But if we have learned anything about women and women in this league and the country at large, constant support for such things always depends on which way the wind is blowing. In an incredible and swift moment of solidarity from the league’s players, this offseason, the NFL’s hand was forced. Colin Kaepernick was trying to warn about the country and admitted that he had a point. Invest in programs and initiatives that can benefit inequitable communities. Support players who, in their precious little time, are helping to pass legislation, arrange meetings with local law enforcement and draw attention to systemic racial injustice.Or, run a league without them.
And so we got Thursday night. Anti-racism signs behind the end zone. A pre-game Alicia Keys concert in which one of her backup singers donated the number 7 T-shirt. Names of victims of police brutality behind sportsmen’s helmets. Singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” before the national anthem. Players who choose not to field. Players who choose to kneel for something. Promotional advertising after promotional advertising encourages unity. “Black Lives Matter” is shown on a football stadium scoreboard mile from the Kansas-Missouri border.
It was nice to see this. Some of it was as cringeworthy, with a small pocket of announcers and pundits trying to hang it all the way to “both sides of the issue”. Some of it was energetic, as we started a conversation about the black experience of black analysts on national television before the season opener. And, as we saw on the field in Kansas City, players from both teams had their weapons locked before the game began, some of which were denied by a portion of the league’s intended audience.
Perhaps it is an outlier. We may be making the familiar mistake of paying too much attention to a small pocket of people determined to wander from life with our eyes closed. But perhaps this thing seems more ugly than we expected. Maybe 2016’s rhetoric, crafted as a ‘son of bits’ of players, letter-writing campaigns and perceived ratings, was only a children’s game. Maybe the NFL remains the battleground it never wanted to be, especially as we get closer to November and the current president, who received abundant donations from a large portion of NFL owners during his first campaign , Fumbles (old) ammunition around the cushion of the couch for a new one.
Will Goodell and the NFL stick to their plan? Will they, like their players, refuse to bow down in the midst of the storm? In Week 11, are we still able to provide Rodney Harrison and Tony Dungy a realistic piece of life that most of us have the privilege of ignoring?
We talk about having energy after a seismic event at all times. Back to their own bunkers, continuing to find the stamina to move the rest of the world. Thursday night was the culmination of an offseason muscle from one of the NFL’s brightest stars. It was a huge apology billboard for all the waffling and wavering in the last four years. It was an absent parent ordering your birthday gift five months after the fact, amazon it at home with a card called “a little cold”?
But today is a different day; After all the built up capital has been spent and used in the morning. Today is when the shock begins. Today when the owner tunes into the morning opinion channel of his choice and tackles the inevitable and ridiculous reaction on Thursday night and how it is somehow, undeniably UN-American.
now what happened? What happens if the boon lasts? What will happen if voting shifts? What happens when the wind changes?