Are you like me and tired of all this discussion on NFL National Anthem protests – protests designed to bring attention to police brutality towards blacks by having players sit or kneel for the National Anthem prior to games?
What police brutality has to do with the National Anthem is beyond me, outside the symbolism of patriotism. They seem like two separate issues. But NFL players have linked the two together and now the players, coaches, owners, and NFL Commissioner are all baffled and befuddled by the response from fans. The players have unwisely linked what the general public considers a desirable action (standing for the National Anthem) with an undesirable action (police brutality) confusing their message.
Even we confused the message. This article should be titled NFL Police Brutality Protests – but we did it on purpose to make a point.
A Real Protest Requires Sacrifice
If you want to protest police brutality why not organize a protest at the local police station? But, that would take time and effort. I’m skeptical of any movement, cause, or protest that does not require participants to make a sacrifice – as in time, money, and effort. Not standing for the National Anthem requires the players to only – not stand. That’s it. Not a sacrifice.
Not standing for the National Anthem takes no effort, no additional time, no money – and thus to date – no reward, no advancement of their cause. Players have to go out of the locker room and onto the field whether they sit, kneel, or stand for the National Anthem. It’s not like they are going out of their way to protest by not standing during the National Anthem.
When you think about it what the players are doing is a rather feeble attempt to bring attention to a cause they claim they believe so strongly in. They should be embarrassed that this “not standing strategy” is the best they can come up for their cause. Which makes me wonder if police brutality is their real objective.
If you had no knowledge of the protests you might conclude some players are simply too tired to stand during the National Anthem. Their actions are a miserably feeble attempt to protest. What we have is the “lazy man’s protest.”
Contrast that to taking time off work, spending your own money to travel to Washington, DC to participate in the Million Man March – – and then actually march. The NFL Players are protesting during the National Anthem because it takes no effort and because there are plenty of eyes watching. But now the networks are in some cases not televising the National Anthem. So much for million of eyes watching them make a statement.
NFL Players and Domestic Violence
The NFL players’ protest of police brutality may attract more sympathy and support if a low, yet substantial segment of its members (relative to the general population), were not engaged in domestic violence. “Brutality by police is not acceptable, but we would like to abuse our wives and girlfriends” they seem to be saying. See this article published in Sports Illustrated in 2014 on NFL players arrested on domestic violence.
The NFL needs to clean its own house first. Once they do that then they can come down on law enforcement for not cleaning its house. Right now the players look like hypocrites – no – they are hypocrites.
The Real Killers of Blacks
The biggest threat to an African-American is not a police officer. His fellow African-American is a bigger threat, but not the biggest threat. Ninety-three percent of black homicide victims are killed by other blacks. In 2015, 6,000 blacks were killed by other blacks. In the same year, 258 blacks were killed by law enforcement (some of which would be considered in self-defense).
Guess what? Poverty and racism are not the reasons for black on black crime according to the linked article. I’m sure police brutality does occur at times. But, it’s not the top killer of the African-American community.
The Biggest Threat to Blacks and Everyone Else
You might say that 258 deaths a year from police guns is too much, and you may be right. Let’s put that number in perspective. That number pales – pales in comparison to the 685 people that die every day from medical mistakes. Two-hundred and fifty thousand (250,000) patients die each year from medical mistakes according to this report. (The link is active though there is a line through it.)The biggest killer of the African-American, Hispanic, Asian, and Caucasian communities are doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and others that make up the medical team.
Knowing this makes the NFL players protests seem even less relevant than they already are.
Freedom of Speech
What gives me the right to write this article? It goes beyond the First Amendment. I have the right to write this article because this website is a private entity owned solely by me. Yet, I could censure myself or fire myself for writing this article. I can restrict or not restrict what is written on this site.
If this site was a private entity with five owners and we each owned 20%, and if three or four objected to the article, they could force me to take the article down. I also could not post this article on our medical practice website (private corporation) without clearance from our Board. In each of those two cases my “right to free speech” can be restricted.
The NFL is a private entity. It can restrict players’ freedom of expression – and it has in the past. Below is a recent list of forms of expression the NFL has restricted.
- In 2012 the NFL had an issue with Tim Tebow kneeling for each game to pray. They also made him take off John 3:16 on his eye blackout.
- In 2013 the NFL fined Brandon Marshall for raising awareness for people with mental health disorders by wearing green cleats.
- In 2014 Robert Griffin III (RG3) was forced to turn inside out his shirt that said “Know Jesus, Know Peace” as he entered a press conference.
- In 2015 DeAngelo Williams was fined for wearing “Find the Cure” eye black for breast cancer awareness.
- In 2015 William Gay was fined for wearing purple cleats to raise awareness for domestic violence.
- In 2016 the NFL threatened to fine players who wanted to wear cleats to commemorate the 15th anniversary of 9/11.
Corporations that pay athletes endorsement fees universally have moral clauses in those contracts that essentially allow a corporation to cease a relationship with an athlete it that athlete’s behavior or words are felt to be detrimental to the corporation.
Speech can be restricted by private entities. The right to free speech is not universal without boundaries. And, it is never without consequence. Even this article is not without consequence. Not going to NFL games or watching them on television is a form of free speech and protest, too. And, one that requires more sacrifice than what NFL players are doing by not standing for the National Anthem.
Weak NFL Owners
I don’t have a problem with players protesting police brutality if that is their real claim and objective (I suspect it’s not). But, they should do it on their own time and on their own dime. And, I am shocked that owners have not said as much along those lines. The league and owners seem to be playing both sides of the fence as they try to find a happy middle ground. But that is the surest way to create more confusion and prolong an unnecessary distraction that may end up negatively impacting the bottom line. It’s not wise to cut off the hand that feeds you.
I suspect the owners do not want to take a strong stance against the players’ protest in fear they may alienate some of the players. Are they afraid these athletes are going to quit football because their perceived right to free speech has been abridged, and then start driving a school bus the next day? Is that what they fear? What else are these players going to do that will enable them to make the kind of money they make playing football?
In other words, the owners are in the drivers seat whether they realize it or not.
The $64,000 Question
The NFL and/or its owners are well within their rights to shut down or limit the current NFL players protest — if they really wanted to. What is different about this current protest or freedom of expression and those listed above the NFL did squelch? There doesn’t seem like much difference, because there isn’t much difference. Something odd is at play with the current protests. Even with plummeting TV ratings the NFL is sitting pat. Why?
Here’s my “conspiracy theory.” Unlike the other forms of expression (the NFL restricted) that were grassroots attempts, this one is not, even though it may seem that way. This is a top down attempt with big money behind it. Colin Kapernick’s isolated protest a year ago gave someone an idea. To me this smells like an attempt to create more racial divide in this country in attempt to weaken it brought on by the same big money behind the Ferguson and Baltimore police riots.
The other grassroots demonstrations listed above had no racial element to them. This one does – police brutality against blacks. Whatever the force behind the protest, it probably has “threatened” the NFL and the owners if they stop it. Something bigger than the NFL is behind these protests. I would not be surprised if we find that the players/protesters are being paid – that is their sacrifice.
Just my 2 cents on the $64,000 question. Whatever you may think, I think we can all agree, something odd is going on with these protests. Things are not adding up.
How About this Solution for the NFL Protests?
Here’s my solution. Each NFL team has a bye week. During its bye week players, and even an entire team, if so strongly motivated, should organize a protest at local police stations and invite its fan base and other members of the public to protest police brutality along with them. That would be a more effective way of protesting.
As it stands not much is going to be accomplished by these NFL protests if only one very small segment of the population – a population that is viewed as unappreciative of the opportunities they have been given to showcase their talents and make significant sums of money – is behind the protest.
Here’s a better idea. How about a protest that affects people of every race, creed, sexual orientation, and ethnicity – a protest that would garner broad support? Why not protest against medical mistakes?
Either form of protest would send a more powerful message than this game within a game NFL players are currently playing. If I am right with my “conspiracy theory” then the NFL players involved are merely pawns in this game – and most don’t even know it.