As we approach a new season of pro football, the league and its players have yet again proven incapable of coming up with an effective response that addresses the issue of the players engaging in various levels of protests when the national anthem is played before the game.
In the public relations business, we often say that if you are explaining your actions, then you are losing the argument. The league and its players seem to be stuck on their “intent,” not on how their actions are being received by the viewing public.
They both “claim” their “intent” is to bring attention to the issue of social justice, though no one has defined what that means. So, President Donald Trump has adroitly defined the issue for them as anti-American and disrespectful to U.S. servicemen.
Whatever the league and players’ “intent” was, the public is saying that they don’t support their actions and this dichotomy is causing fans of the sport to turn away in large numbers.
Before I go any further, let me establish a simple fact that most people never bring into this conversation: NFL players are nothing more than employees. Yes, they are highly paid, but nonetheless, they are employees.
The NFL players sign the back of the paycheck, not the front. Their employers have every right to tell them how they must behave at their place of employment: the football field.
When I worked in corporate America, I had to wear a suit and tie; this was nonnegotiable. Yes, I had every right to go to my boss and tell him that requiring a Black man to wear a suit and tie was racist, and he had every right to fire me if I didn’t follow his workplace rules.
Likewise, athletes have a right to kneel or stay in the locker room during the playing of our national anthem, but the owners have the right to take some type of disciplinary action as well.
I often say, “Weak people take strong positions on weak issues.”
What does kneeling have to do with police brutality or other “social injustice,” the stated reasons these protests began? Their message has been drowned out by how most Americans have interpreted their actions as being anti-American and disrespectful to U.S. servicemen.
Again, it doesn’t matter what the players think or their what their intentions are, this is how their message is being received. The players and the league have let their emotions and egos get in the way of their objective.
I agree 100 percent with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott when he says, “I never protest.”
Here’s what Prescott said when he was asked about the protest over police brutality in the NFL:
“I never protest during the anthem, and I don’t think that’s the time or the venue to do so. The game of football has always brought me such peace and I think it does the same for a lot of people — a lot of people playing the game, a lot of people watching the game, a lot of people who have any impact of the game. So, when you bring such controversy to the stadium, to the field, to the game, it takes away. It takes away from that, it takes away from the joy and the love that football brings a lot of people.”
Prescott continued: “For me, I’m all about making a change and making a difference, and I think this whole kneeling and all of that was just about raising awareness and the fact that we’re still talking about social injustice years later, I think we’ve gotten to that point. I think we’ve proved, we know the social injustice, I’m up for taking the next step, whatever the next step may be, for action and not just kneeling. I’ve always believed standing up for what I believe in, and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”
Prescott’s statement is one of the most concise, intelligent and well-thought-out positions I have seen on this issue, notwithstanding the sentiments of the likes of Stephen A. Smith.
I totally disagree with everything Smith has to say on this issue in regard to Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, and Prescott. Jones and Prescott are in agreement on not using the football field as a vehicle for the players’ protests.
There are 1,696 players in the NFL. If each player were to give $10,000 annually to a nonpartisan political action committee (PAC), they would have $16,900,000 per year available for political contribution for candidates running for school board, city council, mayor, state representative, state senate, U.S. representative, U.S. Senate and U.S. president.
The average NFL player makes over $2 million per year, so $10,000 is nothing, if players truly want to make a difference in society.
They could use this money to support candidates who share their worldview and thereby make laws that support their view of the world.
This would be a lot more substantive than simply kneeling and angering half the country.
Jackson is founder and chairman of Black Americans for a Better Future (BAFBF), a federally registered 527 super PAC established to get more Blacks involved in the Republican Party.