Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
The NFL should avoid controversy and drop the National Anthem from pre-game ceremonies. Image: Getty
The NFL should avoid controversy and drop the National Anthem from pre-game ceremonies. Image: Getty

The NFL says it is sorry.

The same league that pushed back and punished Colin Kaepernick for his peaceful protest against police brutality and social injustice now wants to join in and help the same cause.

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Incredible.

Hard to believe how much has changed since 2016 when this struggle first started.

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If the NFL is serious and really wants to do its part to allow its players to help force change for black and brown people in an unjust society, it should lead with action and not just words.

First order of business, eliminate the playing of the national anthem before each game.

Don’t say wow! Or no way, no how.

It would be symbolic. Best of all, it would serve two purposes.

It would show that long-standing traditions can end, and it’s not the end of the world. Better yet, it would show the rest of America that the NFL, an iconic part of this country’s history, was embracing change.

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And that, brace yourself, the good-ole boys finally get it.

If the NFL could make such a drastic change in ideals and principles, how couldn’t others follow its lead?

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And for the players, it would also ease the pressure on them coming into this season. They can just be themselves and do what they want without worrying about other people’s reactions.

When Washington RB Adrian Peterson was asked if he will kneel during the national anthem this season, he said, “Without a doubt.”

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Peterson won’t be alone.

Just look at the people in the streets all over America — from the biggest cities to the smallest towns. This is a movement that isn’t going anywhere.

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Let’s be honest. It won’t be a question about if players will kneel this coming season. The question will be who won’t. Those who don’t will be looked at as not being with the movement and against change.

The flag narrative is no longer a viable option as resistance. Just ask Saints’ QB Drew Brees. He went from standing up for the flag and his grandfathers’ service in the military to walking it back in just 24 hours as many came after him with the heat.

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By making this change, the NFL will be getting ahead of this instead of reacting to it. Make it so it won’t be an issue for fans or the players.

And prior to 2009, many players stayed in the locker room and weren’t required to come out onto the field for the national anthem.

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But then the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Guard began paying NFL teams millions of dollars for displays of patriotism before each game, and giant U.S. flags that stretched across the field and military flyovers became the norm.

Yes, patriotism for a price. In 2015, in a statement released by Sen. John McCain and Sen. John Flake, the Department of Defense gave teams $6.8 million in taxpayer money to honor the military at games and events the previous four years.

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Shameful.

But it wouldn’t be the case if we just skipped the anthem altogether. Honestly, when you think about it, it’s really not that radical.

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Most Americans don’t stand for the national anthem before they start work every day. You would be hard-pressed to find any. The anthem doesn’t play at the theater, so why sporting events? And covering games for the last 34 years, I’ve endured my share of renditions.

Either way, it doesn’t make a person any less of an American citizen.

The Pledge of Allegiance used to be a staple in American schools. It’s hardly used anymore.

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Sometimes, the patriotism narrative often feels like it’s draped in racism. Minorities — people of color and different ethic backgrounds — make up 40 percent of the military. And that’s an amazing number when you think most of those people often don’t get the same benefits in life as their white counterparts.

Being patriotic isn’t exclusive to being white.

And if the NFL wants to keep its 70 percent white fanbase happy and its 70 percent black workforce even happier, just take the anthem off the table for now. It will eliminate a potential huge headache on the horizon.

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When we reach the time when, indeed, that national anthem does reflect the life for all people in this country, the NFL can add it back. And you can bet, there wouldn’t be a resistance — not even from Kaepernick.

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