Was It a One-Day Revolt in the N.F.L., or Something More?


“I’m not going to do it again next week,” he said. “I didn’t want to do it this week. This all had to do with President Trump’s comments. That’s the only reason that we did that.”

Kenneth Shropshire, who runs the Global Sport Institute at Arizona State University, is the author of the book “In Black and White: Race and Sports in America.” He has some interesting thoughts on the effectiveness of protest movements, and he worries that the N.F.L. movement might be fleeting.

To effect real change, Mr. Shropshire told me, the demonstrations can’t disappear in a flash. But their staying power depends on the reason the players and owners were spurred to action.

“At the player level, it really was someone saying on the street, ‘Yo mama,’” he said. “And at the basest level, nobody can talk about your mother without some retribution.”

At the owner level, he said, any continued displays of solidarity will depend how much of the protest stemmed from owners’ anger that the president had told them how to run their businesses.

“Their thinking might be, ‘How dare this person get into my business?’” he said. “So it’ll be interesting if some owner signs Kaepernick now, just to show that Trump can’t engage in their business.”

The real problem with players who focus solely on Mr. Trump’s comments is that he will have succeeded in steering attention away from the original issues — racism and police brutality. On Sunday, everyone seemed to be consumed by a different matter: whether it is appropriate to kneel during the anthem.

Vernon Davis, a Redskins tight end, said he had an idea for how to get beyond the bickering and properly engage on the real issues: Gather top players from each of the professional leagues and have them meet with Mr. Trump at the White House.

“We have some of the largest platforms there is,” he said. “We’re huge influences when it comes to people.”

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Why N.F.L. Players Started Taking a Knee During the Anthem

Few police officers have been convicted in recent high-profile cases in which blacks were killed.



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He added: “Why not just come together and make it right? Because there is an issue, there is a problem, for sure.”

Mr. Davis said he would gladly meet with Mr. Trump, but only at “the right time,” which he said would be outside of football season. So Mr. Davis, at least, has put everything on hold until February. By then, the opportunity might be gone. Richard Lapchick, the director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, said that if a strong core of players would be willing to start — or continue — the conversation about racial equality and justice in their communities, the movement could grow quickly.

“Sunday was the most important sports day since Ali decided not to fight in Vietnam,” Mr. Lapchick said. “Yes, I think it was that big. What we don’t do in America is talk about these issues openly, but now we could easily create a forum where athletes and city leaders and front offices and police can discuss racial justice. Right now we don’t have any of that kind of unity in our communities.”

Redskins cornerback Josh Norman said he would be up for that kind of outreach. After Sunday’s game, he stood at his locker long after every other player left the room and talked about President Trump and about freedom and how something in this country has to change.

He said he was so sickened and disturbed by the president’s insults that he couldn’t stop thinking about his place in the world, and that “the game came secondary.”

What about next weekend’s game? For now, Mr. Norman said, he was thinking about how to make things better and exercising his right to be free.

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