Today, Tom Brady will go for his sixth Super Bowl victory, which would solidify his place as the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) of football, and Justin Timberlake will make his much-anticipated return to the half-time-show stage. But as compelling as these stories are, this N.F.L. season should be remembered for a much bigger one.
Beginning with former NFL quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, nearly a year ago now, many players have engaged in silent protest of the national anthem by sitting, kneeling, locking arms, raising a fist, or even remaining in the locker room while the song is played. Naturally, the reasoning, validity, and appropriateness of the protests have been the source of much tension and debate nationwide.
While supporters believe these protests to be vital and overdue, many have labeled the demonstrations as “unpatriotic,” “disrespectful to the flag and veterans,” and some have even claimed the acts “unconstitutional” (which they’re not). Most notably, President Trump weighed in on Twitter:
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these N.F.L. owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, Get that son of a b**ch off the field right now — out! He’s fired. He’s fired!”
South Carolina Governor, Henry McMaster, also dubbed today “National Stand for the Flag Super Bowl Sunday,” decreeing that all South Carolinians stand with their families for the national anthem from wherever they are watching. The N.F.L. also allegedly considered running an ad during the game today that included veterans sympathetically asking Americans to stand for the anthem (apparently the production process was too slow). Conversely, there are also outspoken veterans who do not think much of being exploited, and find the protests to be quite the opposite: patriotic.
But regardless of our personal stances on these protests, let’s not forget or gloss over the original intent for them: to raise awareness about, and to no longer tolerate racial injustice and police brutality. Let’s not become more puffed up today when Tom Brady throws a touchdown pass or interception than we do when we see players kneeling during the national anthem. Let’s first consider the motivation and people involved before claiming to be offended from a distance.
Regardless of our differing stances, let’s all be quicker to dialogue with our friends and neighbors about racial injustice and inequality than whether or not the television network should show players kneeling and sitting. And finally, let us not hope controversy away out of convenience.
When the clock reads “00:00” today and someone is hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, let’s not wish the social issues away just because the football season has ended. Let’s remember that the 2017-18 N.F.L. season was not just the season that Tom Brady did or did not solidify his legacy, but that it was used as a platform to give a voice to the marginalized and to speak out against injustice. Let’s all care more about each other than we do about a game or winning an argument.