NFL Protests: Message Received?
by Kevin Sylvester, Buffalo Sports Page
I stand for our National Anthem. I always have and I always will. I do not like that many NFL Players took a knee yesterday in silent protest while the Star Bangled Banner was performed in stadiums across the country and the ocean (Jags and Ravens played in London). I don’t have to like it and neither do you. I’m proud to be an American. That is easy to say and write. What’s not easy is respecting freedom of speech.
I believe all of the knees, locked arms (a better display of unity in my opinion), and outcries to and from the media was about our 1st Amendment. Our President made sure of that with his ill-advised comments to his supporters at a rally in Alabama. If he simply stated his displeasure with the procedure, which had really lost it’s luster until his comments, it wouldn’t have gained much attention. But Donald Trump used his bully pulpit to dare players to take and knee and dare NFL owners to fire them for doing so. Tone deaf at best. What billionaire or business owner likes be told what to do? Not Trump. So why did he think they would take his suggestion? It doesn’t matter why. He was expressing his freedom of speech, and the NFL players did the same in return.
But what were they protesting? Colin Kaepernick originated the silent knee, and many believe he’d paying the price for it being out of the league. We’ll see if that truly is the case of if performance is the reason with so many NFL owners standing by their players and calling for unity. Kaepernick took a knee in protest of racism and the treatment of African Americans by law enforcement. Noble platforms, and ones that most Americans would be in agreement with. He wasn’t protesting the our armed forces, the men and women who serve our country, or our great veterans. He took a stand by taking a knee. It worked, because it drew attention to the issues that he felt needed to be addressed. He used his fame to do so, but we don’t have to agree with how he did it.
It’s important to remember what the impetus is for what occurred this past weekend in the NFL. It was an African American athlete using his fame to draw attention to injustice in our society. There is nothing wrong with him doing that. I personally think he could have done so in a different manner. He was the QB of an NFL team, a player that has been to the Super Bowl. Kaepernick was someone that was interviewed every week, and likely requested to be spoken to everyday. Microphones and cameras were in abundance, just as they are now. He could have held a press conference. He could have stood at midfield before the game or worn a special armband. There were options that the NFL patriotic audience would not have been offended by. And that is something all NFL players should realize. They are entertainers, and the worst thing an entertainer can do is turn off it’s audience.
I saw George Carlin once in concert. I was very excited to see the famed comedian perform his legendary bits live on stage (7 dirty words you can’t say on television). Carlin was no stranger to politics and social issues. That night, he decided to start his set with a 15 minute lecture about his views on abortion. The audience sat in stunned silence. People left. I wanted to leave, but decided to wait for a punch line that never came. That’s all I remember from the show even thought he did all of the bits I came to see. Kaepernick turned off the audience right before he was about to perform too. Had the NFL owners not made statements standing by their players’ rights, they would have risked the same fate too.
But I want to come back to the original question, what are the players protesting? The President picking a fight with them? Patriotism? Racism? As a white male, it’s easy for me to ask that question. It’s also easy for me to say I’m against racism and for our military. For a player, no matter what his ethnicity, I don’t think it’s an easy question to answer. There are no easy answers. Players want to be on the field and not on the sidelines. While this issue is no game, staying on the sidelines may be the safest spot.