This question is astoundingly easy to answer: yes.
According to CNN Money, at least $7.75 million of the $106 million raised for Trump’s inaugural committee came from NFL owners and the league. So, to answer the question simply, politics are already involved in the realm of public sports. Economically and socially, the NFL has been a driving force behind politics for decades.
A better question to ask then is this: do views on social justice belong anywhere in entertainment? And the answer is again yes. However, to answer this question we have to dig a little deeper.
Whenever a member of society is given a platform in the media, government, etc. they are given a chance: to simply abide by the rules and perform or to use this high-profile position to represent those in society who haven’t been.
Colin Kaepernick decided to do the latter more than a year ago, and used his platform to bring attention to the unjust actions taking place largely against members of the African American and Latino communities by members of the police force. And to do so, he chose to kneel during the National Anthem before a profession football game.
This sparked a national reaction; exactly what Kaepernick had hoped for. Although, a great majority of the population twisted the message. They asked the question: why would someone ever protest during the National Anthem? They called it disrespectful to veterans, to America, and to the viewers.
However, this argument is uninformed and misdirected. When, if not peacefully, if not silently, if not violently, if not in marches, if not during anthems, if not on television, radio, Facebook—if not any of these instances—when then is it respectable for someone to protest? If Colin Kaepernick would have chosen to protest, per se, on a street corner in Chicago, the audience that truly needed to hear it wouldn’t have and those that did would still claim it to be disrespectful, ungrateful, and pointless. This opposition has nothing to do with the matter of patriotism, but it has everything to do with an opposition to the concept of protest altogether.
Now is where the situation takes a turn. More than a year later, after President Trump decided to comment on the kneelings, the NFL players decide to unite. Yet this time, they were not using their platform to unite for social justice and recognition, they were simply uniting against Trump and his comments. And this is why they are wrong.
They are not wrong in protesting, whether it be during a National Anthem, a Katy Perry song, or a rerun of the Titanic: protesting is never wrong. It is the very foundation of what America is founded upon—free speech!
The United States of America is not perfect, and to believe and advocate for change is never wrong. Donald Trump’s entire campaign was that America wasn’t great and this majority of the country cheered for him. Yet now that NFL players like Kaepernick and celebrities like John Legend and Stevie Wonder are claiming it needs some guidance, it is suddenly the greatest country on the face of the planet and anyone saying otherwise is incorrect?
Taking that kneel was not to disrespect America, and if that is the only thing you took away from the demonstration, you are a huge part of the problem. No matter how foul or unpatriotic you felt the protest to be, the message behind it was clear and genuine: innocent American citizens and, more importantly, human beings are being shot and killed by American police officers.
And if you cannot put aside your politics and your sports preferences and take a knee for them, you are just as responsible as the men and women pulling the trigger.