The National Football League (NFL) held its first owners’ meeting of the year, in Orlando from March 25-28 to address and resolve crucial league matters including the issue of player protests.
For almost two years, NFL players have been engaging in demonstrations around the league on Sundays during NFL seasons.
Since the beginning of the protests during the 2016 season, players have been protesting against systemic oppression of men and women of color, police brutality, racial inequality and the U.S. criminal justice system.
To create awareness about these injustices, NFL players have been kneeling, sitting or raising a fist in the air peacefully during the National Anthem.
As expected, however, players protesting during the National Anthem have angered and upset not only some NFL owners but fans who believe players are disrespecting the flag and country by refusing to stand.
“What I think is they shouldn’t disrespect the country like that,” said Delta student Hector Ramirez. “If they are going to protest, protest in a different way. At the end, where they can speak up and speak out. Like you know, when they’re talking after the post-game they tell what they feel. But like during the national anthem that’s disrespecting the country.”
As an individual who has family members in the military, I understand and see how protesting during the anthem might appear to be disrespectful and upset people.
Despite this, I still accept, understand, and support the players’ protests because I concentrate on why and not when these protests are done.
Furthermore, NFL players can hide behind the concept of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and have the right to peaceful protest.
Moreover, NFL code of conduct rules doesn’t obligate players to stand during the National Anthem.
According to an NFL spokesperson, NFL players are encouraged to stand during the National Anthem but not required.
Lastly, I DON’T believe anyone including NFL owners and fans should prevent, restrict or penalize players from exercising their right to protest.
Regrettably, that’s precisely what NFL owners discussed and considered during the annual meeting last week.
During the meeting, owners weighed several options to prevent players from protesting.
According to ESPN, some NFL owners are contemplating revising league rules and obligating all players and coaches to stand during the anthem or having players wait inside the locker room until it is done.
Neither option is without its problems, and it is not what fans who support the players protesting want.
“I feel like the athlete should have the freedom to express and talk about the issues that mean something to them,” said Delta student Afure Jemerigbe on owner interference. “They shouldn’t completely penalize them because this is a constitutional right.”
Another Delta College student also shared this opinion.
“No, because the players are protesting for a reason,” said Delta student Julian Zamora. “They should allow them, and they can’t deny them that because it is one of our rights to speak what we have on our mind, you know what I mean.”
The next meeting by owners will be in May.
According to ESPN, a few owners want to have a plan of attack to deal with the players’ protests by that time.
However, if the NFL owners’ policy or rule change violates players First Amendment rights, owners could find themselves in a potential legal battle with the NFL Players Association, which protects NFL players.