I want my NFL back, free of politics like it used to be. If I want politics I can always get it in my Twitter feed, on Fox News, CNN or MSNBC, on Drudge Report or the Huffington Post.
I want an NFL where the President of the United States doesn’t weigh in on the Washington Redskins’ name.
I want an NFL where the President of the United States doesn’t call NFL players “sons of a bitch” and understands that a good deal of players – even those who kneel – do a lot for the community by giving their time and money to some worthy endeavors and charitable causes.
No doubt these last nine years have been more divisive for our country along political party lines and race, unfortunately, than eight years of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and eight years of Bill Clinton in the 1990s.
I want a haven from the real world for just a few hours on Sunday afternoons or evenings.
I want a President of the United States that understands that the NFL is a private business where he and the government have no jurisdiction, and knows he should butt out.
Bucs players stand for the National Anthem – Photo by: Getty Images
That wasn’t the case Friday night in Alabama where President Donald Trump issued some divisive and uncalled for remarks towards the NFL and its players. Whether you support him or not, there’s no denying that President Trump only fanned the flames rather than trying to put any fire out and create some unity. Predictably, that caused even more players to kneel than ever before.
Some did it to support racial equality and as a demonstration against police brutality. Others did it because the NFL is a fraternity and they wanted to support their teammates and the NFL in general, and some did it to stand opposed to Trump and/or his remarks. Yet several hundred other players stood for the National Anthem with their arms locked in unity.
With players kneeling downs in the NFL during the National Anthem, it has come to this:
Everybody’s right, but nobody wins.
Players have the right to kneel and exercise their right to free speech and fans have the right to support that act.
And yes, the NFL owners do have a right to fire their employees over it because the NFL is a private business, but that’s not going to happen. Not now with the show of unity from the NFL Commissioner, the NFL owners and hundreds of players either kneeling or locking arms together during the Star-Spangled Banner.
Fans also have the right to be offended for perceived disrespect to the U.S. flag, the military, and the country itself. Those that support the players kneeling can’t simply claim that they aren’t disrespecting the military or the nation and therefore people shouldn’t be offended. If people are offended, they are offended.
If you don’t believe that, imagine me slapping your cheek swiftly and with force because there was a mosquito on it and I wanted to kill it before it bit you. My intention may have been noble, but I still slapped your face nonetheless and that might have stung more than any mosquito bite would.
That’s how some view the players’ decision to kneel. Noble cause, wrong approach.
Everybody’s right, but nobody wins.
Protestors take a knee – Photo by: Getty Images
And just because a person is offended by those who are perceived to be disrespecting the flag by kneeling, that does not automatically make him or her a racist. I think that’s a very dangerously wrong assumption to make.
I can be for racial equality, which I certainly am, and against kneeling down. Those beliefs can be mutually exclusive.
Yet in no way shape or form does kneeling down and the reaction it has caused, help the NFL.
Some will boycott the league and turn off the TV broadcasts, not purchase tickets, not renew season tickets and not buy NFL merchandise. That won’t help a league that has seen its television ratings begin to slide over the past two seasons.
While NFL players’ kneeling during the National Anthem is viewed as a divisive act for some fans, it doesn’t necessarily mean they shouldn’t do it.
I’m all for a better way to bring the discussion of racial equality to the forefront in a much more inclusive way that rallies more than just half the nation to that cause. I’m guessing that some of the people that the message of racial equality is intended for aren’t being reached because of the method. nd that the message to that intended audience may be getting lost in all of the fervor over the act of kneeling and the perceived disrespect that comes with it, the attention paid to Trump’s remarks, etc.
Until another – and perhaps better and more inclusive – avenue to protest appears, the kneeling down isn’t going away, and I accept that.
Former 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick – Photo by: Getty Images
And no, I don’t have any better ideas on a grand scale, so I know I’m not exactly contributing to the solution except for one thing.
I’ll readily admit that while I disagreed with Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the Star-Spangled Banner and I was offended by it, it did raise some questions for me and ignited dialogue with some black friends and colleagues of mine about race and culture that I’ve never really explored before.
I’ve made some new friends through this process as a result. I’ve tried to gain some understanding about a racial culture that I’m not a part of, and in doing so, I’ve shared my views about a racial culture that they aren’t a part of.
I cannot relate to some of the incidents my black friends have told me where they’ve had been pulled over by the police for no reason other than suspicion. I’m glad I’ve had those conversations because it gave me a better understanding and put me more in tune with what the cause is all about.
Isn’t that what Kaepernick wants – a dialogue?
Kaepernick is a martyr to some, a pariah to others. People differ on how they view him, and each is entitled to those differences.
Everybody has a right to his or her feelings over this issue and I would like to see us accept those differences and talk about them – in a place other than an NFL stadium, though.
I want the escape from the real world that the NFL used to be. The kneeling has been going on for a year now, and to me, the message has been sent and received, and I’ve begun the action. I can only speak for myself, though.
Did I disagree with Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson kneeling in Minnesota?
Did I find it offensive?
Yes, I did.
Does it change the way I feel towards them? Absolutely not, and it will not affect my coverage of them one bit because I still respect their decision and their beliefs.
Everybody’s right, but nobody wins.
Bucs WRs Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson – Photo by: Getty Images
I choose to agree to disagree with Evans and Jackson’s methods, but not their cause. I believed in racial equality long before they – or anyone – took a knee.
I’m not saying you have to do the same. This is America, the land of the free, and you have the right to act, think, speak as you so choose. That is the individual liberty that this country was founded on and the liberty and idea of America that so many men and women of all colors have fought and died for.
Everyone knows the racism exists in this country. Undoubtedly there are people that were offended by the kneeling that don’t like minorities, just like there are people that support the players taking a knee they don’t like white people.
What I did like years ago was how everyone – regardless of race, regardless of political persuasion and regardless of differences – stood together, united as Americans for at least a few minutes before kickoff.
To me, football has always been a uniter where white fans, black fans and fans of all ethic backgrounds could high-five each other in the stands when their team gets a big sack on third down or scores a touchdown. Last year I coached my final season in Pop Warner football with a team that was 60 percent white and 40 percent minority and on a coaching staff that was half black and half white led by a tremendous head coach in J.J. Battle. It was amazing and it was uniting.
Lots of different players and coaches with different upbringings and socioeconomic backgrounds on one team – together – with one mission: to work together to win.
That’s the power of football, the ultimate team sport in my opinion.
2016 South Pasco Predators Pee Wee Champs
I’m not advocating a position. I’m not telling you to boycott the NFL, nor am I telling you to support the decision of some NFL players, including Tampa Bay’s Jackson and Evans, to kneel.
I’m telling you that nobody wins in the current environment.
Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin did his best to navigate the current environment by having his Steelers stay in the locker room and avoid the National Anthem in Chicago. Not as a show of protest, but in an attempt maintain unity with his players.
“We will not be divided by this,” Tomlin said, as reported by ProFootballTalk.com. “We got a group of men in there that come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, races, creeds, ethnicities, religions and so forth. That’s football, that’s a lot of team sports. But because of opposition, we get drug into bulls–t, to be quite honest with you. Some have opinions, some don’t. We wanted to protect those that don’t, we wanted to protect those that do. We came here to play a football game today and that was our intentions.”
I agree with Tomlin’s action in the effort of unity and outside the box thinking. Only one player, Alejandro Villanueva, who served three tours of duty in Afghanistan as an Army Rager and graduated from West Point, understandably walked out and stood for the National Anthem.
Steelers OL Alejandro Villanueva – Photo by: Getty Image
I want to get back to media sessions where the focus is on football and on the upcoming game against the New York Giants rather than have to hear the players answer questions about President Trump, kneeling, the flag and the Star Spangled Banner, which has nothing to do with the Bucs’ effort to improve to 2-1 this week. I’m guessing you do, too.
I want my football back the way it used to be – where there was unity and togetherness at kickoff.
The Star-Spangled Banner and the American flag can symbolize what you want it to symbolize. If you want to view them negatively as a symbol of racism, racial inequality and oppression of minorities because Francis Scott Key and some of the Founding Fathers happened to be slaveholders hundreds of years ago, that’s your right.
If you want to view The Star-Spangled Banner and the American flag as symbols for the freest country in the world where our society has changed laws and amended the U.S. Constitution to positively evolve our culture by abolishing slavery, ending segregation and granting equal voting rights to all legal U.S. citizens, among other worthwhile endeavors, that’s your right, too.
The Preamble to the United States Constitution begins with: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union …”
Notice that it doesn’t say a “perfect” Union. It says a “more perfect” Union, meaning that ultimate perfection will likely never be achieved, but it’s worth striving for.
For me, the dialogue has begun, and that’s a good thing. A dear friend of mine, who is black, said that true unity will happen when there is empathy and understanding from both sides. I could not agree more and will continue to pursue those conversations – any day but Sunday.
That’s a day where he wants to simply enjoy Bucs football and the escape it brings from the daily grind, and a day I want to cover Bucs football for my profession.
I want us to get to a place in America where everybody’s right and everybody wins. I think we all can agree on that.
But for now, I want football back.
My comments do not necessarily the views of all at PewterReport.com. I welcome your comments below. All I ask is that they be civil and profanity-free. I also encourage you to read and listen to one another’s comments rather than being concerned with firing back right away with an opposing viewpoint. My column isn’t going to change many peoples’ opinions and your comments or rebuttals probably won’t, either. In my opinion, listening is the way to understanding.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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