Dear NFL Players: I Can’t Take Your Cause Seriously Until You Do

Let me speak directly to the NFL players who keep protesting every week.  You seem to want to start a conversation and open a dialogue about some serious issues.  Sounds good to me.  Let’s chat.

I think your protest could be a lot more effective if you just tweaked a few key things.  As a (former) NFL fan who dearly loves football, let me try to help you.

Your message is getting lost in your methods.  You have chosen to express yourselves by protesting during the playing of the national anthem.  In so doing, you are offending and angering a lot of fans who take that anthem and what it represents very seriously.  You say that you mean no disrespect toward the flag or the country, but that’s exactly how a lot of people are taking it.  If these are the people you are trying to reach, then you’re doing it all wrong.  No one is going to listen to a word you have to say as long as you come across as just trying to piss people off.

Who is your protest aimed at?  I really can’t tell.  Is it the police?  The military?  The President?  The NFL?  The team owners?  The fans?  You’re kind of all over the map here.  If you want people to listen to your message, it would help if you told us who your message is actually intended for.

An effective protest has to have well-defined demands.  No one seems to know what yours are.  You keep using vague phrases like “police brutality” and “racial inequality.”  Those are great things to protest against, but what do you want us to do about it?  What are your demands?  What are the specific criteria that, when met, would lead to the end of your protesting?

Serious protests involve a degree of self-sacrifice.  What have you sacrificed for your cause?  You’re still suiting up every week.   You’re still playing.  You’re still getting paid millions of dollars. You make more money in one season than most people will ever see in a lifetime.  You’re coming across as whiny, spoiled brats right now.  Grown men who act like spoiled brats tend to get treated like spoiled brats.  They get ignored and they don’t get the things they want.

If you really want to protest, do something meaningful.  Sacrifice something.  Refuse to play.  Go on a hunger strike.  Rip up your contract.  Do something besides intentionally piss off your fan base and then just go about your business.  You would do well to remember that your money originates with the fans who are increasingly ignoring you.  If they aren’t watching you, buying your merchandise, or doing business with your sponsors, then where do you think your multiple millions of dollars will come from?

The bottom line is this:  no one is taking your cause seriously because you aren’t taking it seriously.  I can tell you aren’t taking it seriously because you aren’t acting like you’re taking it seriously.

Let me give you an example of a well-defined protest:

  • Message:  Football has become too politicized.  I don’t want to watch politics with my football.  If I can’t have football without politics, then I won’t have football at all.
  • Who My Message is Aimed At:  You (the players)
  • My Sacrifice:  I have given up watching the only professional sport I have ever followed.  I have also given away my associated t-shirts, jerseys, flags, and other NFL memorabilia to a local thrift store.  I no longer frequent bars to eat nachos, drink beer, and watch football as my fall weekend escape.
  • My Demand:  Take the politics out of football and I will return as a fan.

I’m trying to help you here because I want football back.  If you are serious about your cause, try modifying your protest along these lines.  Otherwise I have to think that you don’t really have anything to protest and that you are simply spoiled, childish millionaires.

Prove me wrong.  Please.

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Russell Patten

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