So what are the marching orders for week four of the NFL? Watch or don’t watch?
It’s a bit confusing. After all, before President Trump trashed the NFL last week, protestors were calling for a boycott of the league.
Now Trump has been calling for a boycott.
So what does a protestor do? Watch now, in defiance of the president? But if they watch, won’t they be defying their own call for boycotts?
And what about Colin Kaepernick?
Those protestors who had sporadically supported Kaepernick’s national anthem kneel — and demanded his hiring back into the NFL — found out last weekend that they may have chosen the wrong way to deliver their message.
But now that message has been warped and twisted and doesn’t resemble anything Kaepernick was doing when he began kneeling on the San Francisco 49ers sideline during the playing of the national anthem before games.
Don’t think so? Look at the latest cover of Sports Illustrated. It features NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NBA commissioner LeBron James — who muscled his way into the debate when Trump rescinded the White House invite to the NBA champion Golden State Warriors. Which happened after Steph Curry expressed doubts about making the visit. When the Warriors were disinvited, James posted on his Twitter account that Trump was “a bum.”
The eyes have left the prize, and the debate is off the rails. It’s being called the “anthem” protest by much of the media, and the message that Kaepernick said he was trying to deliver — protesting injustice, racism, police brutality — has been buried.
Last weekend turned into an NFL marketing campaign, with owners locked in arms with players in various positions on the sidelines.
You think Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was on his knees because he believes in Kaepernick’s message? You think Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder was locking arms with his players because he supports Colin Kaepernick?
“Football has always served as the great unifier, bringing people together to celebrate the values of courage, commitment and achievement,” read the Redskins statement shortly before the start of the Sunday night game against Oakland at FedEx Field. “We are proud of the players, coaches and fans of the Washington Redskins for all that they have done to improve the lives of others in neighborhoods all across our region.
“We are also grateful for the sacrifices made by the brave men and women of our armed forces that have provided us the freedom to play football. In that great tradition, the Washington Redskins will work to address divisions and bring unity, civility and respect to our greater community.”
You see Donald Trump’s name in there anywhere? Colin Kaepernick‘s?
No, the show of “unity” throughout the league was about protecting the league — “The Shield” — after Trump not only called for the firing of players who refuse to stand for the anthem before games, but also said their product stunk.
I know the media locked arms with Goodell last weekend and, like Sports Illustrated, declared it some sort of “unity” victory, but the reality is that this is a political win for Trump.
You may not want to judge it that way, but you can be sure that is the way the White House judges it — especially when they see polls that show nearly two-thirds of Americans polled believe players should be standing for the playing of the national anthem.
Kneeling for the anthem may have been a nice, silent protest by Kaepernick. But as a movement, it fails miserably.
We’ve heard from a lot of flag and anthem experts who must have been right there, next to Betsy Ross, stitch for stitch, putting the flag together, or in a Baltimore cell with Francis Scott Key as he wrote the lyrics to the anthem. We’ve heard from a lot of experts who have told people how they should think about the flag and the anthem. A lot of patriotism experts.
The reality is that the flag, the anthem and patriotism are as emotional — and subjective — as you can get as a protest symbol.
Some protestors who were trying to deliver the original message may see the flag as a symbol of failure and oppression.
Some NFL fans, though, likely see it as a symbol of pride and sacrifice and can’t get past the perceived insults to that pride and sacrifice to hear what the protestors were saying. Their feelings are no less valid than those who have knelt.
So how confused has all this become?
They are carefully guarding Ray Lewis’ statue outside M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore because Baltimore Ravens fans have reportedly threatened to vandalize it because Lewis knelt during the national anthem last Sunday before the Ravens game in London.
Lewis, who was once charged with two counts of murder before pleading guilty to obstruction of justice for his role in a homicide investigation from a 2000 Atlanta nightclub incident, said he was kneeling to pray, not protest.
The once-accused murderer with a statue celebrating his career is now being targeted by those who helped raise that statue because he knelt down to God.
• Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.
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