In the first week of the season, several players protested by sitting during the anthem or raising a fist in the “black power” salute while standing during the national anthem. Other players expressed solidarity with the protesters by placing their hands on their demonstrating teammates’ shoulders.
Both sides of the political aisle have weighed in on the protests, but not many people have weighed in as fervently as legendary coach and television analyst Mike Ditka. Here’s what he had to say:
“People are gonna do what they want to do — this is a different generation. In other words, they think a lot of things don’t apply to them,” Ditka told TMZ on Monday. “Don’t forget now that that’s a minority, so for the majority of people who are going to understand what 9/11 meant, what this country stands for, the values that we have, and they’re gonna go in that direction.
“You can’t stop everybody. There’s always going to be some malcontents,” he said. “So let them be malcontents, let them do their thing. They’ll move on. Nobody will think about it, nobody will remember who they were.”
That’s a bold statement, for sure. But is it on point? Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who started the national anthem controversy last year may still sit at home unsigned on Sundays, but he’s managed to remain in the headlines and may well maintain an infamous place in NFL history.
Here’s the thing: these players desperately want to say something with their protests, but it’s not always clear what. If you’re going to make a statement, why not make one like the Cleveland Browns did before their season opener:
Because unity is one of the most powerful values teams can hold up during this times, isn’t it?