A group of current and former NFL players have made a formal request to the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell to have an entire month dedicated to social activism, according to Yahoo Sports.
Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and receiver Torrey Smith, and former NFL wide receiver Anquan Boldin all helped write a 10-page memo to the league offices asking for unwavering support for their social activism causes, which would presumably include their national anthem protests.
Specifically, the players asked that November be an entire month dedicated to social activism. They are asking the NFL to do something “similarly to what the league already implements for breast cancer awareness, honoring military, etc.”
Anthem protests are allowed by the league, but could become something else entirely if these four players get their way.
Imagining league-sponsored, or league-mandated, social activism is a jarring thought. Players are asked to wear some pink on their uniforms for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Could they be asked to wear a specific color in support of social activism? Will players who oppose anthem protests be forced into them? Will the league spend extra time emphasizing national anthem protests as support of social activism?
The questions are endless about what national anthem protests could look like if this passes.
With the subject header “Player Activism for Racial Equality and Criminal Justice Reform,” the four players made their intentions very clear.
“[T]he silence [from league owners and GM’s] following our individual and collective demonstrations around the national anthem to raise awareness to racial inequality and issues surrounding criminal justice reform has been met with inconsistencies in press coverage and perceived lack of support,” wrote the players.
“Our focus has been to identify and place our efforts on the key areas of reform where our influence and support can make a meaningful difference in the community. Those include prioritizing Criminal Justice Reform and Police/Community Relations Engagement.”
The players then lay out several actions they plan on taking, including visits and meetings on Capitol Hill, going into the community, and working with police officers.
But perhaps the most shocking thing the players asked for is for the league to no longer just grant permission for their protests, but to actively support them.
“To be clear, we are asking for your support,” the memo reads. “We appreciate your acknowledgment on the call regarding the clear distinction between support and permission. For us, support means: bear all or part of the weight of; hold up; give assistance to, especially financially; enable to function or act. We need support, collaboration and partnerships to achieve our goal of strengthening the community.”
The players also tried to differentiate their social activism from national anthem protests, despite much of their activist demonstrations taking place during the anthem.
“To counter the vast amount of press attention being referred to as the ‘national anthem protests’ versus the large amount of grass roots work that many players around the league have invested their time and resources, we would like to request a league-wide initiative that would include a month dedicated to a campaign initiative and related events.”
The irony is evident. In fairness, many professional athletes do help contribute to improving their communities. But if players like Bennett and Jenkins want more attention on that instead of attention on what they’re doing during the national anthem, perhaps they should stop demonstrating during the anthem. Perhaps they should take post-game conferences and interviews as a chance to shed light on the good some of their compatriots actually are doing.
Instead, they spend much of their time addressing their national anthem protests.
It’s clearly getting national media attention.
But if it’s not the kind of attention the players want, why are they still doing it?
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