I have never supported the NFL, nor been a Vikings fan. I could barely remember what sport the Timberwolves played when people in Croatia were excited that I was from Minnesota and mentioned our team. I dislike football because of the research revealing the high incidence of sexual violence and football players. I am saddened by how many ex-athletes have life-long physical and mental health issues because of how the experiences either on the field or in the spotlight affected them. The issue of concussions is a travesty and shows how greed and ambition trumped the welfare of players, who despite their wealth and fame, were still pawns in the great monetary game of sports. I am opposed to how much money these athletes make when caretakers, teachers, and other educated people in our society make so little, when working class people have to struggle so hard, etc. It isn’t just that I don’t usually enjoy watching these popular sports (once in a while I do enjoy a game if kind of forced to watch because of a situation), but I also oppose them for political and social reasons.
But what the NFL players and owners are doing now is worth commending. Our lousy president’s continued, childish Twitter responses reveal his racism, his lack of understanding more than one side of an issue and how he doesn’t want us to think about his failing presidency, the inability of the Republicans to repeal the ACA, or the dangerous path he is leading us on with North Korea because of his insistence to take things personally instead of to be a unifying, democratic, diplomatic and conciliatory leader. In response to Trump’s horrific tweets about a protest against racism in juxtaposition to his tweets about some Nazis being nice people, the NFL players and owners have bravely continued to peacefully exercise their right to protest racism in our country in an extremely visible setting.
I adjure the NFL players who have so much wealth and visibility to also use their power and influence to work toward a better America, a more racially and economically just America. Some already have and currently do philanthropic work, and I hope more of them follow suit. But when members of the NFL kneel to protest racial injustice, lock arms to show solidarity with those who choose to practice their right of free speech or otherwise make a statement, this is a brave move, one that comes from their hearts and probably from much personal consideration. Their actions raise awareness about the racism of the White House, our president, and of institutions and far right groups across America. These actions of protest may spur others to action as well. Our flag and national anthem symbolize the freedoms we hold dear in this country – freedom of speech, of protest, and of the press. Unlike Trump, these players are not insulting veterans or families of veterans. America is far from being a equitable country, and if this is how some want to make a statement about the very real injustice in our land, then I commend them for it.