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The NFL is losing fans on both sides

AP FILE PHOTO // In this Dec. 10, 2017, file photo, San Francisco 49ers’ Eli Harold (57), Eric Reid (35) and Marquise Goodwin (11) kneel during the national anthem before a game.

By Sam Palmisano
Opinion Editor

We are just a couple of weeks out from opening day for the National Football League, but many are preparing to boycott the upcoming season.
It’s been two years since Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, first sat down during the playing of the National Anthem. Since then, the act of kneeling during the anthem has become a regularly occurring theme around the NFL.
Many took the protest as a direct attack on military veterans, first responders and the flag itself.
The Broward County Police Benevolent Association stated in a post regarding the Miami Dolphins, “This organization obviously DOES NOT honor First Responders and the dangers they put themselves in every day.”
Similar organizations and their sympathizers have encouraged the boycotting of the NFL for this purpose. They refuse to attend, watch, or otherwise support any NFL games until the league finds a better way of dealing with the protests.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, many are boycotting the NFL because they’ll be fining teams for any protests during the anthem during the upcoming season. The new league policy, announced in May, will allow teams to discipline their own players, but also allows the league to fine any teams for sideline anthem protests. It also allows players to remain in the locker room during the anthem.
“The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new ‘policy,’” the NFL Players Association said in its statement. “NFL players have shown their patriotism through their social activism, their community service, in support of our military and law enforcement and yes, through their protests to raise awareness about the issues they care about.”
Many supporters of the protests are choosing to boycott the NFL’s upcoming season for not allowing players to practice their first amendment rights.
The Orlando Sentinel reported that Florida ranked first in Twitter discussion about the NFL boycott, with Tampa and Orlando being the top two tweeting cities, respectively.
As an organization, the NFL has a massive problem on its hands. It has somehow found a way to upset both sides of the argument. In its policy attempt to limit sideline protests, it has angered both those who demand everyone stand for the national anthem and those who feel players have every right to protest.
While I won’t personally be boycotting, I also couldn’t care less if players choose to kneel. Kneeling has long been viewed as a sign of respect. Kneeling is an action taken during marriage proposals, greeting members of royalty, and even during prayer.
When Tim Tebow got down on his knee for prayer, he got an entire pose named after him. When players take a knee to protest their concerns with the country, they should be given the same courtesy.
Maybe if those so angered by the protests focused on the actual issues in our country, the protests would be over by now.
The great thing about our country is that we all have the freedom to admit it isn’t perfect, and we are free to critique its faults. The flag and national anthem do not belong to any one group of people; the flag and anthem belong to all of us. I respect the efforts of our military veterans and first responders, but they do not get to claim either as their own.
Many veterans, including US Army veteran Richard Allen Smith, have come out in support of Kaepernick and the protests. An open letter written by Smith can be found here.
“Far from disrespecting our troops, there is no finer form of appreciation for our sacrifice than for Americans to enthusiastically exercise their freedom of speech,” the letter reads. “While we would not all personally choose to protest in a manner identical to Kaepernick, we respect and honor his choice, and whole heartedly join him in stating unequivocally that BLACK LIVES MATTER.”
Those who have fought for our country have not only fought so that others may stand for the flag and anthem, but also so that some may choose to take a knee.
The NFL will have a difficult time trying to appease both sides, but their efforts show they’re at least trying to remedy the issue. Perhaps they’ll be focused enough on this to give up on the witch hunt for Tom Brady scandals.

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