A divisive conflict

Dear Editor: America certainly has witnessed a different sort of spectacle during this year’s football season. National Football League players, coaches and owners have demonstrated their solidarity in claimed opposition to racial inequality and police oppression throughout the U.S. and on foreign soil. Certainly, a most dramatic show of criticism that met with welcomed support from the commissioner of the NFL, claiming pride for such bold and courageous protests against the cruel persecution of peoples living under the repressive American way of life.

Indeed, if there is any best qualified, representative group of people who can personally relate to the “experiences and tribulations of our fellow Americans,” it is the nearly 2,000 players, coaches and owners in the NFL. After all, how many fans could actually survive on an annual salary of $1.9 million; ranging from a low of $465,000 to more than $50 million a year? Discord based on racial inequality, however, doesn’t seem to support the nearly 70 percent of African-American players in the NFL in comparison to only 13.3 percent of the total American black population. Yet, there is one, consistent obstacle in America that keeps people from succeeding; and that is their own motivation for improvement and the pursuit of excellence.

As far as representing the negative side of society, the NFL certainly has produced its share of players involved in domestic violence and drug offenses, to murder, rape and general mayhem. Perhaps this is the rationale for objecting to police intervention tactics and validating displays of public disdain. Of course, no one can safely live and work in an environment of anarchy and violence; but let us not disrespect the rights of others to destroy our communities.

Whatever else might be said, the president does not mince his words with the extremes of politically correctness. Boys are often made men by confronting harsh realities and exercising responsible behavior, which most certainly includes respect for others – a concept demanded by the NFL for itself, but too often denied to others. There are any number of appropriate times, places and ways for a NFL player to become politically active or serve as an exemplar for social change, but the football field is not one of them.

Regrettably, a glaring incident occurred with what once was a locally-favored team, and at a place symbolically named Soldier Field in honor of fallen combatants. Regardless of the intent or confusion of any players involved, it is easy to understand why Steelers jersey No.78 immediately became a top-seller. Fans across the nation have ardently supported the men and women who risk everything to secure the freedoms and liberties won time and again during the course of our history. Most don’t enjoy a million dollar income, but they do spend their hard-earned cash on something that once felt like it portrayed the fundamental characteristics of the American spirit including allegiance, respect, gratitude, and distinction.

Nowadays we find ourselves enveloped in divisive conflict with a sport we greatly enjoyed and ungrateful demonstrations from players whose rights of free speech are injected into the game; transforming a fun, sports competition into a toxic stage for socio-political dissension. Maybe some good can come from this kind of turmoil by inspiring fans to turn away from football games, and instead spend their time, interest and money more productively addressing some of the issues facing our country — just as the NFL claims it wants.

Marcus A. Trelaine

Newell, W.Va.

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