Football has changed, and America has changed.
In the sport, the league that governs it has made rules that ameliorate the damage players can do while crushing each other. Participants are faster, stronger, and more skilled at their positions. I’d be willing to wager that the 2008 Detroit Lions, who didn’t win a single game that season, could beat any team from, say, 1975.
But the league has also gotten greedy, and in becoming so, they pursued some government cash in exchange for a few patriotic displays before (and sometimes during) games. Beginning in 2009, the NFL began “encouraging” players to stand for the national anthem in exchange for payola from the Department of Defense. Giant flag displays were brought out on the field, and soldiers in full dress uniform stood at attention as whatever pop star was available belted out the anthem as best they could remember it.
And America — or at least, the hyper-nationalized America that ended up voting for Donald Trump last year — now demands that players perform these flag-waving parlor tricks. Even though the payoff was uncovered by Congress and payments stopped in 2015, the league couldn’t back out of doing this stuff if they tried, lest they look like commies and atheists to red-blooded football fans.
So what’s a rookie to do, now that some players have realized that this faux-patriotic display is the perfect time to stage a protest — while everyone’s looking — about what America should be paying attention to.
Well, speaking of the Detroit Lions, rookie linebacker #44 Jalen Reeves-Maybin has some insight on what could happen if players decide to do anything during the fans’ precious few moments where they salute America with their flag boners. You see, some of these all-American football fans have decided that the anthem is actually more important than the game. Spurred on by Donald Trump’s incessant racist tweets about patriotism and troops and flags, these “fans” are speaking out, and Maybin has collected some pretty horrific examples of what people say to him since he began kneeling during the anthem with seven of his teammates:
“I hope you get CTE.”
“I hope you can’t play with your kids when you get done playing.”
Yeah, because that totally sounds like their concern is Maybin’s patriotism.
Featured image via Hannah Foslien/Getty Images