It had just died down. After what seemed like months of NFL Sunday’s becoming ever more political and even racial, the furor had subsided significantly.
Going into last Sunday’s games it felt like everything was back to normal. A huge television audience had tuned in to see New England against Tampa Bay last Thursday night. There was a massive late-afternoon contest between the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers to look forward to. Seattle and Los Angeles engaged in a fierce, defensive struggle for supremacy of the NFC West.
Best of all, the Indianapolis Colts were retiring the number of Peyton Manning, perhaps the most iconic quarterback of this generation. For anyone who has not experienced Lucas Oil Stadium during a Colts game, there is almost nothing like it. No fan base anywhere in the league (except for Green Bay and maybe New England) feels about a player, past or present, as citizens of Indiana feel about Peyton Manning.
Most fans were happy that the furor was dying down. Ever since Colin Kaepernick began protesting last year there have been thousands of NFL fans angry at the movement.
“Just give us our football,” they have said. People want football games to be their escape, to be the pressure reliever from all the stress of the week. The Give Us Our Sports And Nothing Else crowd has become increasingly vocal and, frankly, volatile as this issue has progressed.
Well, you folks had your football. Marquee matchups across the board. Iconic players being recognized. The bulk of en masse demonstrations were over. Sure, some guys were still taking a knee or standing in the tunnel. But, overall, the national press was sort of over it and things had died down.
And then Donald Trump and Mike Pence brought it back up again. Not the players. Not the media. Not the fans. Yet again, we heard the Our Country, Our Flag, Our Anthem rhetoric from Pence which is all just white nationalist code wording anyways.
We heard Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, prompted by Donald Trump, tell the national media that all his players would be expected to stand. Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, another Trump supporter, said the same.
Vice President Pence decided to upstage Peyton Manning’s triumphant and long-awaited return to Indianapolis with a race-baiting, highly political and premeditated stunt. Pence, with prompting from Trump, decided to get up and leave the Colts stadium as a result of what he said was players disrespecting our country.
But the truth is Pence was due on the west coast just several hours later and had always planned on leaving the game early, regardless of whether players stood or knelt during the national anthem.
It is one more way in which President Trump and Mike Pence have sought to divide the country along racial lines and continue to engage in antagonistic behavior towards minorities under the guise of patriotism.
For players around the NFL, the President and Vice President are making this a contest of wills about far more than the issues we started with. At first it was just to raise awareness about police brutality and inequality in our courts.
Choosing to make those protests during the performance of the national anthem was always an ill-fated, frankly stupid idea that was destined to cause more anger and divide in this country than the protest of the original issues honestly even warranted. Kaepernick and others should definitely have had the foresight to see that those actions would offend millions of Americans who would take challenging the bearing of the flag as an affront of all that we have fought for as a nation.
Fair enough. But we’re beyond that now. Trump and Pence have made it easy to get beyond the issue of police brutality or who is or is not a patriot.
President Trump makes it easy to decide what to do. If sitting or kneeling offends him, then honestly that’s what most people want to do. Because it’s no longer about the original issues. This President has hijacked all that. Now it’s about defying him personally.
Which is a shame, because communities across the nation are still being victimized by the killings of black youth and the iniquities of a legal system in which white power principals are legislated unchecked.
Now, because of President Trump, we aren’t even able to have that conversation. The conversation Colin Kaepernick was trying to have with the country.
Maybe the Cowboys and Dolphins players will stand. Maybe they won’t. Maybe it’s constitutional for an employer to force their employees to basically cater to the employer’s political views and stand. Maybe it’s not. Those things aren’t clear and perhaps aren’t even relevant.
What is clear is that all you folks out there telling guys to stand and shut up are in for yet another round of discussions and demonstrations.
You want your Sundays back? Just give you your football?
Ask President Trump for it back.