CHARLOTTE, NC, December 1, 2014 – If NFL players want to be politicians then they need to take a pay cut from their football salaries and go into public service. All too often we have heard star players who love to showboat in the end zone after a touchdown tell us they do it because they “are entertainers.” Even the premise of being an “entertainer” is inaccurate, much less the reason for the shenanigans, which is really to place the focus upon the player himself more than anything else.
What the five St. Louis Rams did on Sunday by coming on to the field with their “hands up, don’t shoot” routine was not only beyond the realm of protest, but offensive and inflammatory, not to mention tasteless, which most of the ridiculous on-field displays usually are anyway.
Thousands upon thousands of fans attend professional football games every Sunday. Millions more watch on television. It is a captive audience, but it is first and foremost absolutely NOT the venue for political commentary. Fans who spend money to watch their favorite teams play do not purchase tickets because they care what the players think or do not think about any given situation beyond their sport.
The football field, basketball court, baseball diamond or the silver screen are not the place for social commentary. By making their cheap protest, five Rams playlers have once again dimished the image of the most popular sport in the country.
And by taking no action, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has once again displayed a lack of understanding of the role his professional league plays in American society.
Professional sports are entertaining, but they are not entertainment. The difference between a movie, a concert, a play, an opera and a sporting event is that in sports the result is not pre-determined, unless, of course, it is professional wrestling.
Either way however, fans do not make decisions to attend shows or watch ball games because of the personal politics of those who perform. If that were the case, attendance at every form of entertainment or sport would drop dramatically.
Jared Cook, Kenny Britt, Stedman Bailey, Chris Stevens and Tavon Austin are all members of the St. Louis football Cardinals receiving corps. They are football players, nothing more. If they want to become newscasters then they should hang up their cleats and their shoulder pads and go to broadcasting school.
Most of what is wrong with the actions of the Rams players is the fact that they took advantage of a public forum to bring attention to themselves and to disgrace the National Football League. That public access carries with it responsibilities not afforded to ordinary people and, therefore, should be deemed off-limits to those who are priviledged to access those sites.
Styling and profiling for the crowd has become all too prolific in every sport in recent years to the detriment of the players themselves and the sports they represent. There is a difference between being genuinely excited and enthusiastic about a great play or a last minute victory and showboating to the extreme.
There is no place in football for a defensive player who makes a sack to beat his chest like King Kong and flap his arms with his palms to the sky to incite the crowd in acknowledgement.
In baseball when a batter admires a home run for too long and slowly trots around the bases to show up the pitcher, he had better duck the next time he comes to the plate.
Such displays are not only childish but also unprofessional.
Neither is it appropriate for movie stars to demonstrate their personal political agendas while accepting an award for their talents.
The incident in Ferguson was a no-win situation for either side, but emotions got in the way of the facts. Even so, the gridiron on Sunday afternoon in St. Louis should have been a place to forget. It should have been a venue in which to escape the frustrations of reality that pervade every aspect of our lives.
That is what entertainment and sports are supposed to be about. They are meant to provide a diversion. In some cases they can also be a place in which to rally the spirit and pride of a community or a nation, but they should never be used to divide and disrupt.
Such displays are unacceptable and the NFL, and all other professional sports leagues for that matter, need to address the issue.
Like so many other facets of our modern world, five biased and ignorant football players have now cast yet another shadow on what should have been a joyful end to a weekend of Thanksgiving.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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