Let Football Be Football
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, say, ‘Get that son of a b**ch off the field right now, out, he’s fired!’” These are the words of President Donald Trump regarding the recent escalation of football players protesting the national anthem and the red, white, and blue flag of the United States.
When one thinks of the National Football League of America, thoughts of grown men grimly giving up their bodies in bone-crushing hits, breathtaking displays of athleticism, and adrenaline pumping action come to mind. Well, those are the thoughts that used to be conjured up.
Nowadays, instead of discussing whether or not the Kansas City Chiefs are finally a team to be taken seriously, people are ranting about President Trump and the complete and utter lack of respect for the national anthem, the flag, and everything the United States stands for. Things that should never even be remotely correlated with the most popular sport in America.
The flag protest spiraled from one which had meaning to a petty bout of immaturity between players in the NFL and President Trump. Trump makes a comment and more players take a knee. Trump retaliates with additional childish tweets and teams stoke the fire by skipping the anthem completely. These protests are beginning to resemble a playground squabble more than anything else.
How did this entire fiasco begin in the first place? On August 14th, 2016, Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers sat for the national anthem during a preseason game to protest what he considered racism in America. Kaepernick’s movement spread throughout the league like a wildfire on a dry savanna; more and more players linked arms or knelt as the national anthem played to prove their point, sparking up controversy and igniting anger in the hearts of fans and people across the country.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview on their website. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.” The entire protest should’ve stopped after these words were uttered. Kaepernick said it himself: “This is bigger than football.” For this reason, why bring politics into the sport at all!?
NFL players are among the highest regarded athletes, wielding influence as well as high levels of cash. Just look at J.J. Watt of the Texans who raised $37,098,248.00 for Hurricane Harvey relief. Men and women died for the flag of our country; surely players and coaches can find a better means of creating change than by disrespecting the heart and soul of America.
Many have appeared to jump on the Trump bandwagon of the NFL protest debate. To put things in perspective, social media shows fans burning their jerseys, destroying season tickets, boycotting their teams, and cancelling their non-refundable NFL Sunday Ticket subscriptions (there are rumors that DirecTV fully refunds people who complain about the anthem protests). Fans are on the side of the flag and its honor; the current best-selling NFL jersey, according to CNN, is none other than Alejandro Villanueva of the Pittsburgh Steelers, a former captain in the United States Army who stood alone for the anthem with his hand pressed against his heart to honor the country he served, the only man from his entire team.
Should Trump have opened his mouth about what he felt to be a colossal disrespect to our country? The point is debatable at best. But the protests shouldn’t have entered the league in the first place. Maybe somehow the tide will shift and changes in the country will be made, effectively eradicating Kaepernick’s legacy. But as that doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon, the protest should be taken somewhere else by the players who can make it happen. It’s time to clear the turf of politics and let football be football.