Resistance mounts as NFL outlines policy on players’ protests
Cyril Josh Barker | 5/31/2018, 10:11 a.m.
Activists held a rally last Friday outside of the National Football League headquarters to protest the league’s policy requiring NFL players to stand during the national anthem at games or stay in the locker room. Those opposing the policy say it infringes on the players’ First Amendment rights.
In a statement released last week, the NFL said owners came to the decision about the controversy that has plagued the league in recent years.
“This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem,” the league said in a statement. “Personnel who choose not to stand for the Anthem may stay in the locker room until after the anthem has been performed.”
Kirsten John Foy, northeast regional director of the National Action Network, and Tamika Mallory, co-chair of the Women’s March, led the rally.
Players who kneel during the anthem now face a fine along with the entire team. Black players began kneeling when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the anthem in protest of police brutality. Critics accused Kaepernick and other players of disrespect of the American flag and U.S. troops.
“What is being said is that the n–gas don’t have basic rights,” Mallory said. “And I want to say today that Ida B. Wells, Dr. Martin Luther King, Marcus Garvey, the four little girls in Birmingham are turning over in their graves right now about the disrespect, the disgrace, that is happening in this country.”
Foy accused the team owners of taking away players’ ability to exercise their First Amendment right to freedom of speech and said that it’s a blatant attack on Black athletes, who make up 70 percent of the NFL.
“You can’t inundate us with tens of millions of dollars in commercial ads, and then strip the people that generate your money and your profits of their First Amendment rights,” Foy said. “And if they choose to protest, they’ve got to stay in the locker room. So the locker room is the new slave shanty.”
In a statement, the NAACP said Black NFL players should have the right to protest injustices their white counterparts don’t have to face.
“Instead of coming together to address an issue disproportionately plaguing the African-American, the NFL owners have chosen to bury their heads and silence players,” the civil rights organization said. “Players cannot disconnect from the aggression African-Americans face every day. The issue of police brutality remains a pressing issue when 408 people have been killed by police this year.”
Current and former players reacted swiftly to the new policy, vowing not to be silent on the issue. During the 2017-2018 football season, football players kneeling became a hot button issue, with many calling for a boycott of the NFL.
“I am hopeful that the current players won’t accept that and continue to resist and protest,” said former Cleveland Browns player Walter Beach. “The NFL’s recent pronouncement baring protest on the field is an attempt to soften the blow of the protests, but also secure their business.”
Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said on social media that he disagrees with the NFL decision but will continue to fight injustice.
“The national conversation around race in America that NFL players forced over the past two years will persist as we continue to use our voices, our time and our money to create a more fair and just criminal justice system, end police brutality and foster better educational and economic opportunities for communities of color and those struggling in this country,” he said.