Since Colin Kapernicks kneel during the National Anthem just over 3 seasons ago the question of respect for the country has been an issue around athletes of color. Kaepernick went down on one knee in silent protest of the national anthem, stating it did not represent black Americans and he would not stand until it did.
As allegations and reports of police brutality against the black population have increased, more and more players have shown their support for Kaepernick by joining him in protest. By last season, entire teams across the league were locking arms, taking knees, or simply staying in the locker room during the national anthem to support the protest. This quickly became an issue around the league and widened the gap in the relationship between players and owners in the NFL.
Protesting the National Anthem created an uneasiness among fans of the sport, and many decided to refuse to attend games of teams who protested the anthem. Once fans stopped buying tickets, and NFL viewership dropped 40%, owners became fearful of their pockets becoming lighter. The national anthem became a daily owner vs players discussion on sports networks, further aggravating fans as they tried to watch sports news but only received updates on political agendas.
Now in 2018, ESPN has taken the first step in ending this conversation by no longer broadcasting the National Anthem on Monday Night Football, the only day ESPN has exclusive rights to the broadcasting of the NFL. The actual Anthem is not the issue, however, it is the platform players are using to spread their message. By not broadcasting the national anthem on tv, fans are no longer witness to the protest by the players.
Taking away the outlet players use to protest will not stop the conversation against police brutality, nor should it. But it will allow fans of the sports to attend and watch games without being forced into others political influence. There is little place for politics in sports, and even less for racial discrimination. As politics and race have been the overwhelming conversation around sports since this began, it would seem this move by the networks is an attempt to bring sports broadcasting back to its original form… sports, sports, and maybe even a little more sports.
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