By: Lauren Zelasko
At the start of any season, media is often drowning in predictions, hopes and spotlights of various athletes, whether positive or negative. This is especially true for the NFL, which has faced numerous allegations of abuse, corruption and even murder by their players throughout the decades.
One thing that is rarely advertised in sports is dreaded politics. Fans often get upset when players decide to infuse their political opinions into the game they love. One athlete has found himself in the middle of a recent political controversy, dividing much of the NFL and the rest of the nation.
The debate began when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem during a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. This silent protest was in reaction to the recent trend in police brutality and suffering of minorities.
Kaepernick has since gained national infamy, as the media immediately jumped on this issue and began soaking up statements from Kaepernick, the 49ers, and other athletes throughout the nation.
Kaepernick repeatedly stated that the issue of racism and brutality in our country in much bigger to him than football. Many other athletes have joined him in their stance against corruption and racism, including teammate Eric Reid, and numerous other NFL players.
This controversy has split the nation, with some supporting Kaepernick in his right to stand, or rather to not stand, for what he believes in and speak his opinion. Others have scrutinized the football star, saying that his actions are demeaning to our military and the people who protect his freedom of speech.
There is no definitively “good” or “bad” way to play out this situation in the PR world, as everyone is entitled to their opinion and can support whatever issue they so choose. There is no “other side” or deeper meaning to this situation, other than the blatant actions of some athletes in reaction to senseless actions of others.
The NFL did have to deal with a potential PR disaster. Many teams and individuals in the NFL released statements regarding their thoughts of the issue, avoiding any accusations or assumptions that could have arisen and further extended the severity of the issue.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement in reaction to Kaepernick’s decision, stating that although he does not agree with his choice, he recognizes and respects his right to protest.
Many other teams have done the same, including the Miami Dolphins who tweeted out a picture encouraging their athletes and members the stand during the anthem, but also realizing it is the individuals right to reflect during the anthem in their own individual way.
Others were not as supportive on this issue. Many current and former NFL players stated that though they support Kaepernick’s right to express his opinion, during the national anthem is not the time to protest these issues, most notably on 9/11, when many players decided to take a knee.
Ultimately, the NFL did what was necessary to please fans but also support their players. As mentioned, each athlete has the right to express their opinion any way they feel necessary. Different media outlets reported on the issue in ways that align with their political opinions, which is bound to happen with any controversy. All the NFL and their teams could do is support their players, while also maintain appropriate respect and support for our flag and all that it represents.