The NFL Took a First Step but has a Long, Long Way to Go
How do you make up for decades of indifference? How do you explain your history while at the same time trying to make the public understand change does need to be made and your previous stance was wrong.
The NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell took that first step last week and for the most part garnered some praise for doing it.
Mind you the NFL over the past few years had and in some respects still continues to have some 'splainin' to do. But at least admitting you were wrong about your stance on racial injustice and your public stand about bringing attention to it is at least a start.
Goodell's response came after pressure---extreme pressure was applied by a slew of its most high profile black athletes came via social media, rightfully demanding the league say or do something.
To his and the leagues credit, there was a response. But the question remains: Did it go far enough?
The decision to take a knee to protest the mistreatment of African-American's by police was in theory a strong statement but one needed. Until it got hijacked by politicians and became a lightning rod pitting those claiming to be angry over the gesture allegedly denigrating the American flag against those who tried speaking its true intent which was to raise awareness of a societal problem that to this day still hasn't been fixed.
Over the past two weeks, the conversation over the systemic mistreatment of black Americans by police and so many others has taken on a life of its own. And yes, it's been an issue long before the horrific death of George Floyd by a white police officer. For years, black Americans have tried peaceful protests, complaining, lawsuits and more to raise attention to the problem. For years those measures have been either ignored or twisted.
The NFL remains the biggest influence in sports today and the injustice it put on former San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick is mind boggling in its complete and utter tone-deafness. Kaepernick's willingness to make a quiet statement--while not always handled well on his part, cost him his career.
Despite what NFL Team Owners have said, there was a tacit understanding nobody wanted the publicity that came with Kaepernick. The league and ownership denied it...and eventually settled with him. If you don't believe that, read this article here from former NFL Spokesman Joe Lockhart.
At minimum. And I mean minimum. Roger Goodell owes Kaepernick an apology. The league needs to admit what we already know, they blackballed him for the stance, largely based on fear of comment and pressure by "Fearless Leader" and his crazed, bizarre and idiotic Twitter feed (yes, it's a political statement).
If the NFL REALLY wants to convince the public they are serious about trying to listen and believe that a drastic change needs to be made---have a team sign Kaepernick. Have someone give the guy a job. The NFL is a league where guys like Brian Hoyer, Case Keenum, David Blough, John Wofford and Blaine Gabbard have jobs. And we can certainly debate just how good Kaepernick is, but the guy started as QB in a Super Bowl.
It also would not hurt if owners like Jerry Jones (fearless leader supporter) and others renounced some of the things they said over the past few years and made attempts at unification. Any kind of gesture to show you are serious about affecting long overdue change in the racial nightmare known as the U.S would be a strong statement and strengthen the NFL's position.
The NFL itself should be prepared to see a majority of players kneel during the anthem assuming games are played in 2020. I believe they will be. I believe they will be prepared to deal with the fallout from fearless leader and his acolytes. They have to be. At this point in time, there's no turning around.
Like many, NFL Athletes are finding their voices and making super strong statements for change. They will not expect the status quo when it comes to helping push change. Nor should they. The time to ignore systemic racism by the most high-profile Professional Sports League in America has passed and the NFL along with its owners and players can and I believe will do more.
The time is now, the players have already made their stance clear. The league has taken the first steps towards making their's clear. It's time to see if both sides can and will move forward and be agents of change.
Together, there's no reason why they shouldn't win....