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Profes­sional ath­letes look like per­fectly sculpted Greek statues. And, in the current dis­course con­cerning athlete’s political involvement, it seems that like statues, many would rather they remain silent.

Often when we think about ath­letes, we see them only as tools for enter­tainment, not as full members in the social and political dynamic of America.

Fol­lowing the lead of Colin Kaepernick’s activism against racial injustice, players have been kneeling, sitting, or just not coming out of the locker to place their hand over their hearts and mouth along.

While the players do this, fans spill their beers and yawn while they try to rise and remove their hats.

The Seattle Sea­hawks pre­pared a statement that sums up the cause of most anthem protesters:“We will not stand for the injustice that has plagued people of color in this country. Out of love for our country and in honor of the sac­ri­fices made on our behalf, we unite to oppose those who would deny our basic freedoms. We remain com­mitted in con­tinuing to work towards equality and justice for all.”

In response, many have spoken against the protests.

Donald Trump, at a rally two weeks ago in Alabama, offered advice as to how NFL team owners should deal with anthem pro­testers: “get that son of a bitch off the field right now.”

To top that, more than 100 Patriots fans assembled to throw team jerseys and other mer­chandise on a bonfire as a reaction to player protest last Thursday night in Swansea, Mass­a­chu­setts.

Closer to home, Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, the Director of the Michigan State Police said, in a Facebook post, that protesting players are “mil­lionaire ingrates who hate America and dis­re­spect our armed forces and vet­erans.” Etue, a rather adept name-caller, also titled them “a bunch of rich, entitled, arrogant, ungrateful, anti-American degen­erates.”

The reaction to pro­fes­sional ath­letes exercise of their right to free speech and to peaceful assembly has brought the wrath of the ignorant upon them.

American sports fans tend to spend their autumn Sundays melting into La-Z-Boy chairs and jumping up to yell “Hit Somebody!” or “Kill ‘em!” when a safety flies in to tackle a running back. NFL fans are basi­cally gawkers at a 50 car pile-up of human bodies.

And that is all some want it to be.

But Aris­totle believed man was a “political animal” because he is a social creature with the power of speech and moral rea­soning. And though we may call a par­tic­u­larly physical or aggressive player an “animal on the field,” both on and off the field each player is a sociopo­litical being.

The com­ments of Col. Etue do not describe such a dynamic creature and the actions of the Pres­ident and the Patriots fans do not rec­ognize the power of moral rea­soning.

When we tell NFL players not to use their prominent posi­tions to make state­ments that could affect our country, we are saying that they are only bodies.

We are saying football’s only use is pure, anes­thetizing enter­tainment.

We are saying that we do not want to find chal­lenge where we nor­mally find relax­ation.

We are saying that we want to wrench the facemask of each helmet so tight that they become muzzles.

And when fans argue that the NFL is an apo­litical insti­tution, they prove their own igno­rance. It is NFL policy per the “Game Oper­a­tions Manual” that the anthem must be played before every game with both teams on the side­lines. Then the players must “stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking.”

Failure to comply with these stan­dards may result in fines, sus­pen­sions, or for­feiture of draft picks, the manual reads.

These rules make each NFL football game a political event, which rein­forces America’s sense of national pride and inspires us to think it is good and valuable. If the rules say players have to respect the flag, they should, until their powers of moral rea­soning cause them to act against it.

It is just like any protest. The dif­ference is that we don’t want muscle-bound mil­lion­aires to tell us what we don’t want to hear.

 

Mark Naida is a senior studying English and French.