May 23, 2022 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

NFL Players: American Workers, Citizens

By Steve Stajich

 

It seems that if we are to cut through the fog of the current dust-up about NFL players expressing themselves during the playing of the national anthem at games, we will first need to take a definitive look at what NFL players are. Are they entertainment performers? Are they workers albeit in a form of work that largely defines itself as nationally shared entertainment? Are they heroes in any sense of the word?

Or… are they chattel, property owned by dint of contracts with those who own and control the teams; those doing the paying out on the contracts who are unabashedly called “owners.”

In our quest for that more definitive answer we can look to the past at those player athletes who seem to have never been confused about whether they were citizens entitled to having an opinion just as much as any steel worker or auto worker. One of the most impressive of these was boxer Cassius Clay, who became a Muslim and took the name Muhammed Ali. Ali refused to fight in Vietnam, saying that his faith caused him to take no part in wars. Ali didn’t kneel; instead he took a stand and was stripped of his heavyweight title. Boxing, a sport in which two men literally attempt to beat each other unconscious, decided that Ali did not have the right to express his faith and still hang on to his status in their sports organization.

In previous instances that questioned whether NFL players get to speak or express an opinion as citizens there has always been an ugly blowback strongly suggesting that fans – the people that buy the tickets and souvenirs generating billions of dollars – are owed some sort of “just shut up and play football” loyalty. Now that we have the wonderful Internet, we can all share these opinions about players instantly. It can get ugly online when music or film entertainers, especially women, chose to state their opinions and then feel the heat of a similar “just shut up and play your role” reaction.

Part of what might be happening right now, especially when you fold in what is becoming known about head injuries to NFL players, is that football itself may be on the threshold of becoming an anachronism. One could argue that society as a whole is growing out of its need for violent live entertainment where people are injured for life in the cause of something to watch on TV on Sunday afternoon. Boxing was one of the earliest sports to transfer to the emerging medium of television, underwritten by advertising from shaving creams and cigars. Boxing fit the new medium of TV perfectly, since a viewer of any age could fully understand what was happening and the action was mostly covered by one camera focused on the ring. Ali later paid a dear price for our appetite for that entertainment.

Not helping any of this, as is his way, the current President recently posited that football would benefit by getting more head-on and violent… although his sports credentials as an overweight golfer puts very little momentum behind that notion.

Still, football is a long way off from becoming antiquated. A parallel might be strip clubs or “gentleman’s clubs” where everyone knows that the activity inside is socially retrograde. And yet… the brass poles stay busy. How interesting if there was a gesture by the “dancers” before starting their show that was the equivalent of NFL players protest kneeling. Imagine that a “showgirl” was able – by merely making a physical gesture before performing – to say, in effect, “I don’t approve of writhing naked for men who might have voted for the current President and I also want action on police shootings, but I will nevertheless do this ridiculous wiggling for suckers overpaying for drinks.”

As of Monday of this week, it seemed that the current President didn’t actually understand the kneeling issue from the player’s point of view. He lashed out at those kneeling by attacking their mothers, calling the any player who protested “a son of bitch.” Oh, and they should be fired. He later said hooking arms was okay, but kneeling was wrong. In both cases, he appeared oblivious to the fact that the players were talking to him. Then athletes did start talking to him, with basketball player LeBron James directly referencing the current President.

Can a superstar like LeBron speak his mind, but the rank and file NFL players are exposed to fan ridicule and attacks of being unpatriotic? Sometimes those who live in the castle get to do more talking. I used to joke that frustrated actors and comics not getting what they wanted from show business and then railing against that industry’s inherent unfairness were the equivalent of an unemployed lumberjack standing on a table and hurling insults at lumber and wood. The NFL players don’t hate football and they certainly don’t hate America. They only want to be able to speak, even silently, to systemic racism. Thanks to our current President, their actions now seem to be about their rights as citizens. Regardless of any precise definition of what NFL players are in the context of our society, they are most assuredly citizens of the United States.

Related Posts

Is the Big Housing Crunch Mostly Fiction?

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist In some parts of California, there is definitely a housing crunch: small supplies of homes for...

Is Gelson’s Our Future? Bigger Is Not Better & Not Necessary! – Part 2

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

The dream of our beachfront city is about to become a nightmare! Just imagine a tsunami of these projects washing...

Column From Santa Monica Mayor Himmelrich: We Walk the Talk

May 12, 2022

May 12, 2022

By Sue Himmelrich, Santa Moncia Mayor  I like the SMa.r.t. architects. I often agree with them. But in allowing Mark...

Is Gelson’s Our Future? Bigger Is Not Better!

May 12, 2022

May 12, 2022

It’s appalling to see what’s happening in our city – projects recently built or about to be approved – in...

Renting Your Second Home

May 6, 2022

May 6, 2022

If you are among the many Americans who own a second home that you occasionally use as a vacation getaway,...

Column: Cities Fight to Maintain Distinctive Characters

May 6, 2022

May 6, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist Anyone who knows California well will realize that Palo Alto does not look much like nearby...

SMa.r.t. Column: Gelson’s, Boxed-In

May 6, 2022

May 6, 2022

This week we are re-visiting an article from 2018 regarding the Miramar project, by simply replacing the word “Miramar” with...

Column: Are You Talking Yourself Out of Saving for Retirement? Here’s How to Break the Habit

May 5, 2022

May 5, 2022

Saving for retirement can be an abstract concept. It’s something we all know we should do, but the farther away...

SMa.r.t. Column: Failure to Plan…

April 30, 2022

April 30, 2022

Over the last approximately two years your City has been busy trying to respond to new California laws that are...

Letter to Editor: Your “Standing Firm With Santa Monica” Initiative

April 25, 2022

April 25, 2022

The following is an open letter to Councilmember Sue Himmelrich from Santa Monica resident Arthur Jeon regarding a proposed transfer...

SMa.r.t. Column: Planning The Real Future

April 24, 2022

April 24, 2022

In the 1970s, renowned USC architecture professor Ralph Knowles developed a method for planning and designing cities that would dramatically...

SMa.r.t. Column: New City Financial Plan: The Resident Homeowner Bank

April 15, 2022

April 15, 2022

Part II: Who pays the proposed transfer tax and where does the money go? Last week, we introduced the proposed...

Column: NIMBYs Getting a Bad Rap

April 8, 2022

April 8, 2022

By Tom Elias Rarely has a major group of Californians suffered a less deserved rash of insults and attacks than...

SMa.r.t. Column: New City Financial Plan – The Resident Homeowner Bank

April 8, 2022

April 8, 2022

Part 1 of 2 In this two-part article, we will discuss both the proposed transfer tax ballot initiative and the...

Column: Tackling Childcare Costs

April 7, 2022

April 7, 2022

Finding affordable, quality childcare is essential for many working parents. The current shortage of care options is helping drive up...