In early May, the NFL owners passed a new policy that requires every NFL player and other personnel on the field to stand for the National Anthem, or stay in the locker room.
NFL owners and now its commissioner, Roger Goodell, believe that the silent, peaceful protests of players, like a Colin Kaepernick, are unpatriotic because it calls out the myth that everyone is equal in America.
DESPITE THE PROTESTS, THE NFL IS STILL A COMMERCIALLY VIABLE ENTITY
Black athletes make up over 70% of the players in the NFL. Moreover, no black people are majority owners of the ANY NFL team. In 2017, at the height of the silent protests, the NFL reported $14 billion in revenue. In 2016, the revenue was $7.8 billion. The league double their revenue in one year. Increasingly lucrative TV licensing deals are cited as a major factor in this revenue increase. Perhaps the lucrative nature of these TV dealsis why brands like Papa John’shave severed their relationship to the NFL, citing a loss in sales.
BLACK SOULS AND BODIES AS AMERICA’S STEPPING STONES
Despite the billions of dollars these black players bring to the NFL, they are not respected as human beings. In fact, this anti-protest policy highlights the fact that the NFL cares nothing for values or patriotism, just profits. An NFL player can earn millions of dollars, but is not encouraged to learn how to manage those millions. An NFL player can beat his wife on camera, and suffer only a temporary suspensionin the NFL. Colin Kaepernick protested state-sanctioned violence against black and poor people and is still not playing for the NFL. Perhaps the NFL did Kaepernick a favor because companies like the NFL have never cared about blackness as a whole, only the revenue blackness produces.
SEPARATION OF GOVERNMENT AND COMMERCE
Before the anthem policy change, Commissioner Goodell stated that he did not believe the protests were disrespectful to American citizens. So why is he okay with presenting the image of patriotism, while effectively silencing players? Players who make billions for him and league by telling them the only option they have is to protest in obscurity in their locker rooms or face steep financial penalties. Please keep in mind that Goodell and the team owners voted this policy in withoutthe consultation of the NFL player’s union, which is against the new policy. The union says it will challenge any part of the “policy that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.” Furthermore, after President Trump tweeted:
“Sports fans should never condone players that do not stand proud for their National Anthem or their Country. NFL should change policy!”
So, does that mean that corporations just do what the President says in order to stay on their good side? As a millennial, I have been taught that the government is about protecting the people, but in my adult years I see that that is not an automatic given.
In order for the government to be about the people, the people have to keep government accountable. We can reverse this trend of the oligarchical government we’re living in, but as consumers, we have to check our values. Do we value entertainment over proper government representation?
This NFL policy is more about keeping corporations happy and keeping the government off its back than Americans “respecting the flag.” What makes America great is the citizen's right to speak against injustices they see in the world. If we really want to make America great, we have to hold steadfast to our constitutional rights and hold each other accountable.