Emily M. DeArdo

writer

Kneeling, Standing, Sitting....

essaysEmily DeArdo2 Comments
I'm going to hide under the covers until the NFL controversies are all over....

I'm going to hide under the covers until the NFL controversies are all over....

While I'm on a controversial topic jaunt, I might as well address the NFL thing.

Here are my questions: 

What are the players who are kneeling trying to accomplish?

and

Is this the best way to accomplish it?

My answers are, I'm not sure anymore, and two, no. 

I think all this started with Colin Kaepernick wanted to protest police brutality against unarmed black men, and support the Black Lives Matter movement. OK. He has a right, as an American citizen, to do that. I'm not generally a fan of "awareness" campaigns; for example, I think we're all aware of autism, breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, etc. by now. The general public does not need to be made aware that these things exist. But let's leave that for a second. 

Some people have the idea that free speech= "consequence free", "say what I want any time I want to say it" speech. Much the same way that your right to extend your arm ends where my nose begins, protesting something on company time, and/or while representing a team/country/group, can get you into trouble. 

NFL players are citizens, and they have the same rights as all citizens do. But when they wear the uniform, when they go out to play, they are representing their team. And most teams, and most leagues, and most businesses,  have rules about appropriate behavior when you are on "company time". 

Which leads me to point two: this is not a good way to bring attention to the matter. First off, most people watching don't care what the players' political causes are. Let's just be honest. When people go to a game or a concert or any entertainment event, they usually don't want to hear the political stylings of the actors/athletes/entertainers involved. A famous example is the Dixie Chicks, circa 2005. Most people just want to be entertained. If people wanted politics on Sunday afternoon, they'd be watching CNN or MSNBC or FoxNews, not The NFL on CBS

So, any attention brought to these causes, during these protests or whatever, is negative attention, especially when it is done in a way that is sort of classless. One can discuss a cause that is close to one's heart during a concert or something. I've attended concerts where the artist has spoken about her love of the environment and protecting it, or the artist's particular charity. That's one thing. To do it in a way that is not quite so full of comity is a bit...gauche. And also, it's not productive. It completely turns off people from what you're saying to how you're saying it. 

 When you are an athlete who decides to take a knee during the national anthem, which holds a fairly sacrosanct place in American public life, you are most likely going to get backlash. If you're going to protest during a game, could you choose any worse time to do it? I think not, just from a PR standpoint, or even a common sense standpoint. 

If racial injustice/ police brutality is something these players wish to draw attention to, that's great. Do it on your own time, guys. It's not like any of you lack for a bully pulpit, should you choose to take it. If you genuinely care about a cause, then start a foundation. Give press conferences. Make speeches. Visit the mayor, the governor, Congress. Do it in myriad other ways than refusing to stand and salute the flag of the country that, with all its issues, is also allowing you to make millions of dollars a year playing a game.  The fact that you can do that, that you are doing that in America is sort of amazing in and of itself. And, oh, those millions of dollars? Are sort of dependent on not irritating the people who come to watch you.  Ask the Dixie Chicks how well politicking from the stage helps you to sell records. 

There are many ways to make a positive contribution to our political life, and there are many ways to protest. This is not a productive one. No one wants to see the host of Face the Nation  on The NFL Today. No one tunes in to the pre-game show to hear what Bill or Terry or Boomer or Shannon have to say about politics. They want to hear them talk about defensive schemes and coaching changes. If you want political commentary, you're watching a news channel, not sports. 

The argument can be made that people should be disturbed, they should be shaken up, by these things going on. OK, again, fine. That's a legitimate point. But there is a time and there is a place and there are much better tactics that will serve to make your point, other than refusing to stand for the national anthem. Think about other, more constructive options. Because what's happening is, attention isn't brought to the cause. Attention is brought to you, making it look self-serving and egotistical. 

Because right now, we're not talking about any Big Issues. We're talking about which team had the most players kneel during the opening of a football game, played in the Wealthiest Country in the World, by guys who are getting paid millions to catch, or stop people from catching, a ball. 

(And if you want to make your point, please don't wear socks that have pigs dressed as cops, because that's just horrible bad taste, and keeps you from making your point and helping your cause. )

**Just a side note: I don't mind that the players get paid a lot of money. It's a basic principle of economics. They do something a lot of people can't do, and a lot of people will pay a lot of money to watch them do it. I'm just using it to illustrate the point that they have a lot of resources at their disposal that could be used to further any cause they care to champion in a more positive way.