NFL Protests Lack Key Ingredient To Stopping Police Brutality

The protests in the NFL have been widely covered in the sports and political world. From the President of the United States to ESPN to Fox News, everyone has weighed in. NFL athletes have continued to kneel during the anthem, despite negative feedback from both press and fans, including Vice President Mike Pence, who recently protested the protests by leaving the Colts game.

Conversation around the country has ranged from rabidly angry to indifferent. Nationalism has been shouted from one half while freedom of speech has been by the other. Some athletes have even set up meetings between themselves and opposing sides, creating a helpful dialogue that, if studied and taken to heart, could influence the nation to come together, to see each other without persecution and dividing lines, but cooperation and empathy, truly trying to coexist.

Colin Kaepernick taking that first knee happened over a year ago. The question that remains for NFL athletes is “Now what”?

Trump has remained vigilant in his detest for the protest and Tuesday Roger Goodell handed down a memo stating that all players will stand for the anthem. He is trying to take NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s approach and ask that players stand but give them the opportunity to have a platform for “these core issues.”

Not every NFL athlete is in support of the protest. Some feel, like many in our country, that kneeling during the anthem is a desecration of all that is American and is the wrong time to protest racism and police brutality. Others feel as though it’s the perfect time because it garnered the most attention, constantly haranguing the general public on prevalent and important American issues.

The protesters have gotten everyone’s attention, and quite frankly, have had it for over a year. Since the first knee, many more have followed, including a long offseason where the talk of whether or not the protests would continue next year.

So far, neither the NFL, the fans, nor the athletes have properly addressed the situation. It’s still just divisive talk only made worse by a showman president, punctuating certain ideologies to fuel his identity politics. But the athletes have not helped either. Constantly kneeling only brings the cameras and pundits into the spotlight, everyone’s differentiating opinions become the focus and not what the protests are actually about.

In Prince Edward County, Virginia, the fall of 1950, a high schooler by the name of Barbara Rose Johns helped change the course of history. Miss Johns organized a student strike of 450 students for two weeks because the school she attended was run down. In 1950, schools were supposed to be “separate, but equal.” Miss Johns was contending with a leaky roof, hard-to-heat woodstoves, and cast off books from the nearby white school. She had simply had enough.

Working underground with the help of her teacher, she contacted each family in the area that attended that school that could not be intimidated by white employers. Nicknamed “The Manhattan Project” after the first atomic bomb, Miss Johns was incredibly methodical, unbelievably organized, and driven to make the area see that her fellow students were in desperate need of basic school supplies and common courtesy.

Six full months of planning took place before the official day on April 23rd, 1951. The walk out was a success and the students marched directly to the white school superintendent to demand fair and equal treatment. His threats of calling their parents and expulsion fell on deaf ears, as the committee had already put provisions in place to make sure this was not within his realm.

Just two weeks after it began, and after the dean of Howard University School of Law Charles Hamilton Houston became involved, the strike was over. What it lead to was not “separate, but equal” but rather the NAACP filing a suit to contest that segregation was inherently not separate, but equal. The resulting Supreme Court case was Brown v. The Board of Education.

The NFL athletes don’t necessarily need every athlete on board. Miss Johns changed the country with just 450 students. But planning, endless planning and supreme dedication is necessary. Miss Johns did not have the means to pay for this type of planning, but had to do it all herself, her dedication and perseverance her fuel.

The NFL protesters have now grabbed the attention of the football community, fans, the United States, and even the president. Now is the time for action. When there is a protest it means the protesters want something specific in return for ending the protest. The athletes want unity and an end to police brutality, but kneeling will not be enough. There has to be a plan, an end result, and a specific action that needs to take place.

Allowing Roger Goodell, or any of the owners, to end the protest without receiving something in return would only achieve what our own government already seems to be adroit at accomplishing: disorienting and dividing the public without actually solving anything. No one wants that. To stand again during the national anthem should signify success for both sides; that would make everyone proud to be an American.