There are not enough words that can be typed about the most historical day for activism in sports.
200 NFL players took part in the form of protest during the national anthem. That is real brotherhood no matter the skin color.
One player started to protest alone back in 2016, how did it this far?
President Donald Trump called out players who kneel throughout the anthem, saying any “son of a bitch” who kneels ought to be fired. Well, he said it in Alabama; I guess he assumed no one would notice? That did not sit well with either players or team owners in the NFL. The players were irate shouting back at the president on Twitter, leading to the flood of teams issuing statements supporting their players’ right to speak their minds peacefully.
Let me share this, the position of mom in the NFL locker room is real and sacred. Calling athletes who play a physical sport of this caliber “SOBs” can even offend football players who play at the pop warner level.
That enraged Trump, leading to a twitter war blasting the NFL and its owners on both Saturday and Sunday the day of the games (all while we have 3 natural disasters people are recovering from). So Trump, by criticizing both the NFL and its players, managed to bring both owners and players together, and also managed to spark the protests to unheard-of levels.
Calling citizens who exercise their right of freedom of speech (which I am starting to realize benefits a few in the land of the free) is mind-blowing moreover I am not surprised it came from the president who on record have said worse.
The term freedom of speech is used so loosely. Free speech isn’t freedom from consequences. Players are free to say what they want, but they can suffer consequences from that, including booing, loss of sponsors, even loss of a job (exhibit a: Colin Kaepernick).
“Free speech” only protects you from government intrusion. Now, Trump’s comments about how the players ought to be fired starts to crash up against free speech protections. But do you think he even cares let alone knows that? The players can say what they wish, when they wish and must accept the consequences.
I learned from Fortune who shared analysis of public documents found that, of the 28 teams that played Sunday in the heat of the controversy, at least 5 are owned by people who have donated to either Trump’s campaign or inauguration committee, with some providing checks as big as $1 million.
Donors who have defended their players include Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots (who issued Trump a Super Bowl ring); Shahid Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars; Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins; Robert McNair, owner of the Houston Texans; and Jimmy and Dee Haslam, who own the Cleveland Browns.
All have either criticized Trump’s comments about their players in public statements or stood on the field with their team during the anthem. The Tampa Buccaneers and the New York Jets have connections to Trump donors as well. These owners have to right to do what they want with their money moreover they should face the backlash but it is easy to hide behind money.
Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has loudly and proudly been supportive of Miami Dolphins players who use their platform to fight for social change. Ross was one the first owners to make a statement against president Trump’s foul words.
In a prepared statement, Ross wrote:
“Our country needs unifying leadership right now, not more divisiveness. We need to seek to understand each other and have civil discourse instead of condemnation and sound bites. I know our players who kneeled for the anthem and these are smart young men of character who want to make our world a better place for everyone. They wanted to start a conversation and are making a difference in our community, including working with law enforcement to bring people together. We all can benefit from learning, listening and respecting each other. Sports is a common denominator in our world. We all have the responsibility to use this platform to promote understanding, respect, and equality.”
Ross has publicly supported Dolphins players Michael Thomas and Kenny Stills to name a few, who knelt during the playing of the national anthem before every home game in 2016 to protest the way police treated African-Americans.
No surprise by the owner’s support. He Founded in 2015, the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE). Who he defines as a nonprofit organization dedicated to harnessing the unifying power of sports to improve race relations and drive social progress.
It fascinating that Kaepernick was close to being on this Dolphins team before the season and he would have had the support from his owner. Yet, these protests have become larger than the individual who is out of sight.