Collection of Thoughts on NFL Protests

A year into peaceful protests in the NFL, it looked like the protests were settling into a rhythm. Then President Trump attacked NFL players, challenged NFL owners and went after the Golden State Warriors.

The obliteration of any autonomy between sports and politics has sent shockwaves through my system as a journalist and sports fan.

This is a collection of articles, videos and comments that really moved me. I recommend taking the time to read every article and watch every video. This is a conversation of nuance and not one well suited for social media. To be well informed on any issue, you must see multiple perspectives.

I’m proud to be a patriotic American, where freedom extends to speech, journalism and protests. 

Bob Costas:

It’s in sports where this stuff happens; sometimes movingly, sometimes—I’d submit—cynically. Because wrapping yourself in the flag and honoring the military is something that no one is going to object to. We all respect their sacrifice. We all honor their sacrifice. And yet what it has come to mean is that the flag is primarily and only about the military.

This is no disrespect to the military, it’s a huge part of the narrative, but Martin Luther King was a patriot, Susan B. Anthony was a patriot. Dissidents are patriots.

Schoolteachers and social workers are Patriots.

Dale Hansen, WFAA Dallas:

Donald Trump has said he supports a peaceful protest because it’s an American’s right… But not this protest, and there’s the problem: The opinion that any protest you don’t agree with is a protest that should be stopped.

Martin Luther King should have marched across a different bridge. Young, black Americans should have gone to a different college and found a different lunch counter. And college kids in the 60’s had no right to protest an immoral war.

I served in the military during the Vietnam War… and my foot hurt, too. But I served anyway.

My best friend in high school was killed in Vietnam. Carroll Meir will be 18 years old forever. And he did not die so that you can decide who is a patriot and who loves America more.

The young, black athletes are not disrespecting America or the military by taking a knee during the anthem. They are respecting the best thing about America. It’s a dog whistle to the racists among us to say otherwise.

Jake Marsing, Radio Producer/Reporter, on Facebook:

I’ve spent a heck of a lot of time in locker rooms and around professional and collegiate athletes in the last two years. The last thirty six hours was unreal for every single person in my profession. There’s a lot of misinformation floating around out there. So, here’s what I know to be factual. The NFL didn’t actually have players out on the field for the National Anthem in regular season games until 2009, when the DOD started throwing money at the league to turn pre-game into a military commercial.

Here’s also what I know. Last year, when these protests started breaking out across the league, the Broncos had one player consistently kneel during the anthem: linebacker Brandon Marshall. Because of that protest, Marshall received numerous threats, including a vile and disgusting death threat that was sent to him at the Broncos facility. He chose to make it public. He talked with me, and several other media folks about how it impacted him…being called hate-filled names and being threatened with violence because he chose to exercise his constitutionally protected free-speech rights. Brandon Marshall is not an SOB. He’s not unpatriotic. In fact, for me, there can be nothing more patriotic than choosing to use the rights guaranteed to you by the constitution and using them on the platform you worked decades of your life to earn. I would not personally sit for the anthem. However, I’m thankful to every single athlete who does.

Alejandro Villanueva, Pittsburgh Steeler
Article by Stephen J. Nesbitt, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“This plan morphed to accommodate this tough moral dilemma that I had on my hands,” explained Mr. Villanueva, who served three tours in Afghanistan. As a result of a logistical mishap, he said, he ended up ahead of all the other players when the national anthem began. Cameras locked in on the player standing alone, his comrades hidden in the shadows behind him.

“Every time I see that picture of me standing by myself, I feel embarrassed, to a degree,” Mr. Villanueva said. “Unintentionally, I left my teammates behind. It wasn’t me stepping forward. I never planned to boycott the plan that the Steelers came up with. I just thought there would be some middle ground where I could stay in the tunnel [and] nobody would see me.”


“People who are taking a knee are not saying anything negative about the military, not saying anything negative about the flag,” Mr. Villenueva said. “They’re just trying to protest the fact there’s some injustices in America. For people that stand up for the national anthem, it doesn’t mean they don’t believe there are these racial injustices. They’re just trying to do the right thing.

Alejandro Villanueva: ‘I feel embarrassed’ by anthem foul-up

“So we as a team tried to figure it out. Obviously butchered it … I can’t tell you that I know what my teammates have gone through. So I’m not going to pretend I have the righteous voice, telling you that you should stand up for the anthem. It is protected by our Constitution.”

Catherine Bogart, Sports Reporter on Facebook:

I would like to clear some things up about NFL peaceful protests.

The kneeling peaceful protest started during the 2016 season bring attention to the direct targeting and violence against those in our country who do not have white skin. It is a protest against the bigotry and discrimination many Americans face every day due to their skin color.

Our troops and military fight for our freedoms every day. They are truly brave and selfless individuals. One of the freedoms they fight for is freedom of speech. This is what these players are doing – using their freedom of speech and right to protest. It is an incredibly peaceful demonstration as well.

These protests are NOT offensive or disrespectful to the military. It would be disrespectful to the military for us to tell an American they don’t have the right to use their voice or protest. A right the military fought for them to have. Many military members and vets have said they fought for these players to take a knee NOT to be silenced. YOU CAN SUPPORT OUR TROOPS AND THIS PROTEST. IT IS NOT ONE OR THE OTHER.

These protests are about bringing light to those of us who don’t face this discrimination. We are failing our fellow Americans. These players love our country so much they are trying to help us fix it. In return, we as a country are trying to tear them down, get them fired or tell them they’re not American. Five years ago the majority of people weren’t talking about direct racism, discrimination and targeting but now we are. Before we could hide behind our privilege. It’s time we stop hiding. It is time we change how backwards we have become with our fellow Americans.

If you don’t believe me listen/read/watch any of the post game interviews from players who participated in the protest yesterday. They all talk about how this protest to is be unified against hate in this country, how much they respect those who have served our military and how they have no intention of disrespecting the military.

Take some time today to listen to what is happening. If you believe in standing up to racism, bigotry, discrimination, xenophobia and hate, then understand that supporting these players and their protest is just the first step. It is time to make this country welcoming for all people, not just those with white skin.


Shannon Sharpe, Fox Sports Undisputed:

I’m disappointed. And I’m unimpressed, because this is the tipping point. Of the 7,537 things that President Trump has said in the last 50 years, him calling an NFL player an SOB is what brought the NFL, the owners and its players, together. And while some might be moved by the conscience of these NFL owners, it wasn’t their conscience that moved them. It was the cash.


Him offending Gold Star Families, nope. Him calling Rosie O’Donnell a pig. Him on the Access Hollywood talking about grabbing hoo-ha. That did not shock the very conscience of seven NFL owners. Skip, allow me a second to name those guys. One, Daniel Snyder. The guy who’s on your monitor. Jerry Jones, Bob, Mr. Bob Kraft. McNair, Houston Texans. Woody Johnson, Shahid Khan.

They gave a million dollars for the inauguration of President Trump. And now they seem to be shocked.

S.L. Price, Sports Illustrated

That exasperation bubbling beneath (Steve) Kerr’s two most urgent words—​Come on—signals something altogether new. Anybody who hoped to somehow insulate themselves in a world of bats and balls, ignore the anthem protesters and “stick to sports”, will not have it easy for the next few months, if not years. The same bafflement that you’ve been hearing from foreign policy wonks concerned about Russian meddling or Kim Jong Un, from activists still stewing over Trump’s birther claims or the firing of FBI director James Comey, from anyone disgusted by the Access Hollywood tape revealed last October, has now hit sports full force.

After hours of careful consideration, and even a visit from Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former N.F.L. player, (Colin Kaepernick and I) came to the conclusion that we should kneel, rather than sit, the next day during the anthem as a peaceful protest. We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.

It baffles me that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag and military personnel. We chose it because it’s exactly the opposite. It has always been my understanding that the brave men and women who fought and died for our country did so to ensure that we could live in a fair and free society, which includes the right to speak out in protest.

It should go without saying that I love my country and I’m proud to be an American. But, to quote James Baldwin, “exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

Adam Gostis, Denver Bronco, From Australia
Article by Ryan Koenigsberg

“It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, man,” the second-year man told BSN Denver in an exclusive interview. “I’m doing it for freedom of speech. If anyone wants to exercise their freedom through their actions, it shouldn’t matter. They’re standing up for something that they believe in. I love my brothers. I believe in what they believe in.”

“I think it’s about supporting your brothers,” Gotsis added. “Everybody has a right to do what they want. That’s what they wanted, that’s their decision, and I think everyone should have a free choice to do whatever they want without being scrutinized.”

Kate Feldman, NY Daily News Reporter
Twitter Thread of NFL & MLB responses:

President Obama on NFL protests last year:

I want Mr. Kaepernick and others who are on a knee, I want them to to listen to the pain that that may cause somebody who, for example, had a spouse or a child who was killed in combat and why it hurts them to see somebody not standing. But I also want people to think about the pain he may be expressing about somebody who’s lost a loved one that they think was unfairly shot.

Paul Klee, Columnist for the Colorado Spings Gazette:

On the surface, the NFL on Sunday looked like a divided entity. I saw the opposite. I saw a locker room united with black guys, white guys, all kinds of guys. I saw a postgame prayer united with black guys, white guys, all kinds of guys.

“We took that as a time to pray. Right now I thought that’s the best thing we can do,” Simmons said. “It wasn’t a jab at America and those who fight for our country. I have war vets in my family, man. Honestly, it wasn’t a jab at Donald Trump. We used it as a time to reflect on what’s important.”

I saw how America is supposed to work.

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