There is one position in football that means sure and utter victory. It is the one time where a loss is positive. It is even known as the “victory formation”. It is at the end of the game when the quarterback is hiked the ball and gets down on one knee. This is when the game is over and the celebration can begin. So why is it that taking a knee in football recently has been anything but a victory or celebration?
Last year Colin Kaepernick chose to sit down during the national anthem before a couple of preseason games. After speaking to Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former NFL player, he said that it would show more respect if he kneeled. His reason for doing so, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” He is still, to this day, without a job in the NFL. It is clear, based on the play of several quarterbacks, it’s not about his ability to play the position. It is about the stance that he is taking to bring light to the issue of inequality and injustice.
During week one and week two of the NFL season, more and more players began to kneel and peacefully protest. They wanted to keep Kaepernick’s ongoing message of social and racial injustice. Not only black players but white players started to join in. Most were also doing it because Kaepernick doesn’t have a job and is being black balled by the NFL owners. You even had high profile players such as Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers say that Kaepernick should be playing on someone’s team. NFL owners, some of whom donated to President Trump’s campaign, were against this kneeling. They felt it was unpatriotic and a lack of respect for the flag and the country. That was until Trump said that NFL owners should respond to players that kneel by saying, “Get that son of a b**** off the field right now, he’s fired. He’s fired!” That set off a chain reaction of 140 characters or less in social media. One after another of players and owners began to condemn Trump’s comments. Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said that his comments were “divisive” and showed an “unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL.” How would the NFL react outside of the “twitter fingers”?
The Baltimore Ravens played the Jacksonville Jaguars in London and they set the tone for the rest of the NFL games on Sunday. Several players took a knee during the playing of the national anthem. All of the players showed a sign of unity by locking arms during the anthem. The New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, and Miami Dolphins all had several players take a knee during the 1pm ET games. Owners for the Atlanta Falcons (Arthur Blank) and Detroit Lions (Martha Firestone Ford) joined their teams on the sidelines and locked arms with their players. The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t even come out till after the anthem was over. The Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans both chose to not take the field for the anthem for the 4pm ET game. It was clear that the push back was in effect from the NFL.
It is interesting to note that immediately after 9/11 and the Super Bowl games, players were on the field during the song. It started in 2009 that players were mandated to be visible during the playing of the anthem. However, the NFL makes it clear that “players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem.” That is why the players chose to express themselves by taking a knee. It is worth noting that one player; LeSean McCoy was disrespectful during the anthem. He chose to stretch off to the side of his teammates during the playing of the song. Many, for religious reasons choose not to stand. They will even sit quietly and respectfully until it is finished playing. McCoy could have at least done that. It’s funny how, just a few of weeks ago, he felt Kaepernick’s play wasn’t worth the “distraction” to have him in the NFL. I guess he all of a sudden had a change of heart, largely in part to Trump’s comments. Trump went on to say that, “if a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”
We will see in the coming days and weeks if the players will continue to protest, or if it was just a one-time thing for many of them. One thing is sure, Kaepernick still doesn’t have a job. And this debate of the anthem has turned away from its original purpose, injustice and inequality. It has turned to whether a person is patriotic or not. It has turned into a racial divide. If only we could go back to when taking a knee was all about a victory.