As many people have noticed the players in the NFL have not been standing for the national anthem. This is to protest the racial injustice in this country. Many people have different opinions on it from they should respect the flag and stand up, to this is not the right time to talk about this, to supporting the players and their goals.
This week, Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, said any player who does not stand will not play. President Trump has already weighed in on this issue with the request if any player refuses to stand they should be removed from the team. Next week, the NFL Team owners and the Commissioner are going to meet to discuss what to do about the protests. It is widely anticipated they are going to try and force a rule change to end the protest and either force players off the field or make them stand for the national anthem.
If we look at this issue from the owners point of view, the players are employees which need to follow the company line. It is not uncommon for employers to limit employees speech when it comes to the company. For example, you can’t go around telling people all of the flaws with a product your company is producing, or about trade secrets of your company. From the owners point of view, the stadium belongs to them, the players are their employees, and the protest could be contributing to the decline in their bottom line. Viewership, ticket sales, and merchandise are all lower this year than last year (although they were already on a downward trajectory before the protests started).
For the players, they see how African Americans and minorities are treated by the police. There are daily stories about unarmed African Americans being shot, while at the same time Caucasian people are doing the same things (and sometimes worse) but are not being shot. It is known that people can receive radically different jail sentences based on the color of their skin. These players have worked all their lives are at the top of their profession and are trying to make people aware of this major issue.
There is a lot of history to back up the players’ actions. Muhammad Ali used his platform to not get drafted and protest the war in Vietnam. In the 1968 Olympics, Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in the air to show support for black power and racial injustice. NBA players wore shirts with the logos “I Can’t Breathe” in 2014.
We put these players on pedestals. We have posters of them in our bedrooms. We make them give press conferences. Reporters constantly ask them to give statements and information. Now that the players are telling us what they think about real issues that occur off the field and people suddenly have an issue with it. We simply can’t say we want freedom of speech but “just not yours,” or “not right now.”
The players have a message and it is a message we all should hear because if we don’t hear it we cannot learn. If we don’t learn then we will never evolve. If we never evolve then we will never be able to transcend our issues.