How Far is Too Far?
Editor’s note: This article does not reflect the views of Cleveland Sports Talk as a whole, but this writer’s specific opinion. Everyone is entitled to own opinion on such a sensitive topic. Thank you for understanding and enjoy this great read:
We just started OTA’s and already the landscape around the NFL is heating up. Not because of any organized team activities, but because of the new policy that NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, and company handed down on Wednesday, May 23. They are taking away the player’s right to protest racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem.
This begs the question, “Has the NFL gone too far with this new ruling?”
The policy states that all players must “stand and show respect for the flag” during the national anthem before games — or else stay off the field until the song ends. Goodell generously offered the provision that players, “may stay in the locker room or in a similar location off the field until after the Anthem has been performed.” Wow, what a prince. I mean how could any peaceful protesters possibly feel that their rights have been trampled when given the option to fall in line or protest behind closed doors? The commissioner also added that he believes the protests, which began in 2016 have created, “awareness and action around issues of social justice that must be addressed.” Well, it is pretty easy to close a case on social injustice when you have not experienced the prejudice which is being addressed.
I will give Mr. Goodell props for acknowledging the erroneous catalyst behind the heat that players received for their protests when he remarked that, “It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic. This is not and was never the case.”
Can we please take a minute and allow that to sink in a bit? I have said it hundreds of times, and I will say it again, the players who kneel are not protesting America, our flag, or our military. They are not attempting to attack the patriotism of others, and they are not working a divisive hidden agenda. They are just sick and tired of the obvious racial injustice that permeates the American justice system. They do not believe that every traffic stop should be a life or death situation for those who happen to be black. They no longer accept the thin veneer of civility and equality which poorly glosses over a deeply rooted culture of racism in America.
By issuing the warning of fines for kneeling, the NFL is flipping on their past support of players and their right to peaceful protest. This has not gone unnoticed by the NFL Players Association who issued the following statement,
“The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new policy. NFL players have shown their patriotism through their social activism, their community service, in support of our military and law enforcement and yes, through their protests to raise awareness about the issues they care about.”
Furthermore, the player’s union asserts that the new rule goes against the collective bargaining agreement and that the NFL did not consult the players association before handing down this rule. I get the feeling that the player’s representatives will have more to say on this matter before the dust settles.
I know many fans who believe players should suck it up, stand for the anthem, and just play football. I believe these are the same fans who heartily agreed that LeBron James should shut up and dribble. The cause of the protest has been tremendously twisted as a part of a political agenda. I’m not naming any names here, but I am referring to a particular Twitter aficionado, with unbelievably poor spelling and grammar, who famously called the players who protest, “sons of bitches.” With loud and incessant duplicity about the point of the player’s protests, the aforementioned person and the hordes just like him have distorted the point of protests which were meant to wake an uninterested public and alert them to the fact that real people face life and death circumstances because of hateful racial division.
I do not believe that I am the only sports fan who has, by sheer necessity, deeply turned to sports as a way to momentarily forget about the present social and political upheaval in our nation. I feel that in trying to turn away, I made a poor decision. We have things happening in America that are bigger than sports, and the protests and the backlash make that point. I also believe that no matter how we feel about taking a knee, we should be grateful to the players whose actions helped to expose another vile layer of our society.
Image credit Time.com