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2 perspectives on college football players protesting during the national anthem

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In Week 4, athlete protests against police shootings of unarmed black people reached major college football. Players at Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska demonstrated silently during the national anthem, as did band members and others at North Carolina, SMU, and elsewhere. At Eastern Michigan, a student group took the field peacefully after the Eagles’ win.

From Richard Johnson:

Maybe you see it as young men putting political issues front and center for millions of people to see, but here’s the thing: that’s the point.

If you’re white, you don’t look in the mirror and see what I do. I see the minority, I see different, I see abnormal. I know many men and women who share my complexion feel marginalized and like their voices aren’t heard, because #AllLivesMatter is the response when they try to get you to listen to why their black life matters. I don’t have the option of not thinking about race, because when I look in the mirror, what stares back at me is not the cultural norm.

What those players conveyed with raised fists and bent knees was power: black power. It fills me with pride to see young men rise up and say, "No, you will pay attention to the message we have to share, and we will insert it into your favorite leisure activity just to drive the point home."

For once, black college football players are the ones controlling the narrative on game day, not the white men who coach their teams and dictate their actions.

From Spencer Hall:

I just want you to know who you’re really talking about when you say "we," and to love Michael Rose-Ivey [the Nebraska player who described receiving death threats in response to his protest]. He is trying to lead, the very thing football coaches and fans and writers harp on as one of the most important cornerstones of a team. He’s doing that without hurting a soul in the process. One of the few places he thought would understand and accept not only did not do that, but instead lashed out in the ugliest fashion imaginable. Not everyone there, no—but enough to convince him that home, as he’d define it, was a different place than he thought it was.

Your patriotism and understanding of America should be tougher. Your love for those around you should be tougher and stronger and able to listen and withstand questioning, even in the sphere of a game. You should be stronger than a brand of performative Americanism reliant on a systematic, sneering cruelty. You can’t be this fragile and survive a Tuesday, much less an entire life.

You should greet the anger you feel when you see a young black athlete protesting. Ask what sent it to you so hot and so fast in the first place, instead of rejecting it.

"But that’s the same perspective," someone might say.

No, not even close.

It’s a similar argument, approached from different angles and made by different people with different life experiences, all of which forms the definition of "perspective." We’ve been molded to think of "two perspectives" as meaning polar-opposite faux-debate, wedged apart enough to justify a dividing line down the middle of the cable news network’s screen. Real life is too important to throw a First Take debate at it.

Also, while we’re here, some like to accuse SB Nation and others of injecting politics into sports by covering things like athletes protesting on the sidelines. In my opinion, to willfully ignore what those athletes are saying would be an act of forced politics.

Reckoning with their actions during the anthem is in line with, if you think about it, the entire point of sports media: conveying the meaning in the actions of athletes, whether that’s a 300-pound man thundering for a touchdown, a woman making tennis history, or a wide receiver silently raising a fist.

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