Two days after the NFL changed its controversial anthem policy to require any player inclined to protest to retreat to the locker room, a group called the National Action Network gathered outside 345 Park Avenue to criticize the NFL’s decision.
Via the Associated Press, roughly 50 people showed up for the rally. Roughly 10 people spoke out against the new rule.
“Our demand is that the NFL reverse that immoral and unconstitutional decision,” Kirtsen John Foy, the first of the speakers, said.
“I’m proud because I’m going to be on the right side of history,” New York city councilman Jumaane Williams (pictured in the #ImWithKap T-shirt) said. “I’m going to be standing and kneeling with Colin Kaepernick.”
The groups plans to hold other demonstrations in Detroit and Los Angeles.
Some will surely scoff because the numbers weren’t in the hundreds or thousands, but consider this. For all the huffing and puffing from those who strenuously object to the protests, how many rallies or gatherings did they conduct? How many who swore they were done with football actually deprived themselves of something they enjoy, and how many were simply hoping to force a change to the anthem policy with “I’ll turn this car around right now”-style threats?
Regardless, the truth is that there are NFL fans on both sides of the issue. For reasons still not known or apparent, the NFL has opted only to hear the voices of those who protest the protesting. The NFL’s secret research project regarding Kaepernick’s unemployment revealed that opinions were split, but the NFL ultimately decided to bow to the demographic that is opposed to the protests.
The NFL also has opted to inflate the views of less than half of the total fan base into a throng of customers who cannot be ignored. Consider this recent quote from Steelers owner Art Rooney II: “The bottom line is that with this new policy we have attempted to strike a balance between respecting the right of a player not to be forced to stand for the anthem, while acknowledging that the vast majority of our fans who attend or watch our games, particularly those in the military and veteran communities, do not want to come to a game to see a political protest.”
That’s simply not a statement based in fact. A minority of fans have chosen to exercise their right to make their displeasure with the protests known. Another minority of fans have chosen to exercise their right to make their support of the protests known. The NFL has chosen to listen to only one of those groups.
In so doing, the NFL has persuaded some in the media to blindly parrot the “bad for business” mantra when it comes to the protests. Apart from the fact that, as Falcons owner Arthur Blank recently acknowledged, league and club revenues are up, there’s still no specific, reliable, quantitative proof that the protests are “bad for business.” It’s just as likely that the clumsy, awkward manner in which the NFL has handled the issue is “bad for business.”
But the NFL isn’t pushing the angle that it’s “bad for business” to stifle the protests, because the NFL continues to choose not to heed the opinions or complaints from those who believe that peaceful protest can be respectful to the military, an appropriate tactic for bringing attention to legitimate public grievances, and ultimately an exercise of one of the many freedoms that Americans have fought and died for from the day the founding fathers decided to no longer bow to the heavy-handed rule of the King of England.