Roger Goodell Is Bringing the NFL Into the Political Arena [OPINION]
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has publicly decided to change course and embrace the Kaepernick brand of player protests against what is really just the pockets of persistent racial injustice in America. I'd like to think all people of goodwill would like to see an end of it.
I would have said "systemic racism in America," but that characterization is a lie that I'll leave to the Elizabeth Warrens and Ilhan Omars of the world.
Since Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco quarterback, took a knee during the national anthem played before the team's final pre-season game of 2016, the nation was divided about what he'd meant. Upon further clarification by Kaepernick, he objected to not just police brutality but the entire history of the United States, from the Plymouth colony going forward.
The three most recent high-profile police encounters with Black Americans resulting in death or serious injury have brought great momentum to the Black Lives Matter movement. George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, who were both killed, and Jacob Blake, who is expected to live but now as a paraplegic, have resurrected the protests and riots last seen in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland.
The NFL has decided to step up its messaging to the public and under Goodell has decided to encourage kneeling, political messaging on uniforms, and paying for advertising to help with the messaging.
That's the same NFL that denied the Dallas Cowboys to allow them to add words or decals on their shoes after five Dallas Police officers were ambushed by a hostile gunman who was targeting them back on July 7, 2016.
The same NFL which also promised to fine players and teams who put images on their shoes or uniforms to commemorate 9/11.
I understand entirely the non-violent gesture of kneeling during the national anthem by players who want to see police reform realized to make encounters with law enforcement as safe for Black Americans as they are for any race.
In fact, I've said it before, those seeking change, have been quite patiently waiting and, understandably frustrated, watching as nothing gets done. The years turn to decades, continuously met by inaction from lawmakers. Something has to give.
I just think it is misplaced in entertainment. I also think Goodell needs to pay attention to the movement that he is endorsing as he speaks for the entire giant entity that is the NFL.
People pay good money to go to a game, a concert, and other entertainment to forget their personal lives and all the stress that comes with it. Reality is mostly inescapable without the distractions of paying to watch or listen to highly talented human beings doing things that the rest of us can only admire. Political realities are part of what people are looking to escape at these events.
The NFL players should be circling Capitol Hill. Patriots players who feel like supporting the BLM movement should feel free to do that but be outside of Beacon Hill.
Try to imagine how anyone might feel living the life of a policeman today. A cop who takes his son to a game, on the same week he resuscitated a choking four-year-old child in a public housing unit, provided CPR the next hour, and stopped a mugging before that night was done.
As they sit in their assigned stadium seat at the game, he realizes that there is an indirect but real collective effort by the players to villainize him because someone in his same profession, who he'd never met or ever heard of, did something terrible 900 miles away.
I can appreciate the thinking of people who strongly believe enough isn't currently being done because they are right. However, this extended agenda of the movement taking focus is unrecognizable and divisive. Abolishing or defunding the police, reparations, destroying monuments of American history – even statues of those who sacrificed their lives and were great contributors to abolishing slavery aren't being spared.
How are these things helping to de-escalate tensions during police encounters with Black Americans?
As we see in other divisive social issues, this nation cannot legislate morality. In a nation with immense liberties, our options are more passive. We can suppress ignorance, racism, and hatred but we cannot cure or eradicate it by force or otherwise.
We are an imperfect country whose constitution allows for liberty and allows for mechanisms intended to make changes for the better, equally for all.
Black Lives Matter leadership has done some things well, but they've also made some major mistakes. They have not loudly and clearly controlled many who march within their ranks who have been waiting for an event like this, and use the volume of protesters from which to hide as they become destructive to property and violent toward not just police, but almost anyone in the wrong place at the wrong time.
There is a contrast in how things are being reported, which is the new norm today in media.
In Charlottesville, Virginia, there was a protest in August of 2017 by right-wing groups who resented the removal or destruction of statues of Confederate leaders. In this case, Robert E. Lee's monument was going to be torn down and destroyed by activists without the authority to do so – without any civil process.
Some radical right-wing groups including white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK also gravitated to this planned event. Predictably, counter-protesters from the left also decided to show up.
Dozens were hurt when the groups clashed and overwhelmed the local authorities' ability to control the chaos; a riot ensued and a woman who was there in support of the left and who lauded the removal of Lee's statue without government approval was killed when a man, described by prosecutors as a white nationalist, ran her over in his car.
Because of that act, the entire gathering was defined as a radical, right-wing, violent assault on peaceful protesters.
We have all seen the Democrats and the liberal press time and time again repeat the intentional lie that President Trump "said" the racists on the right were "very fine people." It wasn't true. The president quite clearly condemned all the racist groups there and then added that he was also aware of the others who showed up, only in support of the idea that a civic process must take place by the local government to destroy the Lee monument.
The reason I point to this three-year-old story is to invite comparisons to how the same media characterizes the occasional violence committed by Black Lives Matter activists or sympathizers or even those who have a completely different agenda than BLM, but use their numbers to avoid being arrested after committing crimes near the protests.
Looting, arson, assault, vandalism, destruction of public and private properties, trespassing, and other crimes, have been suppressed in coverage by the media, or have even been provided with justification for doing these things by elected officials, media, and other prominent citizens.
This past Saturday night in the Compton area of Los Angeles, two deputies were ambushed in their cruiser. An unknown assailant walked up to the vehicle and opened fire, striking both in the head. A nearby observer posted his apparently joyous support of the attack on social media, as a crowd of people describing themselves as Black Lives Matter supporters went to St. Francis Hospital where the two deputies were taken.
They blocked the entrances and exits to the hospital, yelling things like "I hope they f---ing die" and even tried to storm the emergency room, according to authorities.
I think Goodell is opening up a super-size can of worms here as he doubles down on support of a group which is, at best, not interested in denouncing inexcusable acts like this. I also think the NFL team owners better take another look to see if they really wish to keep their wagon hitched to Goodell's star.
It may not be politically correct to demand better behavior of the masses that show up through the organizing of Black Lives Matter efforts, but it is the right thing to do.
The NFL revenues are down due to the lack of ticket sales to games and having had no pre-season games, but if they hope to attract the fans to come back and fill those stadiums, buy their merchandise and support their sponsors, they better damn well demand that the groups that they now fully support under Goodell behave in a manner that won't destroy them.
No one should be opposed to people using their First Amendment to demand an end to an obvious disparity between the races in any category, police encounters included.
That doesn't mean all behaviors have to be tolerated or ignored until the goal is achieved. Despite what the left is telling us, America is better than that.
Ken Pittman is the host of The Ken Pittman Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.