I confess I’d been working on another article in my head for the past couple weeks titled, “Together We Stand,” in support of the Together We Stand national non-profit as they prepare to reboot their website. I will still owe them an article but I got sidetracked by the NFL announcing their new policy allowing players to remain in the locker room during the playing of the National Anthem but requiring any players on the field to stand. This was basically the NFL assuming a submissive posture before Donald Trump in announcing this unilateral decision without even consulting the players union (NFLPA).
This policy fails on multiple levels, first and foremost it attempts to dismiss the legitimate concerns of the mostly black NFL players about police brutality, racial inequality, and the ever-present injustice after each shooting of an unarmed black man or woman by police. A new video is circulating of Milwaukee Bucks NBA Player Sterling Brown being tased by police over a parking violation. The incident wasn’t about the violation but the requirement by the Milwaukee police of complete and utter capitulation by the black man in their presence. The NFL is now asking the same of its players. Have your little protest, but out of the sight of our fans, sponsors, and most importantly our President who has deemed you unworthy.
This policy has been condemned by the NAACP who said, “Protest is an American tradition; by protesting we work to hold our country accountable to its highest ideals. Instead of coming together to address an issue disproportionately plaguing the African-American, the NFL owners have chosen to bury their heads and silence players.” That’s what the whole policy is about… silencing players.
The new policy was well received by the President. He said, “You have to stand proudly for the National Anthem and the NFL owners did the right thing if that’s what they’ve done. You have to stand proudly for the National Anthem or you shouldn’t be playing. You shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.” There we have it, the President says pretty much, “Go back to Africa and all the shithole countries you came from.”
Part of the policy allows the league to fine teams and not individual players for violations of the new rule. NY Jets Chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson said he would pay any fines related to his players kneeling during the Star Spangled Banner. He said, “As I have in the past, I will support our players wherever we land as a team. Our focus is not on imposing any club rules, fines, or restrictions.” Despite that statement, he did not vote against the policy.
The NFL may think it avoided a public relations disaster. Instead, it has likely incited one. Rather than hiding the player’s protest, it will shine a brighter light on them. There will be split-screen coverage of the players on the field and those in the locker room. When that gets banned, you’ll see Snapchat and YouTube video’s from inside the locker rooms and Instagram pictures. The protests will be Live-Tweeted and the players will be asked about their protests in locker room interviews, overshadowing and obscuring the results of the game. The only question remaining is, “What will we the public do?”
Previous attempts to support the players included boycotting the NFL over issues like the NFL blackballing Colin Kaepernick and other issues. However well intended the boycott, it wasn’t supported by enough people to make a difference and Kaepernick still doesn’t have an NFL job. There will come a time as protests continue in some form when more players get singled out for having taken a stand. For steadfastly pointing out America’s imperfections and its lack of will to deal with unaccountability of police for their actions. There will come a time when those players will require us to stand… or perhaps kneel, together with them. Don’t let them down!