photo of three NFL footballs leaning against one another

This article was originally published on the Toronto Star.

Carla Maloney, a Republican official from Pennsylvania, stepped down this past weekend for repeatedly calling Black NFL players, who protest the anthem, “baboons” in Facebook posts. She also posted, “You don’t like it here go to Africa see how you like it there.”

Moreover, on Monday, Nike announced Colin Kaepernick as a key spokesperson to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the brand’s marketing communication using the iconic tagline, Just Do It. This development appears exceedingly awkward for the NFL as Nike is an official sponsor of the league while Kaepernick has sued the NFL.

Kaepernick’s collusion case against the NFL is going to trial. Despite good performance credentials, Kaepernick has gone unsigned since the conclusion of the 2016 season, when he seemingly became blacklisted for initiating the players’ movement of kneeling for the pregame national anthem.

The national anthem dilemma has tormented the NFL for two seasons.

In efforts to make the national anthem protest issue go away this season, NFL owners held a private meeting that fostered an announcement from NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell in May. A rule was put in place that required

photo of Prof. Tim Dewhirst leaning against a stair case railing looking up
Prof. Tim Dewhirst

players, if on the field, to stand at attention during the national anthem. Players were given the option of remaining in the dressing room if they did not wish to stand at attention.

The NFL’s rule was an obvious attempt to make the players protesting no longer visible (out of sight, out of mind).

The rule was also announced without consulting the NFL Players Association, which quickly filed an objection. Consequently, there has been considerable uncertainty about whether the rule is enforceable and prompted intrigue about the willingness of players to continue national anthem protests.

Meanwhile, NFL broadcasters ESPN and CBS have announced their intentions to avoid airing the national anthem this season.

The headlines have prompted President Donald Trump to reenter the conversation concerning this polarizing issue.

Trump, at a political rally in Alabama, asked the audience if they would like to see NFL owners say to kneeling players, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now.” On a separate occasion, Trump said, “Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country” when referring to protesting NFL players.

Trump continues to obfuscate the issue by tweeting that kneeling players are unable to define their protest. But, Kaepernick and the players following his lead have clearly said they’re drawing attention to racial injustice and police brutality.

Goodell and the NFL owners, meanwhile, are visibly fumbling their message.