Currently, NFL players have been standing up to social injustice by either kneeling or putting a fist in the air during the National Anthem at the beginning of games. This has created a lot of discourse between those who believe that they should not be allowed to use their player status as a platform for protest, and those who believe that denying them their first amendment rights to protest is unconstitutional. This situation is divisive and no matter the outcome there will be critics on either side of the debate. This topic escalated when the president of the United States stated controversial viewpoints on what should be done about players protesting. It is deeply disturbing that the president would say such things about any private organization; the NFL, team owners, coaches, players, team personnel and even a few singers of the national anthem demonstrated in opposition to the president’s statements.
To begin, I know nothing of social injustice. I was born a half Italian and half German man in a world that, from my perspective, has no bias towards my background. In fact, I have been born into a prosperous station in this country during a time where all I had to do was study, work hard and I could succeed as long as I believed those goals were achievable. I can not fathom a world where I am ostracized because of ethnicity, ignored because of gender or punished based on sexuality. It pains me to think of these situations and I cannot pretend to have first-hand knowledge of these situations. However, I can empathize and voice my opinion. My goal is not to change your mind. My intention is for you, the reader, to empathize with a situation you’ll never experience. It is not necessary to argue if what the president is saying is wrong, the issue is that a majority of Americans believe players do not have the right to say anything at all. The location of the NFL protests seems to be the most appalling issue Americans have, “They should just play and not protest during football.” However, football draws more Americans than traditional institutions such as church, so where better to reach the majority of Americans to alert them to a growing social issue?
Regarding the NFL, the players on the field have worked extremely hard to achieve their status. Anyone who can elevate to said status, by defacto, are obligated to better the country because they have the platform to do so. For example, the Philadelphia Eagles Saftey, Malcolm Jenkins, raises his fist during the national anthem. This drew equal amounts of attention and criticism, however, Jenkins is leading by example. Off of the field, he is also involved in social justice debates with local city offices and even traveled to Washington D.C. to discuss solutions. In my opinion, his actions are truly American. Using his status, he risks his popularity and position to bring attention to social injustice while remaining true to his convictions, both on and off the field.
Like Jenkins, the NFL respects the fans as we fuel the machine, but understand that you do not know the battles people fight daily to stay above water. These men, while paid millions of dollars are not entitled because they earned their positions. Consider that from a young age they have worked day in and day out for the opportunity to play for these organizations. These players, they have put more blood, sweat, and tears into earning these positions than most people can imagine. It could be argued that they are obligated to be informed and have a viable viewpoint on current issues in our country. This obligation also comes with the responsibility of action. Their action items should be carefully considered and tested to see if they work and then maybe we can start to rebuild our institutions to include all people from all backgrounds equally. In response to their protest, honor their commitment in the face of opposition by commending them for the stance they are willing to risk their very livelihood to say but, please, do not suggest that they should be silenced because it goes against everything we as Americans have fought for up to this point.