NFL’s Indulgence of Radical Politics Sends Divisive Message, Drives Away Fans
Washington, DC – With the high likelihood of continued instances of professional football players “taking a knee” while the National Anthem is played during this week’s NFL games, members of the Project 21 black leadership network are warning that continued protests lacking clear intentions are hurting the sport’s reputation as well as the well-being of its sponsors.
While fans who have been polled by the media do not necessarily want players fired over their protests, overwhelming majorities want professional athletes to stand respectfullyduring the playing of the National Anthem. Past protests have been cited as a key factor in fans no longer watching games.
In a commentary published on the Fox News Channel website, Project 21 Co-Chairman Stacy Washington wrote that millionaire athletes protesting without a specific goal are testing the dwindling patience of the American people.
“The NFL has a choice to make, and it’s an easy one: political activism or sports. The American people will only tolerate one of those so they had best choose wisely,” said Washington, a syndicated talk radio host on the American Family Radio and Urban Family Talk networks and U.S. Air Force veteran who served in an honor guard unit at military funerals. “There are ways to sway a community; defiling a national symbol associated with honor, service, sacrifice and bravery isn’t one of them. If the NFL continues to indulge the players, declining ratings and lower attendance at games will become the norm. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the team owners must man up: choose the fans by ending the protests.”
Anger over the players’ protests has trickled down to other businesses that make money through their affiliation with the NFL. Fans are reportedly buying less team merchandise andnot going to games (and thus not buying concessions). Bars are refusing to broadcastgames. And, in a move that could be costly to the NFL, DirecTV has let some customers cancel their premium “Sunday Ticket” game packages. Sponsor boycotts are also being organized.
“We live in a free country where people have a right to free speech. Having said that, there’s a responsibility to use it wisely,” said Project 21 member Darryn “Dutch” Martin, a former federal diplomatic official and motivational speaker. “I believe Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players have a right to kneel when the National Anthem is played. But the flip-side to this coin is that fans don’t have a duty to spend their hard-earned money on the NFL if they feel our country is being disrespected in any way – even by a peaceful protest such as kneeling during the National Anthem. Furthermore, team owners who are fully aware of the financial ramifications shouldn’t be obligated to hire players such as Kaepernick. There’s a time and a place for everything. Professional sports should be a politics-free affair.”
Project 21 member Nadra Enzi, a community anti-crime activist in New Orleans, is critical of the anti-law enforcement sentiments that many protesting players are embracing: “I can’t take a knee to take up a cause that gives perverted honor to mostly career criminals who lost their final fight with the police. Doing do steps on the dignity of urban crime victims and the officers who have been killed in the line of duty in the inner city.”
“We need civil discourse,” said Project 21 member Jerome Danner, host of the “Thinking It Through” podcast. “It is my utmost desire that our most famous athletes and Commander-in-Chief would set an example by engaging in thoughtful conversation. Rather than impulsively stating our opinions about emotional issues, careful introspection should be taken and considerate perspectives shared. Protests are not necessarily wrong, and neither is having an opinion about them. To move forward as a unified nation, however, we should proceed in a thoughtful and courteous manner uncharacteristic of the times.”