The NFL responding to the overturning of Roe v. Wade by not saying a word was a maddening yet predictable PR outcome. It was never a multiple choice, “What will the league say?” question. It was more of a true-or-false statement along the lines of “The NFL will stare at their feet, not say a word, and hope no one notices.” (True.)
The spine of the most popular sports league in America again turned to sludge, but people did take notice, including Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, who went off on the league. Here’s a portion of the post he penned.
“The NFL likely prefers to exercise its right to remain silent on this issue because The Shield has become intertwined with notions of God and Country. And the lines between God and Country continue to blur, as our democracy teeters toward theocracy. As our democratic utopia veering farther into authoritarian dystopia.”
It’s a pretty damning takedown, especially when you factor in that the company Florio works for is a business partner with the Shield. I’m sure a lot of NFL players are debating on whether to weigh in for the reason Florio outlined: The NFL’s popularity is so pervasive that it has fans on both sides of the aisles.
Taking a stand (or a knee) is seen as courageous or self-righteous, and there’s not a lot of room for a gray area. Even the most visible players to support women’s rights did so tepidly.
Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow shared a thread illustrating specific cases why abortion should be a constitutional right.
I’m not going to rip the guy too much when he’s one of the few football players of consequence to say anything at all. At least Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray tweeted out his own words.
I don’t know if I’d refer to Damien Harris as a “Patriots star” like the Patriot Country website did, but he also voiced his support via Twitter.
Again, I’m not slamming these players — or the other, less notable NFL’ers that I didn’t mention who also spoke out. It’s impossible to be universally loved while staunchly sharing your political opinions in this climate. And who knows, perhaps they’re not informed enough to outline the many cons of Roe v. Wade being overturned like USWNT member Megan Rapinoe did.
Take Burrow for example. This isn’t the first “controversial” issue he’s addressed recently as he also was one of the many people horrified by the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
I wouldn’t put that statement in the same category as the one Steve Kerr made, when he was almost moved to tears during a rant about gun violence. However, it’s a start, and Burrow’s stances are certainly bolder than not saying shit in fear of upsetting fans.
It’d be nice if he said, “You know what, instead of making these crazy guns harder to get, maybe we should just outlaw these crazy guns.” If you were playing word association, and “AR-15” was mentioned, “mass shootings” would be the response like 99 times out of 100. But it’s oddly refreshing that Burrow mentioned gun reform at all.
(Also, did you notice what account shared that clip? None other than the NFL’s own Twitter handle. Unreal.)
I understand it’s a massive ask to expect football players to speak eloquently about abortion rights like Rapinoe, or get emotional over gun reform like Kerr, or put their careers on the line to combat police brutality like Colin Kaepernick. It’s difficult to risk a lucrative playing career when the issues don’t directly affect your daily life, and it’s even harder when you don’t have the backing of your employer.
This is what the NFL looks like in 2022, though. There is no hiding. Roger Goodell isn’t swooping in to take the brunt of the blowback. Staying silent is as much of a stance as speaking out. What you say and how you say it will be politicized. At least Burrow, Murray, and Harris chose a side.
That’s more than anyone can say about the NFL — who, yet again, picked capitalism over decency.