Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson has a pretty good grasp on what this new iteration of NFL protests has become: a ghost of a whisper of what they meant in the first place. When you have Jerry Jones—speaking of ghouls—taking a knee for what used to be a protest against social injustice, you know the movment has been coopted.
In a TMZ street interview, Chad didn't hold back, saying that the protests have become "politically whitewashed," adding that they've turned into "a goddamn Ice Bucket Challenge." Essentially, he's saying that the act of kneeling during the national anthem has lost its meaning as we witness the people who were against the cause take it on with their own terms. It's easier to bend that protest symbol to mean something that works for everyone than it is to actually reckon with the thing people were protesting about.
"We're not kneeling for the same reasons that Kaepernick kneeled for 14 months ago," Johnson said. "It's completely different."
Since Donald Trump came in and called players "sons of bitches" and knocked the NFL for not silencing them, the league has turned the protests into a solidarity/free speech matter. The lines are so convoluted that no one really understands who is protesting what when they're taking a knee.
Whatever the noise is—about the false notion that this is a flag or anthem protest, or whether it's disrespectful to the troops—it's distracting us from the real cause: that too many unarmed black people are getting shot by police, and that rampant systemic racism persists. Let's not forget that this is where this whole thing started.