After Donald Trump said NFL players should be fired for kneeling during the national anthem, NFL players, owners and coaches condemned Trump’s comments.
USA TODAY Sports
This is how you lead.
On bended knee, in dignified condemnation of the many wrongs we still must right. Arm in arm, in a show of solidarity against those who seek to divide us. Black, white and brown, red and blue, a reminder that for all our differences, America remains our common ground.
The NFL had one of its finest moments before the games even began Sunday, coming together from every corner – players, coaches, owners and league office – in forceful condemnation of the latest torrent of hate from President Donald Trump. There was one remarkable sight after another across the league, from Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan standing with his players to the empty Pittsburgh Steelers sideline to the Miami Dolphins players wearing “I’m with Kap” T-shirts.
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Trump’s remarks Friday, and again Saturday and Sunday, were as ignorant as they were inflammatory, yet more racist dog whistles for his base. Perhaps he counted on a league that has effectively blackballed Colin Kaepernick to let them pass in uncomfortable silence, but the NFL showed Sunday that he had badly overplayed his hand.
It was more than the displays, which were notable in their own right. It was the statements by both players and owners, who finally acknowledged they’ve heard Kaepernick’s call even if they didn’t mention him by name.
“Over the last year, though, the streets have gotten hot and there has been a lot of static in the air and recently, fuel has been added to the fire,” Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis said in a statement. “I can no longer ask our team to not say something while they are in a Raider uniform. The only thing I can ask them to do is do it with class. Do it with pride.
“Not only do we have to tell people there is something wrong, we have to come up with answers,” Davis added. “That’s the challenge in front of us as Americans and human beings.”
The demonstrations by Kaepernick and the players who have joined them are not about the national anthem or the military or the flag. They never have been. They are about the racism that continues to be pervasive in our society, manifesting itself in police brutality, economic inequality and disparity in education and opportunity.
They’re about who we claim to be as a country, what we really are and the very large divide in between. That gap will never be bridged unless we confront it and have conversations about it.
That’s what made Sunday so powerful. No one is naïve enough to assume the league is now in full agreement on everything, including the very thorny issues of race. But for one day, they were united.
And that shows all of us that it’s possible.