Sports | October 11, 2017 12:23 pm

How Should NFL Players Use Their Protest Power?

Sideline protests have exposed players' upper hand against owners, but they need a second act.

If the NFL ends up requiring players to stand during the national anthem, it would deal a major blow to players’ ability to get their message of racial/social injustice out to the masses—and the amount of power they’ve acquired over the last year and change.

But in the meantime, the ball is in the players’ court, and they need to figure out just how to use this new sense of power over their bosses, argues The Undefeated‘s William C. Rhoden. One player active in NFLPA and owner meetings about the protests, the New York Jets’ Demario Davis, had this to say to Rhoden: “Those who want to send the message need to be able to send it in the right way so that it doesn’t harm the game.”

The owner-player rift reached a fever pitch in September, when President Trump suggested at a political rally that players should be fired if they don’t stand for the national anthem, and that their owners were scared to take action. “[Trump] pushed us together, one for calling players sons of B’s, which is an attack on players and their mommas,” Davis told The Undefeated. “And it was an attack on owners saying, ‘You don’t have control of your players. You don’t have your players on a leash.’ ”

This led to league-wide protests, which took a variety of forms and sent the message that at least some of the NFL’s teams had a universal voice.

As Rhoden notes, though, “it is an abomination and abdication of responsibility that the NFLPA has not stepped in and helped the players articulate a single-minded rationale for the protest and a way forward.”

Despite this, the protests have empowered locker rooms—and gotten the attention of everyone from owners to the president of the United States. The $64,000 question, then, is what to do with that power?