By Mike Wilcox
Put your money where your mouth is. This is what I would tell National Football League players if I were Commissioner Roger Goodell.
He and the NFL team owners got it all wrong with their latest policy governing whether players can kneel or not during the National Anthem. There new policy says teams or players seen kneeling then are subject to fines from the league office. Instead of defusing a situation that caused football fans great consternation in 2017, it has brought it to a head again.
The owners could have left the issue alone. Since 2017 it seems to have quietly gone away. What once was a lightning rod for division among players and fans had pretty much died. For whatever reason, the owners felt a need to address the protests again.
I expect many NFL players to challenge the edict come football season, which will again cause a wave of dissension and boycotts from fans who think pampered, rich football players should do what their bosses tell them.
Put your money where your mouth is. If football players really believe that minorities do not get a fair shake in this country, they should spend the off-season working for change. That, to me, would be far more effective than kneeling during the National Anthem.
If football players, who make more money than all but a handful of us, want social change to occur, I suggest they spend a little of their pocket change to initiate it.
JJ Watt, who began his college football career at Central Michigan University, is recognized as one of the best defensive players in the game and is an excellent role model for his peers. You don’t see him kneeling or advocating game day protests.
Watt, instead, paid the funeral expenses of the 10 Santa Fe High School students and teachers who were killed when a cowardly student shot up the Texas school. This is after Watt led a campaign that raised more $34 million to aid victims of Hurricane Harvey, which had devastated Watt’s adopted city, Houston, last year.
Watt was recently named 2017 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year for his philanthropy. He put his money on the table, where others prefer only talking a good game.
Another example of putting their money on the table is defensive end Chris Long. A proponent of social change who has verbalized his opposition to the new NFL kneeling policy, he donated his entire 2017 salary to social injustice causes.
Many of us agree social inequities exist in our society and pro athletes are in unique positions to be change agents. But there are better ways than kneeling in front of the flag and National Anthem that are symbols of our country’s freedom.
Watt and Long have shown us a better way. Hopefully other deep pocket sports figures will follow in their footsteps.