The people who know me well know how much I love the NFL. How much I look forward to preseason games in August, leading to the ultimate crescendo known as Week One.
However, I am disappointed in what the same league that I love and hold dear decided regarding player protests during the national anthem.
NFL owners made what appeared to be a compromise when it came to players protesting during the national anthem. Players will be allowed to stay in the locker room during the national anthem in 2018. The NFL is even doing away with its policy that all players must be on the field for pregame renditions of The Star-Spangled Banner.
It instituted a rule that could potentially fine teams whose athletes take the field for the anthem and then take a knee. Teams can also penalize their players and personnel if they demonstrate on the field.
I have LOTS to say about this.
First of all, for those who STILL do not know, the players are not protesting the national anthem itself. They DO NOT hate this great country. The players are using their platform to address the social woes that have been plaguing our country since its inception.
People who STILL think otherwise are either slow, disingenuous, or racist as hell themselves – more than likely various combinations of the three.
The players are not burning the flag, pissing on it or spitting on it. They are KNEELING. Kneeling in the name of racial equality. Kneeling in the name of social justice.
How is kneeling an act of disrespect? We kneel when we pray, for crying out loud.
Yes, those players are privileged, I get that (hell, THEY get that too). Yet they know that plenty of non-famous POC and poorer people are not afforded of such privileges.
And what’s the best way to address such woes? PROTEST. The civil rights activists we romanticized (Dr. King, Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson and MANY others) ALSO PROTESTED, and some have literally given their lives to do so.
While I have chosen not to kneel during the anthem (nor does my wife or eight-year-old son), I do support those who decide to do so. After all, the players have forced us to talk about the same racial and socioeconomic discrimination that this country’s leaders have constantly buried and refuse to address for centuries.
(And make no mistake, the results of that constant burying is leading us MUCH CLOSER to a power keg explosion from which we may or may not be able to recover.)
And I do not – and will not – have a problem with those who are uncomfortable with how the players are protesting. Protests are supposed to be uncomfortable. That’s how the civil rights laws were put into place. That’s how women’s and LGBTQ rights were put into place.
Most people I’ve talked to, while believing in the players’ cause, are not comfortable with the kneeling – and that’s okay.
Shoot, as long as we agree on the destination, I don’t worry about taking different paths to get there. As long as we agree on the “WHY”, I can have a conversation/debate on the “HOW”.
As for the NFL owners, I am very disappointed in them – but not at all surprised.
The ownership is comprised of dudes who will likely never face the same disenfranchisement as people who either look like the majority of their workforce, of a different gender and religion. While some of the owners have expressed sympathetic thoughts on certain issues (Patriots owner Robert Kraft on criminal justice reform, for example), the more powerful ones didn’t show enough empathy to help the players address the social ills of this great country.
The owners squandered a great opportunity to be a major positive force in the aftermath. Could you imagine how much love those owners would have gotten if they had a joint-press conference with their players to not only to address those issues, but to address UNITY. It would have been one of the most moving moments in this nation’s (and perhaps the world’s) history.
It just boggles my mind that instead of using the protests as productive dialogue with the players concerning social issues, the owners would rather kowtow to a loud-mouthed President. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: President Trump doesn’t give a damn about the protests as he does sticking it to a league that has denied him ownership of its franchises in the past.
And guess what, if the owners REALLY want to work with the players, those same players will – wait for it – STOP PROTESTING. It shouldn’t be this hard to those owners to understand. (You got that, Jerry Jones and Bob McNair????)
Instead, here we are. Not being able to exercise their right to free speech and protest – even if the protest IS NOT ABOUT THE FLAG ITSELF.
So much for being the “land of the free and the home of the brave”…