When Colin Kaepernick first started his sideline protests, it was specifically about police brutality. He even wore socks depicting police officers as pigs in pre-game warm-ups to emphasize the point. In the year or so since, the protests morphed into a general complaint about racism in society, and then into an act of defiance against Donald Trump a few weeks ago.
So … what exactly are players protesting by kneeling during the anthem now? Former NFL star turned CNN contributor Donté Stallworth has checked in with his pals on the field, who now say that they’re protesting … well, everything. Among the top issues, according to Stallworth on Saturday, is the gender pay gap.
The gender pay gap?
CNN contributor and former NFL receiver Donté Stallworth said Saturday the NFL kneeling protests are also about the “gender pay gap” and “housing discrimination” in addition to police brutality toward minorities and racism.
The former Saints and Eagles star said during an interview on CNN with anchor Ana Cabrera that, “The No. 1 stated goal was to bring awareness to a lot of these issues and again, it’s a broad spectrum of issues. Again, it’s not just police brutality and community policing.
“It’s also, again from what I’m hearing from players directly involved in these talks, they’re telling me it’s also about the gender pay gap, it’s also about housing discrimination, they have so many things that they are interested in and advocating for and they want the NFL to take ownership in and help be able to use the NFL’s platform,” Stallworth added.
By the time players take a knee on Thanksgiving, it’ll be all about asking What’s up with season seven of Game of Thrones, won’t it?
If the anthem protests have become a catch-all for general discontent, then perhaps Roger Goodell has an opening to craft a less-toxic alternative. The league has its fall meeting tomorrow, and all of the stakeholders want some kind of positive resolution to a controversy that’s eroding fan loyalty and viewership. Rumors that the NFL would pass an edict banning the protests have turned out to be false, and Sports Illustrated’s Peter King reports that no other comprehensive solution has emerged — except, perhaps, to partner with the NFLPA for a week or two of social-justice messaging each season that doesn’t involve the national anthem:
5. The league was taking advice and proposals from players as late as Friday night on this issue. Many players want the league to partner with them to work on inner-city problems, particularly in civil rights and relations with police. But the fear in the league office is there will be no universal buy-in from the players, because no one as of yet has a widely shared idea for a league policy.
6. It’s likely that part of the league’s offer to the players would be giving them a week or two this year for their social-justice causes to get the league spotlight—to be part of an ad campaign or social-media campaign. Similar to what the league does with breast cancer, for instance.
King suggests that this could get combined with an idea floated by USA Today’s Christine Brennan last week. Keep the teams off the field for the anthem, and deprive everyone of oxygen for the controversy:
So, what to do? There’s a very simple answer: Go back to the days before 2009 when teams were not required to come out of the locker room for some games until after the anthem was played (except for the Super Bowl and after 9/11).
With no players on the field, the anthem will go on, fans will stand at attention or stand in line for nachos or run in from the parking lot or do whatever it is they do during the anthem, and the controversy — at least the visible part of it — will be over.
Seems like a fair trade, especially given that the 2009 rule change came as part of the undisclosed ad campaign from the Pentagon. The league could either fully bar teams from coming on the field at all, or enforce a rule that any players who do come on the field are expected to stand respectfully for the anthem, along with a messaging partnership with the NFLPA. At least the latter would allow us to identify just what exactly the players are protesting.
Perhaps the players would benefit from this Prager U video from a few months ago about the gender pay gap. They can declare victory any time now …
Update: Want to guess who’s not joining the “gender wage gap protests” at NFL games? From the Someone Left the Irony On Department:
Millions of Americans have applauded the NFL players who have taken a knee during the national anthem, but not the women whose job it is to root for the teams — the cheerleaders.
They have been noticeably absent from the year-long drama that has divided football fans and outraged President Donald Trump and their reasons range from not wanting to undermine the team — to not wanting to lose their prized spot on the squad.
And even more ironically, the cheerleaders actually do suffer from a gender wage gap of sorts:
Doe said every cheer squad is managed and compensated differently. But the bottom line is that cheerleaders don’t do it for the money.
The NFL is a $13 billion-dollar industry, but Doe said she and her squad mates took home approximately $100 a game. Kay said when she was a Chargers Girl, captains made $100 and cheerleaders made $75.