Quarterback Colin Kaepernick sent shockwaves through the NFL last season when he went down on one knee during the U.S. national anthem to protest the treatment of people of colour in the U.S.
Jump to this season. Kaepernick is unsigned, which has led to accusations of blacklisting by teams in the league. Yet players have continued with the peaceful protest.
President Donald Trump had words for the continuation of this act, in the form of 250 characters. The day after a Twitter rant and remarks at a press conference, NFL players responded when more than 200 kneeled during the national anthem.
I understand the message – a show of unity in a league of mixed races. I don’t understand why the league and owners would go against Trump and suddenly start supporting this action, begun by Kaepernick, that actually dropped ratings last season. Players, owners and the league were forced to act after Trump’s remarks. A firing of players would not benefit the latter. Instead a public display of defiance has benefitted the league in the eyes of the public. My worry is that this response will help the image of the NFL as opposed to actually helping bring light to an issue that is huge in the United States.
Trump began his rant against the NFL by saying: “If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!”
There were players throughout the NFL who supported Kaepernick last season and before the Trump tweets. On Sunday, following those tweets, every NFL team either linked arms, knelt or simply did not come out during the anthem. It took a comment from Trump to get everyone else involved in the pioneering act of Kaepernick.
Before this, players, coaches and owners just kept playing football, cashing in their millions and staying away from the mess. It took Trump to say something to incite an issue that has been around for decades. Why? Maybe it was the last straw for these players who were basically told by the president to just keep playing football and mind their business. Maybe they didn’t want to make it a big deal until everyone else joined in.
Since Trump’s run for presidency, the majority of entertainment and the media has been against him. After these comments towards the NFL players, what if the owners ignored these comments or actually acted upon Trump’s plea to fire protesting players? That wouldn’t be good for NFL owners or Commissioner Roger Goodell. The pressure was on to act.
Why not potentially cash in? Tell the owners how good it is for business. This has brought tremendous amounts of publicity for the NFL, plus it has made the owners look like they were standing up for unity of all their players. There was a three per cent increase in the ratings on the following Sunday. The Monday night football game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals saw a huge 63 per cent increase compared to last year’s game.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a Trump supporter, joined his team in kneeling to show that they “Can’t be divided.” Jones isn’t the only contributor to Trump. As reported by CNN, at least $7.75 million of the $106 million raised for Trump’s inauguration came from owners and the league, according to public records. Clearly there is support for Trump in the NFL. Trump is a businessman and the NFL is a business.
By dropping to a knee, Kaepernick brought an issue to the forefront that needed to be talked about. It is an issue that makes everyone uncomfortable.
In the back of his mind, Kaepernick wasn’t thinking about the impact the knee drop would have or that even though he was blamed for the drop in ratings last season it would come full circle and would turn out to be something that could help the NFL’s image. When this story starts to fade away from the news cycles, the blot on Kaepernick’s name will disappear and he will end up back in the league. It will be good for the NFL’s image.
Tre Lopushinsky, Sports Co-Editor