While all his Pittsburgh Steelers teammates hid in the locker room rather than be put in the position of taking a stand on the protests currently sweeping the National Football League, one player stood apart and stood tall on Sunday for the playing of the national anthem.
The controversy, as everyone in the known universe is painfully aware now, was kicked off last year by former 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began sitting or kneeling during “The Star-Spangled Banner” at game time to protest the “oppression of people of color” in America. A slow trickle of other players gradually followed suit.
Last Friday, President Trump added fuel to the fire when he suggested at a rally in Alabama that any “son of a bitch” who “disrespects our flag” should be fired. This virtually guaranteed that many players who otherwise might not get involved would feel compelled to push back, and indeed, there was a surge of protests during last weekend’s games.
Members of both the Ravens and Jaguars, for example, took a knee while the national anthem was played ahead of their game in London. More than a dozen Cleveland Browns and at least ten Indianapolis Colts knelt before their contest. The Dallas Cowboys and their owners did likewise just before the anthem at their Monday night game. Thousands of spectators booed in each instance, and the hills were alive with the sound of countless fans at home collectively switching off their TVs in disgust.