For years now football fans have been begging to keep politics out of the National Football League. Many are tired of professional players using their media coverage and societal influence to project their personal political beliefs upon their fans.
Millions of people watch the Super Bowl every year to enjoy the two best teams battle it out on the field, not to be subjected to a public display of personal beliefs.
It is often heard that football players need to stick to solely playing football because they are being paid to play, not to preach political propaganda. In theory this is correct, but to limit the speech of NFL players would subsequently limit their free speech in general, which is unconstitutional.
While it is true that professional football players are being paid for their athletic ability, they are not being paid to surrender their constitutional rights. These players have worked very hard to attain the ability to have such a widespread influence and a platform to share their opinions.
Whether it is accepted or not, athletes are role models in communities, cities, states, and the country. The popularity and publicity of the NFL gives players the ability to not just share individual opinions, but those of whole communities that do not receive the publicity or media deserved.
This country was built on the foundation of free speech and we should be promoting the exercise of our institutional rights, not speaking out against them.
The NFL has had a tumultuous few years recently as they have found themselves caught in the middle of national displays of free speech and the uproar from fans across the country and current President Donald Trump.
One of the most memorable and controversial issues that has come about is the #TakeAKnee movement. This movement was sparked by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick when he took a knee for the national anthem during a preseason game in 2016.
The purpose of him taking a knee was to publicly stand out, no pun intended, against the racial oppression found so prevalently in the United States.
Since Kaepernick took a knee in 2016, fellow NFL players and owners across the country have followed his lead and stood up for people of color everywhere by kneeling down.
The National Football League has struggled to properly handle this controversial issue. At the end of 2017, they made some positive progress by creating a $100 million dollar fund to fight the social justice issues being protested by the players. However, this positive relationship was thrown in the bin when the NFL released a new national anthem policy that required all players on the field to stand during the anthem. It did allow players to stay in the locker room, but the policy was seen as a direct attack on the players’ protesting privileges.
To this day, a happy medium has been elusive and havoc continues to ensue.
I believe that NFL players should be allowed to use their platform to express personal beliefs and share the views of their communities. To prohibit them from doing so would be one of the most hypocritical actions this country has ever taken. Professional football players have the right to free speech through protest just as all Americans do, and there should be no punishment for exercising one’s rights.