Writer: Kyle Pearson
Spending Sunday’s watching football is a weekly ritual for most Americans. However, with recent protests reaching an all-time high in participation, many fans are at a crossroad. Donald Trump stated that, if an NFL owner saw one his players kneeling in protest during the National Anthem, he should make that “son of a bitch” leave the field. The NFL responded with an immense unity with not only players, but coaches and staff protesting injustice. This form of protest is bringing many who are for the cause closer together while also dividing the nation for people who believe that players should stand for the National Anthem. With this division established, it seems everyone is taking a side that will in some way affect the NFL.
Kaepernick started the protest as an expression of activism for the black lives lost due to police brutality. Targeting the National Anthem has definitely grabbed the attention of nearly the entire United States. Raising awareness for an issue so socially impactful can cause serious change; which, is starting with the way fans enjoy the game itself. It is important to realize that, as an employee, you have a right to protest in the workplace, however your employer also has the right to terminate your position, which in Kaepernick’s case did end up happening.
For those who are for the protest against the National Anthem, this new-found sense of unity has allowed the protest to grow tremendously and grab the attention of everyone, even those who believe players should stand for the National Anthem. While the unity is admirable in many ways, some argue that the display is both disrespectful (especially to those of whom have served years in the military under those red, white, and blue colors) or a misuse of sports entertainment. This is where the dilemma lies. Both sides have a point and the justification needed to prove that point. Perhaps football is not the most appropriate way to stand against police brutality and other issues, but that does not mean the issue should go unresolved. Some players are finding themselves with seemingly no choice but to join the protest. Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, announced he “will not tolerate any disrespect to the flag or the player will be benched”.
One person that is at the ultimate crossroad is NFL player, Alejandro Villanueva, who is an Army veteran and a player for the Pittsburgh Steelers. It is understood why a US veteran would stand for the national anthem, a respect that the country shows veterans, and the respect veterans show to the national anthem. After Villanueva stood alone for the national anthem, a video went viral. He released a statement to the press saying how he did not mean to divide his team and that he is thankful he has teammates willing to talk about it. The fact of the matter is that there is no right or wrong in the situation. It is circumstantial to each person’s own morals and experiences.
Some sports bars have resulted in posting signs stating, “As long as players kneel during the national anthem, no games will be played.” at their locations. While the players continue to kneel, the viewership is declining; which, ultimately pays their salaries and could cost them in the long run. As many people refrain from watching the football games to avoid being upset by players protesting, viewership will vary much more than when just a handful of players would participate. Only time will tell how this will affect the NFL and one of the most favored American pastimes.