Skin in the Game

You NFL players protest police but you know nothing about what it's like to patrol the streets of this country. Let's see you put on that uniform.

David Griffith 2017 Headshot

Editor David Griffith (Photo: Kelly Bracken)Editor David Griffith (Photo: Kelly Bracken)

I'm writing this on Sunday Oct. 1. In about five hours up in Massachusetts my hometown Carolina Panthers will play their fourth game of the NFL season against the New England Patriots. I'm a huge Panthers fan. But I am also the editor of POLICE Magazine. So I have a decision to make. Will I watch the game on TV? I probably will. I have friends coming over. And I'm not a Nielsen Ratings household, so my watching or not watching will have no effect on the team or the league.

Still, I am angry at the players who have brought us to this place where a football fan has to feel conflicted about watching a marquee game. And I am going to send some messages to them through this platform.

The first thing I want to say is some of you are delusional. You say your demonstrations during the playing of the National Anthem—the taking the knee, the linking the arms, the praying for equality—are not meant to show disrespect to veterans or the flag or the American people. But that's how many of us out here in TV land take it. A very few of you have even said you aren't anti-police.

You may believe you aren't showing contempt for cops but all of you Anthem protesters are now following Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who wore socks with police depicted as cartoon pigs during practice last year, believes cops have all the training of cosmetologists, and gives donations to organizations that honor convicted cop killers. Kaepernick insults American law enforcement officers at all turns. And most American cops know what it means when NFL players protest the Anthem in the name of "equality." If you don't agree with Kaepernick's views on police; if you don't believe all American police are racist, brutal, and corrupt, then maybe you shouldn't join the Kaepernick cause.

Maybe you should find another way to protest than disrespecting the National Anthem. Which brings me to my single biggest question about this whole movement: What do you expect it to accomplish? Your protest is impotent; you can't end institutional racism and inequality in America by kneeling on the sidelines. Here's an alternative to protesting that I ask you to consider.

A lot of the anger toward you stems from the fact you all make so much money. League minimum salary this year is north of $600K. I don't begrudge you that money. You are elite performers in a free market. Good on ya. But that money gives you options once your playing days are over. So rather than blowing it all on bling and Bentleys, invest it so that you can pursue a second career that is fulfilling, has positive impact on society, and is low paying. Let's see you put some skin in the game.

Most inequality in America today is the result of poor education and the diminished economic opportunity that comes from poor education. If you want to do something to promote racial equality in this country, become teachers when your careers end. Poor performing schools in this country need big, strong, smart men to be role models for boys who don't have fathers. If you want to end mass incarceration and reduce the number of young black men dying in the streets from gang beefs and from shootouts with police, the place to do it is in the schools, not kneeling on the sidelines and criticizing the cops.

If you don't want to be teachers, then I have another post-NFL career option for you. Become cops. You criticize police actions by kneeling on the sidelines during the National Anthem, but you know nothing about what it's like to patrol the streets of this country. Let's see you put on that uniform, pin on that badge, strap on that duty belt, and go out and protect and serve. Retired Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers star Charles Tillman is doing just that. He is now in the FBI Academy. You can follow his example rather than following Kaepernick's.

Police work or teaching may not be for you. I understand. But stop kneeling on the sidelines and get in the game. Your fellow player J.J. Watt raised millions for hurricane relief. We need more of that and less of this anti-police protest the National Anthem nonsense.

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