start by telling me a little bit more about your background and what brought you to conservatism?

I grew up in the sixties in Tallahassee, Florida during the days of segregation, so the community where I grew up was totally black. My mentors were black, my examples were black — it was a very successful community we had, with great teachers and coaches. The message that came out of that era was one was very simple: this is the greatest place in the history of mankind to live in: this is a place that we can compete in if we work hard enough, and we can overcome even the worst of people out there. I wanted to go out there to simply make my family proud, my community proud, and so on. My dad had fought in World War II, so of course he was very patriotic, and we were taught to be patriotic too.

It was really the best time for my community and for me to grow up in. And actually, because we were also involved in our community with the progression in racial issues, most of us took interest in what was going on. I had a very good mom and dad, and they asked us always to think outside the box, to ask questions, and to be involved —so it was kind of a natural process with us in terms of growing up. I would like your readers to know this as we start off, because I think as we talk further it’s important to understand a little bit about the history of the black community.

This is the part of history most people don’t know: after World War II, it was the black community that led our country in terms of the growth of the middle class — between forty and fifty percent of black Americans became part of the middle class. The black community also led the country in terms of the commitment of men to marriage at over seventy percent. So across the board, it was a very positive time and place to grow up in, and we don’t hear enough of that today, because the narrative has been one from the Left that wants us to believe that we were a completely hapless race simply waiting for others to pave the way for us. Despite segregation, the black community down South did quite well. Just like every other community allowed participation in the free market, we were allowed to dream big — so I’m very proud of that.

Would you say that it was your upbringing that shaped your political thinking today?

That’s a very a good question. You will find a lot of similar answers if you talk to black conservatives. They will say they were brought up with conservative views about family, work ethic, giving back to your country — all those things we grew up with. But for some reason, we connected with the Democratic Party. It’s interesting that very, very few of us really understood what the Democratic Party stood for and what it was doing; but the Democrats tailored their message to us very strongly. It was considered the pro-black party, so many of us voted for Democrats.

The last Democratic presidential candidate I supported was Jimmy Carter when I was in Oakland, but four years later I was a very strong Ronald Reagan supporter. I had just left the game [of football], and I began to understand that what the Democrats told us is not true, and that they were really at the heart of black misery. I began to realize that it doesn’t matter what party you are a part of. Conservative values and principles make our country great and unique. I’m very proud to say that I’m now voting my values and principles, and it just so happens that the Republican Party is the closest thing to it.

Why do you think that African-Americans are overwhelmingly Democratic, given that many of them grew up with similar values to you?

I would call it brainwashing, because that’s what it comes down to. We have a fight ahead of us — one of values.

The competitors are the Judeo-Christian values I grew up with, versus Marxism, socialism, and atheism. All races have been fighting this fight for a long time. You see this today with the NAACP, which was not founded by colored people, but by white Marxists. And the focus was to move away from free enterprise and towards making sure that our success was forcing integration as opposed to making sure that we built our own society and our own community. The message of focusing solely on forced integration implies that our own community is inferior to white communities — and that’s the message that sadly came through.

So what happened was that now we have black socialists who are just as dangerous to the black community as white socialists: it is the people like Maxine Waters and Elijah Cummings who basically live a very good life by making sure that we remain socialist. They want to ensure that the policies of the Democratic Party are forced upon our race, like abortion: eighteen-hundred black children every single day. Or policies that have allowed eighty-three percent of black teen males to not work at some point in the last two years. Other Democratic Party policies are very pro-union and anti-black; their education policies keep our kids dumb and dependent: we have seventy-five percent of black boys in the state of California that cannot pass standard reading and writing tests.

Yet they want to insist that more illegals should come here and live a good life, while black dreamers are pushed aside. This is what the Democratic Party has done; they have used misery as a political power strategy. So if we understand that and see that there are voters who want to understand these policies, you will have some black Americans like me who love our country, love our race, love the free market we have, and love our society and culture. People like me and others are beginning to wake up and understand that the Democrats have never been our friends. The Democratic Party has been the party of segregation, slavery, socialism, and secession, and it remains the same party today that it was back then.

We the people have done so many great things together — not just black or white — but us together. Now we have a President who drew a line in the sand to say that we’re not going to disrespect our own culture or our flag anymore. If you want to have that fight, then let’s have it in the public square, and you’ll lose every single time; Americans don’t like that, and now we’re beginning to wake up.

On that note, regarding disrespecting the flag — what are your thoughts on Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the national anthem last year?

Colin is a Marxist. I think what people need to understand is that this is not a black and white issue. It is an issue of Judeo-Christian values versus Marxism and socialism.

Karl Marx, the founder of communism, stated that the first battleground is the rewriting of history. Now we have people like Colin Kaepernick and people like LeBron James — these athletes — these guys who went from poor to wealthy, but completely missed the normal stage of growth called the middle class. If it were education that got you to the middle or upper class, then you’d have empathy to ensure that others also get as good of an education. If it were free enterprise — same thing.

But with many of these players, the problem is that they don’t know any better: they don’t have the flag or prayer in the classroom. They’ve been told by their socialist black leaders that this country is not for them. They don’t get taught how successful our own black communities were, even during times of segregation and much more present racism.

These are young players who don’t know much yet — but they will, once they get out of the game and start losing money. At the same time, we have the NFL, which is not the same league that we all grew up with. Now they’re globalists and socialists. All the players I played with back in the seventies and eighties all respected our country and admired the flag. Today, the League thinks it can blatantly disrespect its fans, because they think they can get away with it and move their globalist agenda forward. I also believe, simply, that the NFL has changed so much because it wants to go places like Ireland, England, Mexico — all over the world. So it’s interesting that there is this decision that these NFL executives have to make, which is whether to still keep the American brand, where the flag is flying high, or simply put down our country in order to make money elsewhere.

It’s been widely discussed that the popularity of the NFL has waned recently. Do you think the trend will continue?

Well, it depends on how arrogant they are. That’s what it comes down to. They can either choose to pursue an international presence, or stay in America. It looks like they have decided the former, as they have sided against American public opinion by allowing these young men to disrespect the flag without any repercussions. Protesting is fine with me, by the way.

There are many ways available to voice your concerns and grievances — I just ask that you do it on your own time. For those of us who are employed, we know that we can’t take our lunch break to go and participate in a glaring protest, or otherwise we’ll lose our job. We understand that because the parameters have been set by basically every single company. The NFL doesn’t look at it that way; they’ve allowed these young people to create problems on the NFL’s time.

Regarding offending most American citizens, it’s not just white people, but black people. But sadly, now you have seven-year-old boys watching their heroes disrespect the flag and their country, and it’s a terrible message to send. These players are heroes to many young black boys, and they are sending the message that it’s their duty to hate their country. These players, meanwhile, are living the lives of kings thanks to the free market system, and most importantly, because many generations have fought and died for them to have that freedom. These boys and girls, really, can do anything: do well in school, focus on education, get into college, start a business, focus on sports and stay away from bad influences — and that is the message these athletes should be sending. Sadly, they’re doing the opposite.

As for the NFL’s future, if and when the American people realize that they are no longer the focus of the sport, but rather an international audience, the NFL will continue to decline.

Another football league competitor to the NFL — the XFL — has been in the news recently as they announced that they will launch in the year 2020. Do you think that the XFL has a shot at upending the monopoly that the NFL has on professional football?

Absolutely. I am all for any kind competition, big time. It keeps them humble; it keeps them hungry — and that’s what will start happening to the NFL. Right now, the NFL has no competition, and they can do whatever they want to, no matter how bad it gets. So we need some way to deal with that. If this new league gives us another way to watch and play professional football, I’m all for it. I’ve also heard that anybody who is a former felon is not allowed to play in this league—so this should bring forth people of character to the plate. When I was playing in the NFL, character was important. I mean, character was everything. That being said, I think this is a good thing for the sport, for sure.

It was great to hear your thoughts today, and thank you for speaking with us, Mr. Owens.

Thank you, Henri.

This interview has been lightly edited for both clarity and brevity.

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