New Season; Same Protest

Kristen Hazzard, Sports Editor

A powerful protest in the sports world has caused a political uproar.

August 2016

Colin Kaepernick, the former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, began his protests on the field in hopes to end police brutality and racial inequality in America by sitting on the bench and later kneeling during the National Anthem. Since then, a majority of the NFL teams have participated in the protests. Participating players faced backlash when critics said the demonstrations were unpatriotic, however, some Americans said that the players were exercising their First Amendment right. However, some would say president Trump’s words escalated the issue further when he criticized the athletes.

May 2018  

The NFL enacted a new anthem policy that all players stand during the National Anthem and if the players kneel then the team will be fined and have the option to discipline the players. The policy was approved by all NFL team owners in the league who were eligible to vote. Despite the approval, not all of the owners agree with the policy. Steve Tisch, owner of the New York Giants, Robert Kraft owner of the New England Patriots and Jeffrey Lurie owner of the Philadelphia Eagles criticized both the policy and President Trump’s involvement.

In a statement by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, he wanted everyone to be respectful to the National Anthem by standing, but also allow the players to have choices. Although the policy gives the players an option to stay in the locker room, it doesn’t specify what qualifies as disrespectful. The end result of the policy is that protesting leads to fines or suspensions and fines could affect the players’ wages and hours. From the looks of it, the NFL won’t directly discipline the players, however, teams are now authorized to punish the players. Goodell also said, “It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic. This is not and was never the case.” The league anticipated that the rule would calm the unrest within the country so that they could focus on the game, the athletes and fans.

July 2018

The fairly new policy faced obstacles in July when the NFL met with the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA). Both parties agreed to hold off on the policy until a better resolution could be found and no new rules regarding the anthem are issued until further notice. Both parties met face-to-face again on July 27 and released a joint statement. “A short time ago, the NFL and NFLPA concluded a constructive meeting regarding the anthem policy and the very serious social justice issues that have been the basis of some players’ protests. We are encouraged by the discussions and plan to continue our conversations.” There was no permanent solution released after the meeting and the policy is on hold as preseason began. Once the standstill was rolled out, President Trump continued to criticize the athletes and the NFL and the controversy lingered as politicians politicized the issue.

August 2018

Preseason kicked off and not much had changed since July. While the NFL and NFLPA were still in talks with each other, several players continued to kneel or raise a fist during the anthem. The protests became more controversial and politicized since the demonstrations started in 2016. The president continued to involve himself in the conversation by tweeting, “The NFL players are at it again…wanted to show their ‘outrage’ at something that most of them are unable to define. They make a fortune doing what they love…Be happy, be cool!… Find another way to protest.”

September 2018

Super Bowl champions, Philadelphia Eagles, faced the Atlanta Falcons for the season opener in September. With the NFL policy still in limbo, players continued their demonstrations into the regular reason. Sam Acho, linebacker for the Chicago Bears and NFLPA representative said to the Chicago Tribune, “We come from so many different backgrounds and experiences, so it’s going to be hard to figure out one solution that fits everyone. But the great thing about a team is when you do something for your brothers, you’re doing it for yourself. And so even if you don’t believe wholeheartedly in some issues, you believe in your teammates, so you do it for teammates.” Even athletes with opposing views have banned together to figure out a solution to the controversy.

As the regular season started, Nike signed Colin Kaepernick to be the face of their 30 anniversary of the Just Do It campaign. Despite his involvement with the NFL protests, he signed a multi-million dollar deal. In the ad, Kaepernick said, “Believe in something. Even if it costs you everything.” Nike wanted to create a new meaning to the Just Do It phrase for the next generation. Believing that by adding an influential figure like Kaepernick he might help energize the movement. After the announcement was made, some customers destroyed their Nike apparel in protest while others applauded the company and Kaepernick.

Students Athletes Speak Out

Sam Toney (Basketball)

“During the anthem, out of respect to a player on the team who is from a military family, we lock arms … they’re doing it for a reason … they are grown men who are entitled to their own beliefs. If you’re going to protest it has to be unified and you have include the team on the decision. The movement has opened people’s eyes and brought light to the issue.”

Ariana Scrimo (Softball)

The protest(s) have started to open people’s mind and eyes. Politicians have harmed the issue more than help it. They have taken away the potential that the movement could have had.

Georgina Rayo (Volleyball)

The issue has steered away from police brutality to something else. Some try to find a way to not make the issue about the actual issue. There should be unification within the team before making the decision to protest … you have to be in that position to make the decision.




This story was originally printed in The Gothic Times, Issue 2 of Fall 2018.