By Bruce Penton
“Oh, say, can you see? George Floyd’s legacy?”
By dying from a Minneapolis police officer’s knee pressed to his neck in late May, George Floyd will forever be known for sparking what could be a sea change in the world of race relations in the United States.
But since this is ostensibly a sports column, the George Floyd angle here will be about the National Football League, Colin Kaepernick and the Star Spangled Banner that is performed before the start of each NFL game.
Kaepernick was a B-level NFL quarterback in 2016 when he took a knee during an NFL exhibition game to peacefully protest what he said was racial injustice and police brutality against Blacks in America. The divide was immediate; there was rage on one side; sympathy and agreement on the other. It became a hot political football when the U.S. President declared that NFL owners should fire any player who disrespected the American flag by taking a knee during the anthem. NFL owners, fearing public backlash, established an 11th-hour compromise: Players could stay in the locker room until the anthem was over if they felt strongly about aligning with Kaepernick but not willing to lose their jobs.
Kaepernick, despite possessing a skill level greater than many QBs who had starting or backup jobs, became a toxic name around the league, and remained unemployed. He eventually agreed to a settlement with the NFL over his treatment. Part of the settlement terms was that details would be kept secret.
Now, in the aftermath of the George Floyd riots, demonstrations and protests around the U.S., Kaepernick is a hot commodity again. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell posted a statement basically suggesting Kaepernick was not given a fair shake in 2016, and that the league now totally agrees that taking a knee during the anthem was not done to disrespect the flag but a method of shining light on the unfair treatment of Blacks in America.
Yes, this subject is more politics than it is sports, but when the NFL starts back up this fall, the anthem — and the players’ reaction to it — will be front and centre. And as long as there are people who insist that it’s all about the flag, it could get ugly, too. And, who knows? It may even lead to a quarterbacking job for Kaepernick.
• Norman Chad of the Washington Post, who hates instant replay and wants it eliminated: “I am constantly told: The genie is out of the bottle, there is no going back. Really? Why not? This genie is unsightly, unworthy and unneeded. Costco lets you return any merchandise for any reason – what, we can’t stuff this demonic spirit back into the decanter and send it out to sea?”
• Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Jonah Hill (376 times) and Leonardo DiCaprio (361) — thanks mainly to their work in “The Wolf of Wall Street” — rank 1-2 for the most profane words on film in their careers, according to BuzzBingo.com. Just thank your lucky stars that Earl Weaver never took up acting.”
• Another one from Perry: “Online poker nationwide is reporting record numbers during the coronavirus quarantine as cooped-up gamblers look for ways to cope. Apparently one full house deserves a shot at another.”
• Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle, on the ESPN narratives featuring Michael Jordan and Lance Armstrong: “Now how about a documentary or two on people who become superstars without being bullies and jerks? Just to show the kiddies that it can be done that way.”
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