A week after the ultimate dangers of a hot mic became obvious, raw audio from a recent NFL Network football broadcast has emerged in a manner that may cause a little consternation for Jim Nantz, the NFL’s No. 1 play-by-play voice.
Prior to the September 29 game between the Dolphins and Bengals on Thursday Night Football, Nantz said this regarding the anthem protesters, via Deadspin.com: “They’re gonna keep kneeling as long as they have cameras right in their face.”
Several days after that, CBS studio analyst Boomer Esiason wondered during his WFAN radio show (via SportsBusiness Daily) whether the league is telling its broadcast partners, “Enough already, we’re not showing this anymore.”
Esiason suggested that ESPN possibly had been avoiding televising players kneeling or raising a fist during the anthem, and he argued that CBS wouldn’t avoid it.
On Thursday night, CBS didn’t show any of the anthem protests before the game. Later, however, CBS displayed a recording of Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall kneeling during the anthem and a group of Chargers players raising a fist, with commentary from Nantz regarding the ongoing situation.
At the outset of the fourth quarter, Nantz and CBS took a right turn from the game to point out that several players showed respect and deference to another traditional expression of love of country.
“By the way, a lot of discussion and scrutiny about the national anthem,” Nantz said. “Just to be fair here, during the quarter change they played God Bless America. Philip Rivers, in the middle of a drive, he paused and was singing. You see in the background, Melvin Ingram along with Jatavis Brown with their hands over their heart.”
“Good sight,” Phil Simms added.
The exchange, along with Nantz’s suggestion that “fairness” in some way required the footage to be shown, could be interpreted as an effort to underscore the perception that those who stand for the anthem (or who sing God Bless America) are patriotic — and that those who don’t aren’t.
The protesting players (and many others) believe that there’s nothing unpatriotic about exercising the right to protest the anthem. It’s easier to argue that the protesters lack patriotism when starting with the premise that the players are doing it simply for attention and not because of deeper issues and concerns.
The notion that it’s a look-at-me gesture obscures the reality that the issue began when Colin Kaepernick sat for the anthem during a pair of preseason games and no one noticed because he wasn’t in uniform. That theory also includes a degree of cynicism that undermines the message Kaepernick and others are trying to send regarding the treatment of African-Americans and people of color by some (not all or most or many but some) police officers and regarding the training requirements that allow a person to serve on the front lines of law enforcement with a badge and a gun.
It’s unclear when the protests will end, but the idea that they will last only as long as cameras are present to capture them suggests that the concerns motivating the process aren’t real or genuine. Which in turn suggests that anyone who believes this hasn’t been paying attention — or simply doesn’t accept as credible the concept that the players are protesting for any reason other than the glorification of themselves.