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The NFL perpetuates systematic issues in our country

How the most popular sport in the United States panders to conservatives

Will Shephard, Staff Reporter
Originally published January 24, 2020

Cartoon by Peter Brown

Cartoon by Peter Brown

As a liberal that enjoys watching the NFL every Sunday, the sport’s conservatism quite often feels a little off.  Over time, it has become clear that the NFL is not targeted towards everyone in the United States, but rather one specific viewpoint.

From the Redskins to the NFL’s outdated policy on marijuana and its donations to the blacklisting of Colin Kaepernick, the NFL has shown time and time again that it is an organization that upholds systemic divisions in the country. These league behind the most popular sport in America is built for and fueled by mainly conservative viewers.

For instance, according to the FEC Donations List, NFL owners donated upwards of $2,000,000 in the last election to Republican candidates, which outspent the amount they spent on Democratic candidates by 40 to one. The league is not in fact “trying to stay out of politics,” as said by commissioner Roger Goodell regardarding the benching of Colin Kaepernick after he protested the killing of unarmed black men.

The military and the NFL

Often the pregame in the NFL feels overdone, and for a league that’s supposedly taking politics out of football, they sure are very pro-military. It feels like every game I watch now includes fighter jets that circle over the stadium and marines coated in their dress uniform. 

Notably, the United States is one of the few countries in the world that plays its national anthem before each professional sports match; most nations only play it for international matches. As a nation and as a league we are incredibly patriotic, to the point where people from all other countries can even find it disgusting.

This passionate patriotism resides more often in people with conservative values and it seems that at every point the NFL is attempting to force patriotism down our throat.

During the 1960’s, in the heart of the Vietnam war, then NFL commissioner Pete Rozell endorsed the war, even sending NFL superstar players on trips to visit the soldiers in Vietnam. Rozell also introduced new rules surrounding the national anthem, instructing players to stand upright in a straight line with their helmets at their sides. 

When Cardinals linebacker David Meggysey protested against the Vietnam war by holding his helmet in front of him and standing in front of the line, it led to him being benched in what would be his last season. Sounds familiar?

Kaepernick takes a knee

When Kaerpernick took a knee during the 2016-2017 NFL season to protest the shooting of unarmed black men, he was blacklisted not only by the NFL but also by its fanbase. Videos of Kaerpernick’s jersey being burned spread like wildfire across social media, and President Trump attacked him viciously. 

Despite the fact that Kaepernick was kneeling in protest of police killing unarmed Black men and in alliance with the Black Lives Matter movement, he was relentlessly accused of disrespecting the flag, the country and our troops. Even though many soldiers and veterans showed support for Kaerpernick, saying that the protest exemplified the values of freedom that the military fights for, Kaerpernick was benched and ultimately blacklisted from the NFL.

Conservatives have refused to acknowledge Kaerpernick’s protest as something more than a protest against our country, and the NFL clearly saw it that way as well. Ultimately, in May 2018, the NFL owners voted unanimously to require players to stand for the national anthem, with a clause allowing players to otherwise stay in the locker room. Flying in the face of overwhelming evidence, the NFL sided, as they always have, with their conservative fanbase. 

Outdated views

The NFL also holds some outdated and, quite frankly, racist views, which came to light with their complete shutdown of Kaepernick’s free speech. However, solely focusing on Kaepernick distracts from the other blatantly racist and harmful policies that the NFL supports and enforces.

Yes, it’s time to talk about the Washington Redskins. It is almost certainly the most racist and bigoted sports mascot in the world, accompanied by the Cleveland Indians, Central Michigan Chippewas and Flordia State Seminoles, just to name a few. The term “redskin” is an offensive slur used by white colonizers to refer to Native Americans. 

Native Americans from all around the country, and especially in Washington, D.C., have repeatedly attempted to change the name, pointing out its racist name and demeaning image. However, their owner and the league have refused to change the team’s name, using the same defense that conservative white people in the Deep South use to justify the keeping of Confederate statues — that it’s an important part of their “history.”

The NFL is also very outdated and racist in their views on drugs such as marijuana, holding strong that it is a performance-enhancing drug. This definition of marijuana, however was invented by conservative lawmakers, while refusing to accept it as a recreational drug and its prevalence in modern day. 

Marijuana wasn’t regulated at all until the 1930’s when lawmakers painted it as a violent drug used by African-Americans and Mexican immigrants, despite being baseless scientific accusations. This criminalization of marijuana was based in racist ideas that are upheld by conservative NFL policies today.

These policies are a continuation of the conservatism that the NFL presents to its audience. The NFL clearly shows bias in its company, and should not be treated as an unbiased organization or even just a sports league. 

It’s necessary today to be an informed viewer, and to understand what exactly your money is going too, and who you are supporting. The deep problems within and perpetuated by the NFL should be understood and acknowledged by those viewing the sport. 

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The NFL perpetuates systematic issues in our country