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The NFL'S America (By Stephanie Falotico)

“This is America.” A country you are free to be yourself until being yourself is wrong. “This is America.” We are raised under the impression that you are free to voice your opinions until it’s the wrong opinion to have. “This is America.” Banged and bruised, black and blue. Blacks versus the Blues. Circling back through the news cycles is a familiar theme especially for former NFL Quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his National Anthem Protests which were initially sparked by police brutality and racial injustice.

What first ignited outrage, then support, and mostly more outrage, has now been the precursor to a new NFL policy. Players must show appropriate respect for the anthem which loosely translates to “stand” or stay in the locker room. This new policy gives freedom to individual teams to determine their own consequences for not standing if a player chooses to be on the field during the anthem. When the new policy was released it did not take long for players of the league to chime in on the conversation.

Words such as “disgusting” and “disappointed” were thrown around. Malcom Jenkins, who is known for his activism, stated that the new policy “thwart[s] the players’ constitutional rights” and that “everyone loses when voices get stifled.” Other comments from players around the league included, “these owners don’t love America more than the players demonstrating” and this policy is just “another topic to get everyone against each other”.

One of many seemingly disappointing facts about this new policy is that it was passed without input from the players. However, there has been support expressed by Chairmen and CEOs of teams. New York Jets Chairman Christopher Johnson stated the team “would not enact any specific rules prohibiting kneeling. No fines or suspensions.” Denver Broncos CEO Joe Ellis stated, “We need to listen to our players and support the issues and causes that matter to them.”

Exactly Mr. Ellis, exactly. These NFL players have been gifted with their platforms. Professional athletes are supposed to be good role models and leaders. They are to set the example for the next generation of young minds and talent. But again, “This is America.” You can only be a role model if your actions are not too far left.

“United we stand, divided we fall.” Kaepernick took that seriously. He felt this country was divided, so he fell. Dropped to a knee, peacefully. To bring awareness that change was needed. That violence and anger is not always the best way to get a point across. We as a country are still hearing the echo of Kaepernick’s knee hitting the ground from nearly two years ago. By kneeling, he was actually standing the tallest, standing up for those oppressed.

This new NFL Policy is a ploy. To oppress even further. What is sad and disappointing is this oppression will continue to trickle down to those next generations. Those next generations of athletes and leaders are going to see their idols’ efforts being impeded and start to believe that their efforts to speak up, or stand up, won’t matter.

I hope that is not true. I hope these NFL players will not let this new policy silence them. I hope they continue in their fight.

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