The NFL’s Week 3 anthem protesting was quite the spectacle.
Entire teams locked arms and many players kneeled. Owners came out to the sidelines to stand with players. A few teams refused to take the field.
Last year, this would’ve absolutely infuriated me. I was among the first to jump at players kneeling, and all summer I defended teams for not wanting to sign Colin Kaepernick after his role in starting the protests.
I still believe that it’s unpatriotic to protest the National Anthem. After all, we sing it to remember and honor those who have sacrificed so that we may live free.
But after President Trump called any anthem protester a “son of a [expletive]”, and after seeing the way the whole league came together in Week 3 as a result, my view of the initial protests has changed.
I thought once that maybe there was a better way to protest, that these athletes could avoid disrespecting America while still getting their point across.
The “I can’t breathe” shirts that NBA players wore, the ESPYs speech given by NBA superstars, the kneeling all seemed selfish to me, and the kneeling was also unpatriotic.
Personally, the anthem is sacred to me. I do wish it was something for which everyone would stand. I love this country and am grateful to all those who have sacrificed for our freedom.
However, the players do have the right to freedom of speech, and their protests harm no one. There’s nothing more American than being able to stand up for what you believe in (or in this case, not stand). And while I wish players protested in a different way, I also realize that perhaps there’s not a more publicized time and place to protest.
At the same time, I also think many of these players may be missing the point. I can say with certainty that the owners who stood with their players definitely missed the point.
While the display of unity was certainly impressive, I think it’s important to realize the motives of these protests.
Shannon Sharpe went on a tirade about this, and I think his words are telling.
“It’s almost like they are uniting against [Trump trying] to attack us...are you [the NFL] showing unity? Are you showing solidarity against racism?... Or are you showing solidarity against President Trump and what he said, his attack on the NFL…[Trump] called him an SOB. And that shocked the conscience.”
Sharpe goes on to discuss some of the other controversial things Trump has said, and points out that none of these statements brought about any form of retaliation from the NFL.
It’s certainly interesting that this was the tipping point, that many owners and players never said a word prior to Trump’s “attack” on the NFL.
And it’s fairly apparent that most of the Week 3 protests were not motivated by actual care for the injustices, but were rather about sticking up for employees and colleagues.
To see that the owners and players care immensely more about making a statement and being unified than they ever have about the social issues brought up in the initial protests is unfortunate.
Because we’re all in the same boat. Whether you think there’s injustice in America or not has become irrelevant. We’ve gotten so caught up in how these protests are conducted that we’ve failed to actually address the issues they bring up.
Time will certainly tell if many of these players and owners do feel strongly about the issues in the same way that Kaepernick and the few others do, or if it was simply a one-time reactionary demonstration. If Week 4 was any indication, it will definitely be the latter.
Hopefully in the meantime, the protesters can find a less controversial and more impactful way to protest.
Because it’s unlikely that there will be much of a conversation on the actual issues as long as the protests continue to divide us as Americans and football fans.
Tyler Dean is a junior studying business administration.