Those of you who know me know I avoid politics like the plague. I would go into a tangent about why I hate everything there is to hate about politics, but I think Frank Reynolds of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia sums up my thoughts nicely:
But when politics sticks its nose into my beloved sports, that’s where I draw the line. I can’t keep my silence further following Donald Trump’s comments about NFL players taking a knee. But to really express my opinions and where my heart stands to the fullest extent, I need to start at the beginning: with Colin Kaepernick.
When Colin Kaepernick sat on the bench during the singing of the national anthem before the start of a preseason game, I thought very little of it. My thoughts were that he was about to lose his starting job to Blaine freaking Gabbert and he wanted to get his name back into relevance after a steep decline in performance since the end of the 2013 season, when he was a Richard Sherman tipped pass away from taking the San Francisco 49ers to repeat Super Bowl appearances. I thought the media debates about whether Kap was in the right or wrong were completely unnecessary and stupid and I was confident that it would die out once the regular season started. Because really, you can only muster up so many interesting storylines when the games don’t count. Kap sat in protest of police shootings of unarmed black men such as Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and when the media wouldn’t let the story die, I started to form my own opinions. On one hand, I didn’t like that Kap was sitting during the national anthem, I thought it was disrespectful to a country that allows far more opportunities than most, if not all, other nations. In many countries, Kap would be executed for treason, but here, his only execution is in the court of public opinion. On the other hand, I totally agreed with his reasoning for it and I liked that he chose to protest peacefully rather than violently, which helps nobody. Yet still, I felt the whole topic was tiresome and wouldn’t go anywhere so I didn’t get too invested. But then other players started kneeling. Kap’s teammates, particularly Eric Reid and Eli Harold, would kneel on the sideline with him. Brandon Marshall of the Denver Broncos knelt on opening night of the regular season. So many players started following Kap’s lead and it got me to thinking that maybe there was something more to this. The fact that so many players felt the same way as Kap should tell you that these guys are really hurting and I grew more sympathetic to their cause.
It became the talk of the season as various players displayed their own methods of protest. Some I loved (the black power fist, interlocking arms), some I didn’t (sitting). But regardless of your thoughts on the man or the issues at hand, Kap succeeded. He got us talking about the state of race relations in America again. I personally don’t care for some of Kap’s actions (wearing a Fidel Castro shirt during a press conference, wearing socks with pigs dressed as cops on them, never having registered to vote, etc.) but I would argue that the message he is trying to send is more important than what the man is himself. And if you believe that what these players are doing is disrespectful to the troops, I offer you this:
Unfortunately for Kap’s career, he took his stance during a contract year. He became a free agent and no team wanted to sign him. The Baltimore Ravens almost did, head coach John Harbaugh and GM Ozzie Newsome wanted to sign Kap but owner Steve Bisciotti overruled them. A lot of people were outraged that Kap remained unsigned into training camp when there were quarterbacks on NFL rosters, some even starting, who were far inferior to Kap, who was coming off a decent season. I honestly do not blame the owners for not wanting to sign Kap. In my personal opinion and through my evaluations of his performance last year, he isn’t good enough to be worth the media circus that would follow his signing. Should Kap be on a team? Based on some of the talent teams like the Colts and Jets have put out there, absolutely, from a talent standpoint. But on most teams Kap would be the backup and would you really want all these distractions storming into your locker room over your backup quarterback? Regardless of your opinions on his stance, his presence alone will bring more unwanted media attention than today’s NFL team already has. And while I fully believe he will have the support of his teammates, the NFL is a business and the bottom line reigns supreme and anyone who could negatively affect the bottom line will not find himself a spot on the team. It may have cost him his football career, but Colin Kaepernick was successful in his message.
And then Donald Trump did what he always does, puts in his two cents where nobody wants it. Below is a direct quote from the man in the Oval Office.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired…You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it [but] they’ll be the most popular person in this country.”
He also tweeted this out:
NFL players, of course, were none too pleased with his remarks.
NFL teams came out in full force to protest Trump’s remarks. Some teams, such as the Steelers, Titans, and Seahawks, stayed in the locker room for the anthem.
Mr. Trump, when you advocate free speech like you did for the Charlottesville rallies, you can’t be selective. You can’t say one form of free speech is acceptable and one isn’t. That’s not how it works. Either it’s all okay or none of it is. You might think you are being patriotic by telling people that what these athletes are doing is wrong and disrespectful. But your response to their actions are far more rude and offensive than their’s will ever be. I would argue that the players are being more patriotic than you are by enacting their constitutional right to peacefully protest. You condemn this:
But not this?
The NFL is a brotherhood. When you disrespect one man, you disrespect them all. You couldn’t possibly understand why these guys choose to protest or what they’ve had to endure because of the color of their skin. You couldn’t possibly or you wouldn’t have said what you said. I can’t possibly know either, but the difference between you and me is that I at least have empathy, I try and keep an open mind. I used to dismiss this movement but I have learned to appreciate what they’ve had to go through and the fact that these men are really hurting right now and need support. Your open disrespect towards them is shameful, appalling, and classless.