NFL in response to overturning Roe v. Wade not saying a word was a maddening but predictable PR outcome. There was never a multiple choice, “What will the league say?” a question. It was more of a true or false statement along the lines of “The NFL is going to stare at its feet, not say a word, and hope no one notices.” (True.)
The backbone of America’s most popular sports league has once again turned into sludge, but people are paying attention, including Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, who exited the league. Here is part of post he wrote.
“The NFL probably prefers to exercise its right to remain silent on this matter because the Shield is intertwined with notions of God and Country.” And the lines between God and country continue to blur as our democracy teeters toward theocracy. Neither is our democratic utopia, which is increasingly heading towards an authoritarian dystopia.”
That’s a pretty damning takedown, especially when you consider that the company Florio works for is a business partner of the Shield. I’m sure many NFL players are debating whether to get involved for the reason Florio outlined: The NFL’s popularity is so widespread that it has fans on both sides of the aisle.
Taking a stand (or kneeling) is seen as bravery or complacency and there isn’t much room for gray area. Even the most visible players in support of women’s rights did it coolly.
Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow shared a topic illustrating specific cases of why abortion should be a constitutional right.
I won’t tease him too much as he is one of the few significant footballers who says anything at all. At least Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is tweeting his own words.
I don’t know if I would call Damien Harris a “Patriots star”. the Patriot Country website didbut also expressed his support via Twitter.
Again, I’m not criticizing these players — or the other, less notable NFL’ers I didn’t mention who also spoke out. It’s impossible to be universally loved while firmly sharing your political views in this climate. And who knows, maybe they aren’t informed enough to outline the many downsides of Roe v. Wade rolls over like USWNT member Megan Rapinoe did.
Take Burrow for example. This isn’t the first “controversial” issue he’s touched on recently, as he was also one of the many people horrified by the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
I wouldn’t put that statement in the same category as what Steve Kerr did when he was almost moved to tears during a speech about gun violence. Still, it’s a start, and Burrow’s stances are certainly bolder than not talking nonsense for fear of upsetting fans.
It would be nice if he said, “You know what, instead of making these crazy guns harder to get, maybe we should just ban these crazy guns.” If you’re playing word association and “AR-15” is mentioned , “mass shootings” will be the answer like 99 out of 100 times. But it’s oddly refreshing that Burrow mentioned gun reform at all.
(Also, did you notice which account shared this clip? None other than the NFL’s own Twitter. Unreal.)
I understand that it’s a massive ask to expect football players to be vocal about abortion rights like Rapinoe, or passionate about gun reform like Kerr, or put their careers on the line to fight police brutality like Colin Kaepernick. It’s hard to risk a lucrative playing career when the issues don’t directly affect your everyday life, and it’s even harder when you don’t have the support of your employer.
However, this is what the NFL looks like in 2022. There is no hiding it. Roger Goodell isn’t scrambling to take the brunt of the backlash. Silence is as much a position as speech. What you say and how you say it will be politicized. At least Burrow, Murray and Harris chose a side.
That’s more than anyone can say for the NFL — which once again chose capitalism over decency.