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Fans don’t want politics in their sports

Mike Fullilove
Mike Fullilove amccoy@sunherald.com

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began the kneeling protests during the national anthem last season. A handful of players joined him in 2016. Overwhelmingly sports fans disagreed with what they felt was Kaepernick’s disrespect for the American flag and national anthem. They don’t want politics in their sports.

ESPN, the MSNBC of the sports world, riled fans further by painting Kaepernick as a free speech hero. ESPN also riled fans by awarding Bruce Jenner the ESPY Courage Award for becoming a woman. Then they fawned over Michael Sam the first openly gay NFL prospect.

ESPN proceeded to suspend Linda Cohn, longtime SportsCenter commentator, for daring to question ESPN’s political activism while initially giving a light hand slap to anchor Jemele Hill for calling President Donald Trump and his followers “white supremacists.” Hill continued her twitter disrespect so ESPN had to suspend her. ESPN’s ratings are tanking but they don’t understand why. Really?

Enter President Donald Trump inserting himself into the national anthem protests, saying what many people wish would happen — “You’re Fired!” The kneeling protests grew but everyone lost sight of what Kaepernick was saying in the first place. Players, coaches and owners call for solidarity — solidarity to what? What Kaepernick was saying? “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” He also called out police brutality against blacks as a reason he knelt.

Now the solidarity is against President Trump. Teams have been booed by their own fans because fans see kneeling as disrespectful to our country, our flag, the anthem and our military. Most networks now avoid the protests by not broadcasting the national anthem.

Commissioner Roger Goodell says the NFL understands, wants its players to stand, but will not make them. Instead the NFL thinks helping its players become more involved with issues in their communities is the solution. The NFL is clueless and simply fears its players.

Yes, President Trump should stick to other things but he simply gave voice to sports fans around the country who are upset with the politicization of sporting events. Many fans view the protesting pro athletes like they see Hollywood celebrities who speak out against Trump — Hey, do your job and don’t bring politics into the entertainment realm.

In 2016 Niners coach Chip Kelly told reporters that Kaepernick’s decision not to stand during the national anthem is “his right as a citizen” and said, “It’s not my right to tell him not to do something.” Wrong. Kaepernick was then an employee of the 49ers in his workplace environment. The coach and the owner had every right to tell Kaepernick to stand or get off the field, or yes, be fired. So why do coaches and owners refuse to step up and take hold of their workplace?

The NFL has invited Kaepernick to its meeting Tuesday, so we will see what happens. Kaepernick’s social concerns deserve a hearing and should be part of our national discussion over race, police tactics, incarceration rates, and yes, inner city crime and black culture. However, these discussions should not take place on the ball field sideline, as the fans have paid to see a game. Let’s just, play ball!

Mike Fullilove of Long Beach writes about local, state and national issues from a conservative perspective.

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