NFL players across the nation, spurred by controversial comments by Donald Trump and in support of black-balled quarterback Colin Kaepernick, launched protests against racial injustice and police brutality during the national anthem. What came as a shock to many is that other than 17-year veteran Julius Peppers, who quietly remained in the locker room, no Carolina Panther player protested.
Tweets and re-tweets on players’ twitter accounts leading up to Sunday’s game supported players’ right to protest and showed disappointment in Trump’s comments.
Get ya mans ???? pic.twitter.com/itKF9rANIM
— charles johnson (@randywattson) September 23, 2017
— Thomas Davis (@ThomasDavisSDTM) September 23, 2017
So why nothing on game day? Were players concerned that if they strayed from the norm they would face repercussions?
Monday, team spokesman Steve Drummond issued a statement saying Panthers owner Jerry Richardson met with key players at his home to discuss concerns they had about not being able to express their views on social issues.
Mr Richardson invited captains and other team leaders to his home this afternoon. They discussed social issues affecting the league and solutions moving forward. As always, the conversations between Mr. Richardson and players will remain private.
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera shared his own anti-protest sentiment with players the night before the game.
I said I really think that what we need to do is if we are going to be united we need to all stand, look at the flag, be at attention, feet at ten and two, left hand down at our sides, right hand on our heart and we need to look at the flag and we need to listen to the national anthem.
The bottom line is the Carolina Panthers players, some of whom have strong views on what’s going on in this country in terms of police brutality and racial injustice, were punked. They squandered the perfect opportunity, given the tone and timing of Trump’s comments, to show their power and take a stand for what they believe in. They allowed the most influential thing they have as men, their voice, to be muted.
Maybe it was the classic “I gotta feed my family” mentality. Or maybe players were thinking about former teammate Marcus Ball who raised his fist in the air during the national anthem last year and found himself without a job the next week. But it saddens me to see men emasculated in this way. NFL owners and front office workers, who are almost all white, know the power these men have and in some ways are afraid of it. It’s just too bad the players don’t realize it.