You’re not going to stop watching football over protests during national anthem

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August 24, 2017 by marlonpitter

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Seattle center Justin Britt (68) stands with his hand on defensive end Michael Bennett, who is seated during the national anthem. (Scott Eklund / Associated Press)

Written by Marlon Pitter

With each week of the National Football League preseason, we’ve seen new forms of silent pregame protests during the national anthem akin to those then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick displayed during the 2016 season.

Likewise, with each article about the NFL – related to the displays or not – Facebook comment sections are often laced with threats by fans to quit watching football and boycott the NFL because of this. But the backlash toward the league and its players, in my opinion, is unwarranted and simply all talk.

When Kaepernick first sat on the bench and eventually started kneeling before games, no one cared until he was asked by the media why he was doing this. “Ultimately, it’s to bring awareness and make people realize what’s really going on in this country,” he told reporters.

His silent protests have had a domino effect throughout the NFL that continues to compound this season. What’s new is some white players have shown solidarity with their teammates who are using their platforms and First Amendment rights in this fight for change.

What’s getting old is the blissfully ignorant rhetoric in the Facebook comment sections of each article written about these displays:

“I use to watch football every week and Mondays, NO MORE! I will not watch a single game until those clowns disrespecting the USA like spoiled kids are fined or fired. This is known as Americas game they need to respect that. I do not wan’t ANY politics in my sports NONE. Just sports,” writes Tyler Brown on a sponsored Facebook post promoting the NFL Kickoff event.

The players are not endorsing political candidates. They’re not telling anyone who to vote for. They’re speaking about the world as they see it.

News flash: Nearly 69 percent of NFL players during the 2014 season were African-American. If most of the league’s players are black Americans, then would issues for black Americans not be important to them? They work, live and vote in this country as well – or are they just a means of entertainment you watch on Sundays?

Kaepernick last year and NFL players this year are nowhere near the first athletes to use their platforms to inspire social justice, so let’s not act like this is something new either.

“NFL Organization, this brings me no happiness to tell you that this season I’ll once again be boycotting you in every way, shape, and form. The “Kneeling During the National Anthem” “protest” is spreading like a plague because you’re not doing what needs to be done to stop it. Your organization is called the NATIONAL Football League and you represent our NATION. The players are your employees and game time is company time, not personal time. Personal opinions must be set aside during work hours. If you don’t have the courage to enforce that, then you won’t be getting my viewing time or dollars,” writes Claudia Huff on an NFL post unrelated to the matter.

I’m not surprised we love the flag and our national anthem as much as we do in this country. We praised those stars and stripes for 13 years in our school systems, and we rise for “The Star-Spangled Banner” at every sporting event in the United States. Sports and America are very much intertwined as a result, so, of course, these protests might ruffle some feathers with everyone’s sensibilities.

Saying the NFL represents the United States is highly questionable, but with the “America’s Team” moniker being fought for between the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots and the fact that this is the only major American professional sports league with all its teams in the United States (for now), I’ll concede that point as well.

Ideally, personal opinions might want to be expressed outside of work hours for most employees at most workplaces. I don’t think, however, that these individuals would face any less criticism for speaking out at any time – mid-week or during the offseason – because they’re essentially under contract all year. Instead of being chastised for “disrespecting the anthem/flag/soldiers,” they would be told to “stick to sports,” a catch-all fallacy that, again, tells these players they’re nothing more than athletes for our entertainment. If not now, when the spotlight is on them, or during the offseason, when are athletes allowed to stand up (or sit or kneel) for what they believe in? Not everyone is Anquan Boldin and will do so after they retire.

Clearly, these players’ message has been heard throughout the league and is being amplified, but some fans simply don’t want to listen. These players are not disrespecting anyone. They’re not kneeling on soldiers’ graves or burning American flags. In fact – stay with me on this one – I bet they LOVE this country, and all they want is to make it better for everyone.

But hey, if you still don’t believe me or just want football without “politics,” “Madden NFL 18” is in stores now. (Writer’s note: That last sentence was not sponsored. EA Sports doesn’t know who the hell we are.)

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