Greeson: In the NFL, protests of protests of protests are getting hard to follow

Greeson: In the NFL, protests of protests of protests are getting hard to follow

September 26th, 2017 by Jay Greesom in Opinion Columns

The Dallas Cowboys, led by owner Jerry Jones, center, take a knee prior to the national anthem prior to an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Photo by The Associated Press /Times Free Press.

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The NFL has led newscasts everywhere in recent days. And it was not for what was arguably the most exciting and impressive on-field action in recent memory on Sunday, either.

Donald Trump on Friday put the sports world on blast with a speech in Alabama talking about how great it would be if the owners and teams fired the "sons of b——" who protested during the anthem.

We need to take an aside right here before we get to the substance of this debate. The leader of our country and the free world should not talk this way — period. It's embarrassing and small-minded. And to insult those players' mothers? It's bush league, and someone in that office — with that platform and position of power — should always be better than that. Always.

Another thing: the president's protest of the protests, and the protesters' protest of the president's protest is getting a little hard to follow. Shouldn't we have better things to do, for George Washington's sake?

Jay Greeson

Jay Greeson

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

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Darren Rovell tweeted that President Trump in recent days tweeted 12 times about the NFL and the anthem. He tweeted twice about North Korea, the country whose foreign minister told the UN general assembly that "our rocket's visit to the entire U.S. mainland is inevitable."

As for Sunday, well, the games were excellent. There were four amazing finishes in the early time slot that included the craziness between Detroit and Atlanta, a 61-yard field goal, the Patriots' amazing comeback with Tom Terrific doing his thing and the Bears gutting the Steelers in overtime.

The football action was thrilling. And yet it was lost in the shadow of the pregame theatrics.

Here's my take on the whole issue: The players have every right to protest. In turn, you, me, your aunt Gertrude, your vet's cousin who served in Iraq, and everyone in between has a right to cheer or jeer that decision.

Even the president.

But at what point are we going to expect more from the leader of the free world than stump-speech zingers looking for applause and propaganda posed as political grandstanding?

We actually would have liked to have heard a thoughtful and measured — and even a conservative — view on this topic. The NFL flap signifies so much about the divide in our country, and touches so many of today's hot-button issues: race, gender, religion, patriotism, you name it.

But instead of taking a position of leadership and embracing the rights of the players, Trump delivered a bumper sticker rather than a believable sentiment. It was sound bite more than substance.

This has now gone far beyond former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick's taking a knee, and it's kind of puzzling as to why Trump took this tack: Insulting the players who protest. Especially considering that more than 70 percent of the players in the NFL are black, and many of them were raised by single mothers. To insult those mothers is the worst insult imaginable.

I'll say this, if Trump really wanted to end the protests and get all the players to stand for the anthem, he did the exact opposite. There were roughly a half dozen players who protested in Week 2 of the NFL season. Yesterday and last night, in Week 3, more than 300 protested if you count the three teams that did not come out of the locker room for the national anthem.

If your goal is to win the discussion, argument or debate, then you don't galvanize the other side by using insulting rhetoric and curse words at a pep rally.

Beyond that, whether you think the players should stand or kneel, let's review the single greatest duty of the great office of the president of these United States. We should seek leadership from the Oval Office, and one of the fundamental definitions of leadership is inspiring unity. Unity of direction. Unity of purpose. Unity of people.

Are we going to find that? Not likely, and that's OK. There are 324 million of us here in America, and other than firing Butch Jones, it's going to be hard to get 99-plus percent of them to agree on anything.

But at what point do we look to the leadership of this country to try to truly unite our society, rather than calling people profane names and galvanizing each side?

And that, friends, has nothing to do with the national anthem or the NFL.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6343.

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