While President Trump continues to denounce the NFL, specifically the “sons of bitches” who protest police brutality against people of color, 87 black people have lost their lives this year due to police shootings.
Last year, black lives taken by the police represented 23 percent of total police shootings, despite only making up 13 percent of the population in the United States.
In response to these protests and Trump’s intimidation, the NFL has given players permission to stay in the locker room during the playing of a song enshrined in pro-slavery sentiments. However, any player who publicly kneels during the national anthem will also cause their team to be penalized, fined, and sanctioned in a decision overwhelmingly missing the point.
The new policy, which was decided in a two-day meeting by the league’s thirty-two owners without consulting the NFL Players Association for input, is an attempt to quell tensions between the league and respectability crusaders before the start of the new season. After two years since the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, sat and later kneeled during the national anthem back in 2016 to show his disapproval towards police violence and America’s mistreatment of people of color, 58 percent of voters don’t think players who kneel are being unpatriotic according to the Quinnipiac University poll.
And yet, the policy indulges the president by stripping the context of why these players are kneeling in the first place, and imposes patriotism, or a lack thereof, in its place.
Shortly after the announcement to strip players of their First Amendment rights, Trump canceled a White House annual event meant to honor the winners of the 2018 Super Bowl after it was revealed that only a small group from the Eagles had intentions on attending the event. The White House released a statement regarding this unfriending by stating that the Eagles—a team that never actually knelt during the anthem—“disagree with their president, because he insists that they proudly stand for the national anthem, hand on heart, in honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country.”
Once again missing the point.
Kneeling during the national anthem and the American flag is not an attack on the troops and fallen soldiers, it’s a way for athletes to use their platforms to demonstrate their frustration towards police violence. It’s a critique of America and the symbols we glorify to mean unity and freedom, while disproportionately at the sake of black lives and other minorities. And the president’s crusade to make it about anything else is tone deaf to the issues plaguing minorities in this country.
And while you can’t weigh whose life is more significant, it’s one thing to die while fighting to protect your country. It’s another to be shot while holding a pellet gun in a Walmart – or while holding a cell phone in your own backyard.
There’s no honor in being told to “fuck your breath” by those who are meant to serve and protect.
Protests are supposed to be uncomfortable because they highlight the flaws and injustices stitched in this country’s fabric. Redirecting players who are rightfully upset with what’s going on to the confines of a locker room to pacify the president and regain viewers shows that you’re not listening, or are choosing not to care. Black lives matter more than your game, your flag, and your song.
So be uncomfortable for the two minutes it takes for athletes to kneel during the national anthem, it’s shorter than the time it takes to get justice for these deaths. If at all.