Why the NFL needs to address social issues

By: Jordan Kendall, Columnist

Will the NFL be the next league to boycott games?

Last week, four major pro American sports leagues had athletes boycott their scheduled games, following in suit of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic. The WNBA, MLS, and MLB also had athletes boycott in response to the Jacob Blake shooting in Wisconsin. This is the first time players have boycotted an NBA game since Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics did in 1961 to protest racial injustice. Nearly 50 years later, not much has changed, and if anything athletes are speaking out more than ever. After seeing four leagues postpone games, could the NFL be next?

NFL players are also outspoken about racial injustice

It would make a lot of sense for many NFL players to boycott the start of the regular season. Most have been active participants in fighting for racial equality in the last few months, many participated in protests while others have been on various panels to discuss the issues facing America. The Detroit Lions canceled practice the day after the shooting and stood outside the facility as a team with a message reading “THE WORLD CAN’T GO ON!” 

I’ve seen a lot of comments on social media complaining that since athletes make a lot of money they don’t have the right to speak out on these issues since they aren’t suffering. This isn’t the case, many grew up in the same neighborhoods these incidents are happening in, and with the same fears that many black people in America have.

“’It was something that really shook a lot of guys. It’s a fear that a lot of guys live with every day, a lot of my teammates live with every day who are Black,’” said Oday Aboushi, a Lions guard. “‘It’s something where a simple drive to work can be dangerous for some guys on my team.’

We’ve seen many players speak out against systemic racism, and if a few NBA teams can unite and refuse to play in order to make a stand I think a few NFL teams can do the same. It’s going to be harder since NBA teams have around 12-15 players while NFL rosters have 53, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens.

The NFL has time to figure it out

This applies to both the league and the players, unlike the NBA where they are in the middle of the playoffs the NFL hasn’t played a game this season. If a few teams or even a few players decided to boycott games, the league has more than enough time to show support to anyone who wants to. The NFL has made efforts in the last few months to heal the wounds of how they handled Kaepernick. While I commend them for what they’ve done so far, they have a long way to go. One of the easiest ways they will gain respect is to show full support to any player or any team who refuses to play. I believe this has to apply to both the NFL and the individual teams. Even if an owner or head coach is against the idea, I think if they show support it would go a long way.

Gone are the days of just sticking to sports

For the fans who criticize players for not sticking to sports, it’s not going away anytime soon. Until there is significant change made in areas such as racial equality, police brutality, and discrimination in the courts these players aren’t going to “shut up and dribble” anymore. They realize the power they have and the impact it can have, they aren’t going to give it up to make a few people on Twitter happy. If you don’t like politics in sports, join them in fighting for change.

To me, I think it’s more important to focus on issues such as systemic racism and police brutality than who knelt during the anthem or boycotted a game. If we as a country can focus more on the reasons why players are speaking out instead of how I think we can make some significant progress as a nation.

 

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