An NFL employee whose job could be in major jeopardy has decided to take a knee during the customary playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before football games.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback — oh wait. What’s that? This isn’t about Colin Kaepernick?
Apologies, 2017 and 2020 are looking eerily similar.
As the subject of national anthem protests in the NFL, particularly amid the racially charged unrest rocking America, becomes a hot topic again, there does actually appear to be a major difference between the 2017 and 2020 versions of the subject.
In 2017, there was still an air of disapproval surrounding this form of protest. In 2020, it appears as if the vast majority of the NFL has openly embraced it.
The latest NFL fraternity member to kowtow to the protesters is Houston Texans head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien.
“Yeah, I’ll take a knee — I’m all for it,” O’Brien told Houston Chronicle. “The players have a right to protest, a right to be heard and a right to be who they are. They’re not taking a knee because they’re against our flag. They’re taking a knee because they haven’t been treated equally in this country for over 400 years.”
It’s a curiously worded decision by O’Brien.
Perhaps toeing the company line, O’Brien’s remarks eerily echo the third apology that New Orleans Saints star Drew Brees issued.
“Through my ongoing conversations with friends, teammates, and leaders in the black community, I realize this is not an issue about the American flag. It has never been. We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities,” Brees said in an Instagram post that tagged President Donald Trump.
Fair enough. Plenty of people claim that the NFL’s national anthem protests are not about the American flag.
But one question that’s not being asked quite nearly enough is this: If the anthem protests are not about the flag, is kneeling for the anthem the best way to have an open discussion about the societal ills currently afflicting the country?
Many in America find the act of kneeling during the anthem to be a sign of ultimate disrespect, and seldom does a productive conversation start with disrespect.
It’s not just O’Brien opting to kneel for the anthem that hearkens back to Kaepernick. Much in the same way that the former quarterback started kneeling when his grasp on his starting position began to falter, O’Brien’s decision comes amid a flurry of criticisms over his job performance.
Most recently, O’Brien traded away arguably the best receiver in football, DeAndre Hopkins, for a bad contract and relatively low draft picks. The relationship between Hopkins and O’Brien had reportedly soured to the point of not being salvageable.
Had that been his only blemish, it might be one thing. But between a slew of bad moves, an uninspiring playoff record of 2-4 and his alleged lack of people skills, it’s fair to wonder just how much job security the 50-year-old has.
Only time will tell if kneeling for the national anthem will help him remain gainfully employed.
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