Columns, Opinion

Burke’s Bully Pulpit: Kneeling outage imminent

Taking a knee this past Sunday seemed to mean a whole different thing to the Houston Texans. This peaceful national anthem protest was much more specific than some of its predecessors. It had one message. The players were protesting the comments of their thoughtless owner, Bob McNair, who referred to his team earlier in the week as inmates who should not be allowed to “run the prison.”

Sometimes stupidity can be corrected through schooling and counseling. Not in this case. McNair is beyond that kind of help. He is going to face backlash for these remarks for years to come, and rightfully so. This comment from McNair is something that people who vehemently oppose players kneeling have been fearing.

For the Houston Texans, it will now be totally impossible to separate social equality and the game they play, all because of the comments made by the man who writes their checks. There is no doubt that what he said was absurdly wrong. I just can’t believe how many of these conversations we have to go through before people finally realize they have to watch what they say.

McNair is 79 years old. It might be tough for him to realize what is considered offensive nowadays. Being worth over three billion dollars probably exacerbates the problem. He does not know what it is like to be an average citizen in America, let alone a black one.

A quick tip for McNair: when the NFL team you own is comprised of a majority of black players, you probably should not equate them to inmates of any kind.

Honestly, it calls into question his leadership and decision making abilities. If a person is looking at their players as “inmates,” and doing so in the context of the team’s decision to protest social injustices, you have to think that they have no clue what is going on in the real world.

This NFL season has been full of ups and downs, fueled by talks of ratings dips and people banning their favorite teams from their televisions because of protests. As a fan of the New England Patriots, I only saw my team kneel for the anthem after President Trump attacked other players in the league on Twitter. If I were in the NFL while those comments were being made, I would want all the other players in the league to kneel just like the Patriots did in the face of personal attacks by the president.

McNair is dividing people when they don’t need to be divided. Prior to this incident, no Texans player had knelt for the anthem. There was support given by coach Bill O’Brien, though, which is definitely encouraging to see. It seems that the only people who have had a problem with the protests this year are the wealthy and powerful. That should make you stop and think.

Even as a white male, I don’t know if I could play for an owner who looks at his players this way. It was blatantly disrespectful — I would not blame any player for seeking a trade from the organization. However, I don’t think they should.

Now is the time to show that the power in the league is with the players, they need to make ownership acknowledge that fans come to see the game, not the owners. There is always another billionaire ready to step in and take financial responsibility for a team. There is not an excess of world class football talent.

I hope that players like DeAndre Hopkins, who walked out of practice on Friday in response to McNair’s comments, and DeShaun Watson, an up-and-coming rookie, use this opportunity to build team chemistry and make their leadership positions known. No amount of words can bring down a football team, and this season has shown just that.

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