CHARLOTTE, N.C. The NFL season officially kicked off last week. So, too, did the on-going barrage of “take-a-knee” stories dominating media coverage of the sporting event most remaining football fans actually wanted to see Amid all the hoopla and madness, could somebody please explain what this story is all about? Is there going to be a 2018 NFL season. Or is this just another once enjoyable tradition that’s now become all about politics. Battered by the ongoing Colin Kaepernick controversy, is the NFL audience more interested in the ghost of a non-player or in the game?
The start of the Kaepernick controversy
In 2016, Colin Kaepernick set off a firestorm of polarization by opting to kneel in protest against racial injustice rather than stand for the playing of the National Anthem. Now nearly two years later, the debate is hotter than ever. Rational beings and NFL fans used to regard NFL football as a sport. But is it? Or is it now just another branch of that ubiquitous, virtue-signaling, corporate SJW tree?
The NFL itself continues to be wishy-washy about addressing this important matter. Worst of all, the controversy has morphed into such an endless do-loop that nobody seems to have any idea about what the dispute is really about.
Kaepernick’s stance, or non-stance, apparently had to do with race relations. That notion quickly became lost in the question as to whether or not someone has the right to exercise free speech by not standing for the National Anthem. Then the debate moved into a dispute over what constitutes “free speech.” Eventually, this, somehow, evolved into an indictment of every U.S. military campaign in our history. The media seems more interested in it than in the game itself.
So what’s really going on and whom does it affect this NFL season?
Clearly, the never-ending Kaepernick Controversy has had an impact on Kaepernick’s football career. Depending on which expert you listen to, that impact might or might not be considerable.
Adding to the emotional schism that’s now begun to damage professional sports, Nike, which has never shied away from the eye of a storm, launched an advertising campaign featuring Kaepernick. Just as the NFL season opened. Apparently, the company’s marketing people knew full-well they were once again stirring the pot and adding fuel to the fire. But what fire, and to what end?
Most media observers believe the move by Nike will pay off handsomely in the long run. But at least one college, he College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri, a small private Christian institution, announced they decided to remove the Nike “Swoosh” logo from their athletic uniforms.
Instead, the school adopted the slogan “Country over company” rather that continuing its association with the “Just Do It” brand.
What’s it all about, Colin?
The real bugaboo however, other than Nike’s meddling, seems to be just what the argument is ultimately all about. Is it race, national pride, freedom of speech or military opposition? Supposedly it could be all of the above. But when the subject comes up, it is always couched in terms of being one or the other, never all four.
Adding to the already muddied waters is the NFL’s gutless non-effort to resolve the problem. They put in place a ban on “taking a knee” during the national anthem. Now, they’ve decided to suspend the “rule” for one year. Meanwhile, at least one channel broadcasting NFL games has simply decided not to telecast the national anthem introduction to the game. Only in America.
Another solution to the issue could be to have players remain in their locker rooms until after the anthem has played. In that sense however, Kaepernick will have won his argument, which would trigger a whole new set of controversies.
Considering that we do not play the anthem to open a rock concert or a Broadway show or many other forms of entertainment, why do we do it at sporting events?
The national anthem tradition in sports
According to legend, the national anthem tradition began during the 1918 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs, when the nation was off fighting World War I in Europe.
The National Anthem was played during the 7th inning stretch of the first game of the series. In the process, it became a public relations coup for the players “who were on the ballfield rather than the battlefield.”
Shortly thereafter, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee had the anthem played as a patriotic way of opening each ball game in Boston.
Oddly enough, in another interesting bit of trivia, “The Star-Spangeled Banner” was not even adopted as our official national anthem until 1931, more than a decade after it was first played in the World Series.
As Kyle Koster noted in The Big Lead,
“The next time you’re at sporting event, take a look around notice how many people are locked into their phones, sipping their beer or worse during the playing of the anthem. It’s impossible to know someone’s inner thoughts, but the outward actions suggest someone counting the seconds until they can yell, ‘play ball’ instead of basking in freedoms of the First Amendment.”
Anyone know the answer to the dilemma?
Koster has a point. Does that mean it takes someone who is well-known and in the public limelight to give his protest validity?
Certainly, the bookies and die-hard football junkies are not willing to boycott games. Instead it is only passing fans who will protest and stay away.
So who wins? How long does the debate continue? Is there a solution? But perhaps most importantly, let’s first decide what the real argument is actually all about.
—Headline image: YouTube video clip, excerpted from new Colin Kaepernick / Nike commercial, as aired by CBS news.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com).