I do not watch football, not high school football, not college football, not pro football. It is a game that holds little interest for me. I catch the Superbowl each year and sometimes purchase a ticket to watch my Houston Cougars play a game, but mostly I do not invest much time or money in the sport. Before Covid-19 I often went shopping or joined friends for lunch on game days so that my husband Mike would have the freedom to cheer and curse his favorite teams. I get all the information that I care to have about the state of football from Mike, so I tend to know which teams are doing, which players are stars, and the general state of the game. Beyond that my interests lie elsewhere.
I don’t begrudge anyone enjoying football or anything else for that matter. We each have different interests and different ideas of how to spend our free time and our money. I think nothing of dropping almost three hundred dollars on a continuing education course at Rice University so I completely understand the reasoning for those who purchase season tickets to some sport, even football. We entertain ourselves in different ways and those choices are a delightful luxury that comes from our freedoms both political and financial.
I am a bit puzzled by the number of people that I see demanding that we put prayer and religion back into schools, political gatherings, and even entertainment events but dislike the idea of athletes or celebrities expressing their personal views at similar venues. I hear so many insisting that these well known individuals should just stick to entertaining us and be quiet even as they themselves continually voice their own beliefs. It seems to me that there is a bit of a double standard as to who is allowed to use their rights to let their concerns be known.
Of course when it comes to football the difficulties started when a Black quarterback chose to take a knee during the singing of the National Anthem. He made it very clear that his intent was only to draw attention to the brutal ways that Black citizens are often treated. He insisted that he was not insulting veterans nor did he hate the country. He simply felt that taking a knee was a peaceful way to demonstrate his belief that there are systemic injustices being leveled toward Black Americans.
It did not take long for false interpretations to be applied to his action or for accusations of his lack of patriotism to become accepted as truth. Soon enough he was being dismissed as a trouble maker, socialist, hater and dozens of other epithets that had no real connection to what he had done. His peaceful attempt at drawing attention to a problem was rejected by a large swath of Americans and so was he.
Most recently there have been marches and protests by the Black Lives Matter movement in virtually every corner of the United States. Most of them have been peaceful but admittedly a handful of them resulted in looting and destruction of property. Those incidents have tended to be the only ones that garnered the notice of the media and the citizenry. The focus has been on the extreme situations like Seattle, Portland, Washington D.C, Minneapolis and Kenosha. Again all of the positivity of peaceful marches has been buried under the hyperbole surrounding the exceptions, not the rule. With the encouragement of the President large numbers of the citizenry have written off the entire movement and ascribed behaviors and intentions that are not universally true.
So once again professional athletes decided to attempt to draw attention to the real issues of the Black Lives Matter movement in the hopes of making it clear that there are specific problems that should be addressed. They have been united in their efforts to keep the focus on what is actually true and not on the false narratives that have degraded the movement. Most recently the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans appeared on the field before the game had started to link arms in unison to demonstrate their support for the true essence of the movement which is to understand and accept that there is often a more stringent set of rules for Black Americans that too often places them in harms ways, not to indict all police officers or to demean the flag or veterans.
Once again people missed the point. The players were booed. People threatened to never again watch another game or support them. They were accused of being unAmerican when there probably is nothing more American than protesting perceived wrongs. It’s been done since before our country’s revolution and in virtually every era since then. Our ancestors have dumped tea, gone on strike, blocked the way to businesses, engaged in hunger strikes, embarked on long marches to Washington D.C., and staged sit-ins at businesses. It is a glorious freedom that we should embrace, not just when the protests reflect our own thinking but even when they ask us to consider a differing beliefs.
An actor once went too far in the demonstration of his dissatisfaction by assassinating Abraham Lincoln. That was not freedom of speech but murder and he was fittingly hung for his crime. While we do not want to encourage mayhem it would befit us to applaud those who find a way to express themselves peacefully. It does none of us any harm if football players quietly attempt to make a point. We also have the freedom to simply accept or reject their ideas but we should not attempt to force them into silence. Let them demonstrate and then play ball. Nobody is hurt in such a scenario. They get to have a voice and the fans get to see a good game. The two are not mutually exclusive. We really can and should be able to have it all.