by Thomas U. Tuttle
For a while now, the NFL has been the Titan of Sport, at least in this country, surpassing our National Pastime of baseball in terms of fan intensity, TV money, fantasy leagues, and of course various troubles.
As if finding out that some 90 percent of former players have brain injury from concussions related to playing the game wasn’t enough, lately it has been under real threat from a national anthem controversy that has escalated into a political football of considerable proportion.
While quarterback Colin Kaepernick initiated things last year by deciding not to stand for the anthem (in fact taking a knee) the situation has been escalated by president Donald Trump’s decision to involve himself in the controversy and make some political hay with his core supporters.
This, of course, does not sit well (no pun intended) with many players in the league, particularly African Americans, and has given the controversy distinctly racial overtones.
Various demonstrations of kneeling, sitting, crossing arms, etc…are now taking place on a weekly basis in various NFL cities, with the rallying cry among black and minority players being a unified protest of various social ills in America, and police brutality in particular. Sunday afternoons have become a platform for protest of perceived American inequities.
Before Trump opened his mouth the controversy was centered on Kaepernick and whether he was a victim of collusion between the owners to keep him out of the NFL. There are those, including associates of GDG, who have thrown around the word “blackball” to describe the QB’s predicament.
On that score, it seems to me there are two sides; Kaepernick is a one-time Super Bowl QB for San Francisco, whose exceptional performance against Green Bay in the NFL championship game stands out in my mind. Of course, that was five years ago, a long time past in football years. And, SF went 1-15 last year, before jettisoning CK and his $14 million dollar contract after the season. Despite a decent QB rating (90+) during that horrific season, no one has picked him up for 2017.
(…and now it is likely that no one will, given that he has hired celebrity attorney Mark Gerragos, who usually does criminal work but apparently couldn’t pass this one up. He has helped accused pedophile Michael Jackson, shoplifter Winona Ryder, woman wacker Chris Brown and murderer Scott Peterson – well, the latter not so much…)
Probably the last straw for Kaepernick was when the Tennessee Titans signed QB Brandon Weeden on October 3rd, a player who CK no doubt feels is inferior to him. So he decided that it was time to pull the trigger on a private effort to seek recompense for his perception of being ostracized.
That is his belief, not mine. I do not think that the owners have colluded to keep him out of football, and the onus is on him to prove it. That is because the collective bargaining agreement dictates there must be clear evidence of nefarious action and I’ll be darned if anyone, Geragos included, is going to prove that accusation.
Of course, the situation has grown much larger than one man. The owners are meeting in New York this week to try and find a way to move past a controversy that Commish Roger Goodell believes is alienating many fans from the NFL game. This situation has grown into a big deal and is threatening to cost the most financially successful league on the planet giant money. Time for serious meeting, indeed!
And whichever side you are on, it is causing a divide. My friend in Michigan is a serious Detroit Lions fan, but also a veteran who has strong words for the wealthy protesters on the sidelines.
John says, “do you think that the men who died for this country would take a knee to protest the few renegade cops who commit a hate crime? If you want to show your contempt for Trump or bad cops, continue to demand justice, start petitions, and mobilize voters. How can you shun the flag that gave birth to rights and freedoms people around the world can only dream about?”
He continued: “In spite of their disrespect, they can continue to receive their big salaries for playing a game on Sunday, while in many other countries, like North Korea, all they would receive is a bullet. What makes the difference is the American flag that flies over their stadiums.”
I can’t help but have empathy with a black community that has known suffering throughout American history. I’m not blind.
But I also know the pride my World War Two veteran father had for his flag. I’m glad that we decided on cremation years ago, because he would be spinning in his grave.