Tue 31 Jul 2018 04.00 EDT
To deny professional athletes the right to express dissent in a peaceful manner is a disgrace to the Constitution, the opposite of patriotism and shameful moral weakness
Dear NFL owners:
Whew! What a tumultuous year for your league. Slipping attendance and ratings. Continuing concussion controversy. Lawsuits from cheerleaders who refuse to shut up and smile. Domestic violence accusations against players. The Papa John’s founder mouthing off about something or other. Players taking a national anthem knee (NAK, for short). President Trump’s “problematic” rambling. Commissioner Roger Goodell under siege from, well, everybody. Bet it makes you fellas long for the good old days when all you had to worry about was Janet Jackson’s nip slip. Where’s faithful Hodor when you need someone to hold the door against relentless attackers?
Then you made it worse.
In May, you implemented a childish policy about how grown men must respond to the national anthem: a player can stay in the locker room during the anthem, but if he takes the field and then protests, the team and the player can be fined. Oh, Dear Owners. You stood at the precipice of history tasked with deciding whether to choose the principles of the US Constitution over profits of commerce, patriotism over pandering, morality over mob mentality, promoting social justice over pushing beers. Sadly, you blinked. Courage, it seems, is expected only of players.
Now, following the Miami Dolphins channeling of the abusive students in Stanford Prison Experiment by over-punishing protesting players, the May agreement is frozenand new negotiations have begun, this time including the NFL Players Association. A kneejerk reaction came on 26 July when Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones announced he would require all players to stand during the anthem – or else. President Trump was not too busy with his tariff wars to claim a personal victory: “Way to go Jerry. This is what the league should do!” (Too busy to put in that comma after “go,” though.)
It’s been two years since Colin Kaepernick first took a knee to protest systemic racial injustice, especially police brutality, against people of color. The worst thing about that isn’t that two years later we’re still debating whether players have the right to protest, it’s that not much has changed regarding what Kaepernick was protesting. A 2018 study by Harvard and Stanford economists from the Equality of Opportunity Project concluded that black boys raised by wealthy, two-parent families in upscale neighborhoods still do not have the same earning potential as low-income white boys. As for police brutality and shootings, where President Obama oversaw vast reform of local police departments, President Trump has advised police offers to rough up “thugs” and “Don’t be too nice”. Although racial minorities are only 37.4% of the population, they account for 62.7% of unarmed people killed by police. Just bad luck? Some studies show that in video game simulations police officers are quicker to shoot black suspects than white suspects, revealing subconscious racial biases. Even after a “bad cop” is fired, most simply are hired by other police departments. Given all that and much, much more, taking a knee during the national anthem is the epitome of restraint.
Read more at The Guardian