EDITORIAL: NFL picks profits over social justice

York Dispatch
  • The NFL recently decided to ban kneeling players during the national anthem.
  • The issue came to national prominence when QB Colin Kaepernick opted to kneel during the anthem.
  • Kaepernick took a knee to protest racism, social injustice and police misconduct.
  • Other NFL players followed Kaepernick's lead, causing a national controversy over the issue.

The NFL has decided — again — to put profits ahead of people and business concerns ahead of social justice concerns. 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was instrumental in the league's new policy banning kneeling players during the national anthem. AP FILE PHOTO

The most powerful sports league in America — and maybe the world — has opted to ban kneeling players during our national anthem. 

By making that decision last week, Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league’s owners chose to take the easy way out. 

There’s little doubt that most of the NFL’s fans are strongly opposed to allowing the players to kneel on the field while the “Star-Spangled Banner” is being played. So, the new ban is obviously meant to appeal to the league’s mainstream fan base, which largely equates standing for the anthem to patriotism. 

Just because something is popular, however, doesn’t make it right. And sometimes, true patriotism is shown in the willingness to stand up (or kneel down) for what you believe, no matter how unpopular. 

NFL adopts new policy on national anthem

It’s a decision we strongly disagree with. It’s also a decision that's been rightly blasted by many civil-rights groups. 

The players who have been kneeling for the national anthem have been trying desperately to bring much-needed attention to issues of racism, social injustice and police misconduct. It started with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick a couple years back and spread to other, predominantly-black players, throughout the league.  

The powers that be in the NFL, however, didn’t like it much, especially when it started to hurt television ratings and attendance. That, in turn, upset the league’s large advertisers. Ultimately, the league’s profit-loss ledger took a hit. 

For the NFL, that was simply unacceptable, and led to the kneeling ban. As is nearly always the case, money talks. 

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The league acted without concern for, or input from, its majority-black players. Instead, the league caved in to pressure applied from fans, major advertisers and even President Donald Trump. 

It should come as no surprise that Kaepernick has basically been black-balled from the league. 

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, middle, kneels during the national anthem before an NFL preseason game a couple years ago to protest racism, social injustice and police misconduct. Kaepernick's decision touched off a major national controversy. The NFL has responded by banning kneeling players. AP FILE PHOTO

NFL reacts, doesn't lead: Of course, the NFL has never exactly been a leader when it comes to off-the-field justice issues. The mistreatment of women by some players was largely brushed aside until the Ray Rice case, and its infamous video, forced the league to react and take some tougher action. 

The same can be said for the league’s treatment of players suffering from concussion-related problems. It mostly downplayed the players’ concerns until media exposure and lawsuits forced the league, practically kicking and screaming, to address the matter seriously. 

Now, the league has decided its mainstream audience is more important than its players’ pleas for justice and their constitutional free-speech rights. 

UPDATED: 'No consequences' for West York students 'taking a knee'

The league is more than happy to profit from their players, who put their bodies on the line each game during a long and violent season, but those same players won’t have the opportunity to express an opinion before the game starts. 

While that move likely appeased the league’s mainstream white audience and major advertisers, it may well alienate many of its African-American fans. Some have already vowed to never watch the NFL again. 

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Only time will tell the ultimate impact this decision will have on the league’s long-term financial outlook. 

No time is needed, however, to know one thing: This decision was made because it was the easy thing to do, not the right thing to do.