Apparently, the only way to play professional football these days entails blasting Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” at full bore whilst waiving Old Glory like a 4th of July sparkler.
At least that’s what the NFL is seemingly proposing when it handed down new guidelines two weeks ago on how its players will conduct themselves during pre-game ceremonies this season.
In case you missed it, the league’s new guidelines require players to stand while the “Star Spangled Banner” is playing. Those who don’t wish to stand during the playing of the National Anthem can wait in the locker room.
That way, true blooded patriots can proudly beat their chests without the sight of a player kneeling in protest of the social and racial injustices that are, in fact, happening across the country. Or the players who are opposing a warmongering Commander-in-Chief whose disreputable personality has allowed racism and bigotry to go unchecked.
Because if you don’t acknowledge something is taking place, it’s not really happening at all, right?
As a minority, the NFL’s recent policy changes outrage me and many others.
Simply because it’s an about-face for a league that, for at least a little bit, tried to give players a chance to voice their opinions on a platform they help to create.
Make no mistake about it – this was a calculated public relations move by NFL owners aimed at pacifying a jingoistic audience that can’t bear to see the sight of people, especially those of color, voicing opinions they don’t agree with.
To put it more simply, the league is afraid its bottom line will be impacted by players who don’t show their patriotism.
Except this isn’t patriotism. Hell, this isn’t even American. It’s fascism, plain and simple.
Yes, the NFL is a business entity and they have the right to make the rules for their players. But one has to believe athletes should have the chance to voice their opinions, too, on a stage that’s been used for generations to showcase political statements.
If other organizations had followed the NFL’s footsteps, John Carlos’ iconic Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics would have never happened. If Branch Rickey followed the mindset of today’s NFL owners, Jackie Robinson might not have ever seen the field.
Both of those moments, which at the time were ridiculed for their unpopularity, have shaped today’s modern sports landscape.
For the NFL to say sports shouldn’t be a platform for athletes to voice what’s happening in their lives, in their communities, is downright unpatriotic.
And if the NFL’s argument is based on concern for its image, where the hell were they when they kept denying the mental and psychological impact of playing the game?
Because, for as much as NFL players put on the line each week to the tune of millions of dollars in endorsement deals and TV contracts, the league should rightfully give back.
That, my friends, seems to be only fair.