There is probably no larger audience for a sporting event in the country than there is for the National Football League. Americans line up to watch every Sunday, Monday, and Thursday nights from late August through January to watch all things NFL. And just in case that is not enough, there is the NFL Network and Fantasy Football to keep us locked in at other times. In short, the NFL probably reaches more Americans in a moment than just about any other sport. The advertising dollars that are spent getting messages out to the public during football are immense. Don’t believe it? Think about how much money is spent during just the Super Bowl on unique commercials, and how eager we are to gobble them up. With that in mind, I offer this controversy to you.
This has been a season of discontent in America, not just between political parties, but between cultures within our country. Whether it has been between the LGBT community and bathrooms of choice, or gun owners vs. the government, or even those who believe in lawful immigration vs. those who support any kind of entry , illegal or otherwise, there has been no shortage of controversy we have had to deal with in America. I would dare say, however, that the question of police vs. the public, particularly toward the Black community has been the most prolific issue of this past year. From Ferguson to Baltimore, from Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin to Freddie Gray and beyond, the debate has raged. Add to that the shootings of police, especially in Dallas, Texas with the ambush and killing of 5 officers, and you have a topic that is tops in the headlines.
It is not surprising, then, that there is a call throughout America to have unity in our community. The NFL had a chance to spread that message recently and they blew it. The Dallas Cowboys decided to put the “Arm in Arm” logo which represented their police and citizens united together locked arm in arm on their helmets for people to see. It is a symbol of unity, not divisiveness, you see. Now, I am not one who likes a ton of symbolism for every issue that comes down the line, but I like this because it is a good message going out to America. The NFL saw it a different way. They apparently have a strict policy of “no logos” of this kind being worn by individual teams in their league. To be fair, I can understand this, because it could be abused and turn the NFL into a social and political quagmire where the focus of watching the sport would be lost. On the other side of the equation, however, is the fact that our sports are as intertwined with social and political issues as anything else in society, and the NFL is no exception. Remember when the St. Louis Rams players ran out of the tunnel before a game holding up their arms in the Ferguson “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” sign? How about Beyonce’s Super Bowl halftime show with her dancing troupe this year, in what was an open look at police and the black community. Were those not political or social? Were they also not divisive? So, here come the Cowboys wanting to put a simple symbol honoring police lives lost, and a community coming together on their helmets, and the NFL says, “No!” I say , that in a time where there are way to many messages that are divisive to a United States of America, we need to have more symbols and accompanying discussions of how to become one. I hope the NFL revisits their decision. If not, it seems to me that they have missed an opportunity to help foster unity in the community……Gary Sutton