MACLANE: There is some truth to both sides of Kaepernick debate
Opinions Column: Conservative Hot Corner
Football season is finally in full swing as week seven of the NFL and week eight of college football are in the books. There have already been some interesting storylines this year with the Eagles' hot 6-1 start and the Jets surprisingly being New York’s best team even though they were supposed to be tanking while the Giants were supposed to be Super Bowl contenders (which sounds eerily similar to the Mets and Yankees). Even with the exciting and awfully strange start to the season, there have been some polarizing headlines, particularly those related to the national anthem protests.
The protests began over a year ago by former San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick garnered national attention while kneeling during the playing of the national anthem before the 49ers games throughout the entire season. As for his reasoning for the protests, he said, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder." His message resonated with other players, such as Brandon Marshall of the Denver Broncos, who joined the protest. Other players would alternatively raise their fists, a sign of resistance, in accordance with Kaepernick’s protest.
These protests have created fractures among the American people, specifically regarding their feelings towards multiple outstanding issues. One of these contentious issues is over the current status of Kaepernick’s employment. Contingents of NFL fans supported the decision of NFL owners and general managers to not sign him. For example, over the summer, the Giants contemplated signing Kaepernick to back up Eli Manning, but John Mara, the owner of the Giants, said, “All my years being in the league, I never received more emotional mail from people than I did about that issue.” Certain pockets of the NFL fan base are staunch supporters of the police and military and feel as though Kaepernick deeply offended them with his protests. But there is another side, as many NFL fans feel upset and disrespected over Kaepernick remaining unsigned. In fact, before the start of the season, many of these fans held a protest outside of the NFL Headquarters in New York.
Many people also seem to be ill-informed and polarized when it comes to their reasoning for why Kaepernick remains unsigned. One side makes the argument that it is only because of poor play by Kaepernick, and the other claims that it is just the NFL blackballing him for his protests. There is truth to both arguments, but neither side is totally correct. The truth of the matter is that Kaepernick is easily a top-64 quarterback in the NFL, making him qualified to be on an NFL roster. The problem is that he is not good enough to be a starter in the NFL, and owners do not want to deal with the backlash from their fans and the rampant questions and harassment from the media over a backup quarterback. It is the same logic as to why Tim Tebow is out of the NFL — the backlash is not worth the marginal upgrade at the position.
At the start of the season, the protests began to reduce in nature and become less apparent until President Donald J. Trump decided to comment on the protests. His statement calling players “sons of b*****s” did not bode well with NFL players and people within NFL organizations, including those who originally stood against the anthem protests. For instance, Jerry Jones, the general manager of the Dallas Cowboys, who was a staunch opponent to the protests, condemned Trump’s statement. He even took to joining his players in linking arms, which was a countermovement by the players against Trump’s comments.
The NFL is in a real tough position with the anthem protests. Last year, their ratings dropped 8 percent, and 26 percent of that drop was due to the anthem protests. But Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, making any attempt at forcing players to stand will not go over well, and him attempting to enforce these rules through suspensions will only alienate hardcore NFL fans. Ultimately, football is typically a unifying force that has been politicized and become polarizing. There is seemingly no end to this divide, and the NFL will be unable to solve this problem.
Daniel MacLane is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science. His column, "Conservative Hot Corner," runs on alternate Wednesdays.
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