During the week of July 16, 2018, the NFL Football billionaire owners may have managed to inadvertently find their brains, profiles in courage, and their hearts.
Their recent move has to do with their latest policy regarding NFL players “taking the knee” as a form of protest against law enforcement’s unfair treatment of their Black brothers and sisters. The NFL owners agreed on a policy as a way to appease the president and his base of supporters’ complaints, but now this very same policy has been at least temporarily suspended for further review.
The NFL owners had bought hook-line and sinker President Trump’s racist, divisive song as they mollified the Bully-in-Chief living in the White House with its latest compromise ruling of not allowing the players to kneel but to remain in the lockers until the ending of the singing of the “National Anthem” before the games begin.
The story behind this headline started when the NFL football quarterback Colin Kaepernick with advice from one of our military heroes, refused to stand for the national anthem before games in a prior season to protest, he said, racial inequality and police mistreatment of African Americans in the United States. Those protests were taken up by other players and the controversy over them has been amplified this season even with Kaepernick out of the league,” with the help of the republican President Donald Trump. The US president decided to take advantage of this controversy to curry favor with his base of Evangelicals and racists by weaponizing this culture wedge issue, as another way to sow discord, mistrust and divide the American peoples.
Originally, President Trump had called on NFL owners to “fire” players who protested during the anthem, referring to them as a “son of a bitches.” At one point, as part of the president’s reality show, Vice President Mike Pence walked out of a game, between the 49ers and Colts in Indianapolis, citing players’ protests.
Conservatives en masse feel that the players not standing at a football game when the US national anthem is being played at the start, automatically defines them as unpatriotic ingrates who are dishonoring our country. Most democrats believe the opposite. They think that what makes this country great, is the right for peoples to to protest when a symbol, the American flag which represents equal opportunity, fairness, etc., is not measuring up to its promise, as when our Black brothers and sisters are too often, being treated unfairly when confronted by law enforcement.
Most of us reflect the thinking of this tweet from The Resistance @ nightlypolitics:
“You can support the police while supporting the black lives matter movement. You can be a patriot while respecting the kneeling NFL players. You can support immigrants while wanting a strong border. You cannot support Russia and Putin and call yourself an American.”
Here’s the rest of the story…
On July 20, 2018, Dave Zirin of the Nation penned the following report, “NFL Owners Blink, Suspend Their Anthem Policy” (“A firestorm over the Miami Dolphins’ penalties forced pro football to pull back on punishing players for national-anthem protests.”)
“The cabal of alt-right, morally decrepit billionaires that run the National Football League has officially blinked. The league, in a joint statement with the NFL Players Association, has announced that it is suspending—for now—its own recently adopted policy of fining or suspending players who don’t stand “at respect” for the national anthem, until further review. What accounts for the about-face? It was a tsunami of a backlash that flooded the land of the Dolphins.”
“According to a Thursday report by the AP, the Miami front office had drafted a new team disciplinary policy where players who protest police violence or racial inequity—or Trump, or the iron hand of the NFL executive class—during the anthem could encounter stark punishments. Players on the Dolphins would have faced fines and suspensions of up to four games. (This is a league, keep in mind, which just last month announced that it was suspending Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston for only three games for sexually assaulting an Uber driver). But within hours of the revelation, the Dolphins—and the NFL—were reeling.”
The owner of the Dolphins is Stephen Ross. In addition to being worth close to $8 billion, he is known for starting an organization called RISE, which, as journalist Aaron W. Gordon spotted, boasts on its website that it is a “nonprofit organization dedicated to harnessing the unifying power of sports to improve race relations and drive social progress.” Ross is also someone who said that he was in support of the players’ right to protest—or did before the orange smear in the White House started to yip. As he said in his deposition taken as part of the Colin Kaepernick grievance case, “I was totally supportive of [the players] until Trump made his statement.”
Stephen Ross deserves every bit of criticism coming his way. But his own exposed hypocrisies have arisen from the NFL’s broader approach to this question. At the risk of stating the obvious, the league’s punitive policy had nothing to do with the anthem, and everything to do with silencing black voices speaking out against police violence. Imagine if players said that they were taking a knee during the anthem as a tribute to the troops. No one would have blinked. This is about the political substance of what they are doing. The Dolphins were merely the first team tasked with submitting to the league what their punishments will be. As tweeted by ESPN’s Jeff Darlington, “31 other teams will submit similar statements to NFL declaring how they might potentially discipline players for any number of rules violations as they do each year. And now, all of them will be scrutinized for how they individually address protests. 31 more PR problems for NFL.” This is what the NFL now hopes to head off by stating that its anthem policy is back under review.”
“The NFL executives were also discovering their ham-handedness was causing a reaction among players beyond what they could handle. Tennessee Titans pro=bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey said he will continue to protest racial inequity during the anthem: “I’m going to take my fine. It is what it is, I ain’t going to let them stop me from doing what I want to do. If they want to have these battles between players and organizations, this is the way it’s going to be.” And that’s not all. When asked about the death threats received by his teammate Delanie Walker when Walker protested during the national anthem last season, Casey said, “There is always going to be blowback, that is what America is about. At the end of the day we got to do a job. But I will continue to use my platform to keep on speaking up.”
“Stephen Ross wanted to eliminate that platform. It will not happen without a fight. Here’s hoping that every member of the Miami Dolphins takes a knee at the start of the 2018 season, goes all “I am Spartacus” on Stephen Ross, and blows his desiccated mind. You can’t suspend everybody, but it would be hilarious to see him try.”