Athletes need to put their money where their mouths are

May 31, 2018

Put your money where your mouth is. This is what I would tell National Football League players if I were Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Mike Wilcox Editor/Publisher

Mike Wilcox

I think he and the NFL owners got it all wrong with their latest policy governing whether players can kneel or not during the National Anthem. There new policy says teams or players seen kneeling during the National Anthem are subject to fines from the league office. Instead of defusing the situation that caused a great deal of consternation for football fans in 2017, it has brought it to a head again.

Really the owners could have left the issue alone. Since 2017 it seems to have quietly gone away. What once was a lightning rod for division amongst players and fans, had pretty much died. But, for whatever reason, the owners felt a need to address the protests again.

I fully expect many NFL players to challenge the edict come football season much the same as last year, which again will cause a wave of dissension and boycotts from NFL fans who think pampered, rich football players should do what their bosses tell them to do.

Put your money where your mouth is. If football players really believe that minorities do not get a fair shake in this country spend the offseason working for change. That to me, would be far more effective than kneeling during the National Anthem. If football players, who clearly make more money than all but a handful of us, want social change to occur, I suggest they spend a little of their pocket change to initiate that change.

JJ Watt, who began his collegiate football career at Central Michigan University, and is recognized as one of the best defensive players in the game, is an excellent role model for his peers. You don’t see him kneeling or advocating day game protests.

Watt, instead, paid the funeral expenses of the ten Santa Fe High School students and teachers who were cowardly killed when a student decided to shoot up the Texas school. This is after Watt led a campaign that raised over $34 million to aid victims of Hurricane Harvey, that devastated Watt’s adopted city, Houston last year.

As an aside Watt was recently named the 2017 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year for his philanthropy efforts. He put his money on the table, where others like him, would prefer talking a good game.

Another example of putting their money on the table is defensive end Chris Long. A proponent of social change who has verbalized his opposition to the new NFL kneeling policy, Long donated his entire 2017 salary to social injustice causes.

Many of us would agree social inequities exist in our society. Many of us would also agree that professional athletes are in unique positions to be change agents in today’s society. But there are better ways to lead America than kneeling in front of the flag and National Anthem that are symbols of our country’s freedom.
Watt and Long have shown us a better way. Hopefully other deep pocket sports figures will follow in their footsteps.

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