Yeah, I’ll weigh in. But I’m glad there’ve been a few days of the ridiculous back and forth on Facebook and within the punditry for me to see just how certifiably insane this alleged “debate” has gotten. While I’m under no illusion this column will change anyone’s mind, I am also hesitant to write it because the issue is charged with racism, a topic that should be very serious but is instead bandied about like two 5-year-olds yelling “are too, am not!” at each other.
First, let me say this for the record. I have absolutely no idea why President Donald Trump brought up NFL players and their silly, in-your-face, kneeling during the national anthem in his speech. While I like many things Trump has done since being elected, I don’t want to admit our president is that ignorant in trying to stoke votes in Alabama to put another partisan, establishment lackey into the Senate. But after listening to him, it’s hard not to draw that conclusion. To do it in Alabama shows even less savvy, even though the Republicans helped run out the real racists running that state back in the 1960s and 1970s. Although that good work was done, we all know who stole the story line.
This brings me to my second point. I have absolutely no idea why Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem before the football games in which he was privileged to play last year. I know what he’s said about it, but I have a hard time listening to someone who makes statements about violence perpetrated on certain select people while wearing Fidel Castro tee shirts and socks that depict our policemen as pigs. While my understanding of Kaepernick is that he’s done some great things in minority neighborhoods, Kaepernick can and should be called into question as to why he felt the need to push his agenda before, during and after a uniquely American pastime, especially during the national anthem.
In my humble opinion, those are the two starting points of what became much ado about nothing in the NFL. In this day and age of everyone demanding they be listened to and taken seriously, we have people showing time and again why they shouldn’t be taken seriously. Conversely, when topics range from trivial to moderately serious to serious to extremely serious, the opinions of one side toward the other are extremely important. And for the record, the Trump versus the NFL players fits into the first category.
But back to how most everyone today demands their opinion be heard. I find this the main reason why folks dive so deep into a “cause.” Since they feel they can’t be heard — for such myriad reasons as they have a beyond trivial point, they have no valid argument, people simply don’t care or their point is so obvious they don’t even recognize people agree — they become their cause. It identifies them.
Can this be affecting Kaepernick? Sure. I can see where he discovered his football skills were no longer a need in the league so he made this about his cause. Or conversely, he got so deep into his cause he forgot he was being paid to be a football player and a teammate helping his team. Can this be related to Trump? Absolutely. I’ve written many times about giving someone I see as a complete narcissist the power that comes with the presidency. I worry he will say and do anything to get his way. With the NFL, he’s gone over the top now in giving the players an even bigger sounding board for something they have little control over or care about.
Because that’s what this has become. Even if it once was, it’s no longer about some great “social justice” movement. This is about saving a brand, which is under duress from lack of leadership. Otherwise, why are Jerry Jones and other owners out there taking a knee with players about something the vast majority of fans are against? I don’t know about your business experience, but ticking off customers is usually on the bottom of most lists of things to do today.
There’s no question pro sports in our country suffer from fan fatigue. I point to players and owners using their positions in sports to promote and force a particular way of thinking as one of the root causes of why fans tune out. As I said, most people aren’t taking a seat at the table when the mind on the other side has already been made up and, worse, has labeled the one being invited. This is true when changing the name of a street, negotiating Middle East peace or taking a knee during the National Anthem.
I’ve been saddened during the conversation about knee taking to hear time and again only one side can be racist, only one side has been horribly wronged and the events and wounds of this country — that many have given their last full measure to correct — are worse than ever.
But that’s what happens when only one side of opinion matters. The NFL and our president would do well to understand that. To most, it’s just a game. Except in life, then it isn’t.