On Tuesday, NFL owners plan to gather in New York to hear from players and NFL Players Association representatives on the divisive issue of players standing for the national anthem. The NFL reports that it will try to develop a strategy to build unifying bridges with players and assist with their social-justice causes.
This comes on the heels of the news that quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who first sparked this debate by sitting for the national anthem last August, has filed a grievance accusing NFL teams of improperly colluding to keep him out of the league. SB Nation has a comprehensive timeline of Kaepernick’s national anthem protest and the athletes who joined him.
Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, here’s some of the most interesting recent takes on the debate:
ON THE BUSINESS OF FOOTBALL
Earlier this year, many people called for boycotting the NFL all together, including Philly.com writer Karen E. Quinones Miller.
The idea of boycotting the NFL is particularly interesting from a business perspective, according to National Review columnist David French. “The National Football League is the highest-revenue sports league in the world, and it has the richest television deal in the world. To maintain that level of dominance, the NFL needs an enormous number of eyeballs watching. It has to have red and blue,” he wrote. “The NFL is one business that truly can’t afford to alienate half the country, not without shrinking to a shadow of its former self.”
NFL advertisers have also been the subject of scrutiny. Alabama.com writer Roy S. Johnson encouraged readers to boycott the NFL’s top advertisers, including Verizon, Toyota, and Southwest Airlines.
ON THE 2017 SEASON
Though Kaepernick has not been on the field in the 2017 season — which is why he’s filed a grievance against the NFL — protests have continued, which was no surprise to some writers. “That Goodell didn’t see this coming, repeatedly declining to come out with full-throated support of Kaepernick’s cause in this era of racial discord, is a testament to how willfully blind some people are about the reach of racial injustice in this country,” writes the Sacramento Bee’s Erika D. Smith. “This isn’t some niche issue of ‘identity politics’ that can be ignored or mocked, any more than domestic violence is a niche issue for women – not that the NFL has done a great job of addressing that either.”
ON THE METHOD OF PROTEST
Some, including writers like Joe Coffman, wonder if the original reason for protesting — treatment of minorities by police — has been crushed by the method of protest itself. “The argument is no longer (if it ever was) about laying out facts, discussing them and following them to their logical conclusion,” he wrote in the Holland Sentinel “Instead it has devolved in name calling, character questioning and attempts to control the narrative on all sides. None of this leads to effective communication or resolution of differences.”
Chicago Tribune’s Clarence Page takes a related tack, arguing that the message has gotten muddled: “Taking a knee is an unfortunately vague way to express it. A vague message is easily misinterpreted and hijacked by critics who call it a protest against the nation’s flag and anthem. The problem is not so much in what the players are saying, but in what others are hearing.”
ON RACE AND PATRIOTISM
Is patriotism tied to being white? According to Michael Tesler, an associate professor of political science at the University of California at Irvine, the answer is yes. In an op-ed for the Washington Post, he presented research that shows that “racial resentment is also characterized by beliefs that African Americans are insufficiently industrious, obedient, and deserving — prevalent themes that Trump and his supporters tap into when they describe black players protesting racial injustices in America as disrespectful, spoiled, and ungrateful.” He goes on to say, “It’s certainly no surprise, then, that whites who held racially resentful beliefs were especially likely to be against NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem, well before Trump started commenting about the issue.”
FROM THE PLAYERS
Several NFL players have written on the subject, including former Army Green Beret and NFL player Nate Boyer, who penned two open letters. The first was to Kaepernick and he wrote: “Even though my initial reaction to your protest was one of anger, I’m trying to listen to what you’re saying and why you’re doing it.”
The second, addressed to “Every Single American,” wondered about the divisiveness of America. Boyer wrote, “To deploy overseas, train, live with, fight alongside, and ultimately defend foreigners that you have little in common with is truly a challenging task. But returning home to a country that is so divided, so judgmental, and so hateful of one another is almost as difficult to deal with as burying a fallen comrade.”
Eagles’ safety Malcolm Jenkins has worked with politicians and community leaders to improve relations with police and advocate for criminal-justice reform. Earlier this year, Jenkins told Daily News columnist David Murphy, “This is a moment that will go down in history. It’s up to our country to say where it goes.” Jenkins also penned a column for the Washington Post to highlight the work done by the Players Coalition, a group of more than 40 NFL players formed to take strides toward improving the criminal-justice system. He said that it is time to turn attention from the demonstrations and turn “to the issues and work to be done in cities across the country.”
ON THE ANTHEM
Lauren Hart sings the national anthem before every Flyers home game, and has sung it for all pro sports teams in the city, as well as for NASCAR, Formula One and a presidential inauguration. She is also the mother of four black children. She weighed in: “If you are offended at the kneeling, say so, and then ask yourself: How do I make this better so a grown man doesn’t have to kneel down in front of all of America just to be heard?”
For more Opinions from Philly and beyond, visit Philly.com/Opinion.