I was planning to write about the news that the brain of Aaron Hernandez showed he had CTE at age twenty-seven, and when the time is right I will cover concussions again, but things have been somewhat overtaken by events in the United States and in particular the comment by Donald Trump at a rally on Friday night.
The patriotism of your average American often looks strange, at least to my eyes, not having grown up pledging allegiance to a flag, or having the national anthem played before every sports game. There are cultural and historical reasons for these differences and I don’t have time to go through them all here.
However, the argument surrounding players kneeling to protest social injustice escalated when Donald Trump called for players to be fired if they knelt for the anthem, and that people should leave games if one player knelt. Sadly, Trump knows what he is doing, and is playing to his supporters, whilst disregarding a powerful part of America’s history.
The players that knelt are exercising their constitutional right to peaceful protest, and yes for some this is troublesome because of the importance of the flag and anthem. Yet no one can deny that this has sparked conversation in a country that appears to be increasingly divided. The use of peaceful protest is what drove the civil rights movement in the sixties, and it is saddening to see Trump denounce these actions in a way designed to increase division.
There are those that will decry the entry of politics into their sport, and will complain that they come to football to escape the world. To an extent I understand why you might say this, but given the reaction and what is happening in America these conversations are too important not to have and if anything, I can see more players kneeling this weekend in reaction to the President’s comments.
It is all too often that the players of a sport have their humanity overlooked, with us focusing on their actions on the field, and their failures off it. However, NFL players have a long history of charitable work, and you only have to look at the actions of JJ Watt in reaction to the flooding in Houston to see what a powerful force that can be.
Sadly Colin Kaepernick is already paying the price for being the spark last season, and whilst I don’t believe there is official collusion by the owners to shut him out of the league, the idea that Kaepernick is not worthy of a roster spot in the league is simply not true. The movement he started though has continued, with engagement on the issues by many players running alongside continuing protests.
The eyes were already going to be on the NFL this weekend, but it will be more than football that occupies our minds, and frankly under the circumstances, that is at it should be.