Sports | October 19, 2017 10:21 am

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s War Against Individuality

Sports Illustrated weighs in on why players continue to protest during the anthem.

Report: Russian Trolls Provoked Kaepernick/Anthem Debate As Late as 2018
Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid kneel in protest on the sideline. (Michael Zagaris/49ers/Getty)

Today’s professional football player is trapped inside an impregnable fortress called the National Football League.

As Sports Illustrated‘s Robert Klemko writes, “[Players] are propped up in forums invented entirely by the league, and dealt harsh punishments when they take ownership of their individual marketability and stray from NFL-approved branding, or abstain from the spectacle altogether.” Read: The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Antonio Brown being fined $9,000 for wearing improper shoes last season. Or Marshawn Lynch’s $100,000 fine for not talking enough to the media.

That exact sentiment applies to players’ feelings about social injustice, as has been obvious by the handling of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick‘s free agency bid (and subsequent grievance filing), and the NFL’s non-decision on protests during the anthem. As Klemko argues, in the NBA, for instance, kneeling during the national anthem is against the rules, but players can outwardly market themselves however which way they want.

Of course, as soon as the NFL announced it wouldn’t be forcing players to stand during the anthem, Goodell turned around and told reporters that players “should,” in fact, stand. Talk about mixed messages. Klemko drives home his point with this nugget: “The anthem demonstrations, as much as they are about protesting racial inequality and sticking it to Donald Trump, are about a rejection of the league’s ramped up measures to legislate individuality. In this environment of awakening and rebellion—made possible by Roger Goodell—don’t expect the players to go quietly.”