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OH SAY CAN YOU SEE
Over two years ago, a San Franscisco 49ers quarterback named Colin Kaepernick protested social injustice by sitting on the bench during the rendition of the national anthem while many of his teammates and football fans stood. In a post interview, he told reporters that he would not stand for the American flag because America oppresses African Americans and people of color (Wyche, 2016).
After viewing Kaepernick sitting, Nate Boyer, an ex-Green Beret and former Seahawks player wrote an open letter to Kaepernick regarding how he was angry about Kaepernick’s protest, but he was willing to listen to what Kaepernick had to say about why he sat on the bench (Boyer, 2016). The open letter caused the two of them to meet and discuss how Kaepernick could protest, but still respect the American flag. After finding a middle ground, Boyer suggests that Kaepernick should kneel so that he could be alongside his teammates. He told Kaepernick, “Soldiers kneel before their fallen brother’s grave, you know, to show respect” (Brinson, 2016).
After their exclusive meeting, Kaepernick, along with his teammate Eric Reid, then kneeled at the next 49ers game. And at the next game. And the next game after that, influencing more and more NFL players and teams to kneel. Many individuals from the NFL, sports fans, and even President Trump has voiced their opinions over this controversial topic. The debate of the lack of patriotism and being able to express freedom of speech were the highlight of many discussions. However, despite all of its controversy, the NFL national anthem protests are considered to be the most groundbreaking, revolutionary movement in U.S. sports history.
On May 23, 2018, NFL owners unanimously approved a new NFL national anthem policy. Within the new NFL national anthem policy, NFL players are required to stand and display respect to both the American flag and the national anthem. Also, if any NFL players or any other team employees decides to not stand for the national anthem, the individual teams will be subjected to fine the players. The new policy emphasizes specifically on sitting or kneeling. The new policy also stated that NFL players who chooses to protest have the option to stay in the locker room (Seifart & Graziano, 2018). Later that day, President Trump praised the NFL owners for approving the new NFL national anthem policy. He then made a comment suggesting that NFL players who protest against the national anthem “shouldn’t be in the country” and that they should stand proudly for the national anthem (Fritze & Korte, 2018).
However, on July 10, 2018, the National Football League Players Association, also known as NFPLA, released a statement regarding filing a grievance against the new NFL national anthem policy. The statement stated that the grievance was filed, in representation of all of the NFL players, to dispute the new NFL national anthem policy. It also expressed how the NFL did not consult with the NFLPA regarding the new NFL national anthem policy, how the new NFL national anthem policy displayed inconsistency with the collective bargaining agreement, and how the NFL national anthem policy infringed the NFL players’ rights. In the conclusion of the released statement, the NFLPA recommended the NFL to start discussions with the NFLPA Executive Committee to brainstorm on possible solutions for this issue and that the NFL eventually agreed with their recommendation (Staff, 2018). However, on July 19, 2018, the NFL and the NFLPA released a joint statement stating that they have been collaborating on possible solutions for the new NFL anthem policy. The statement also said that both the NFL and
the NFLPA came to an agreement about halting the process of the grievance and the new NFL’s anthem policy (Maske, 2018). This simulation conceptualizes a dialogue regarding a possible resolution on the new NFL’s national anthem policy.
Key players: a NFLPA Representative, Colin Kaepernick, Jerry Jones, Roger Goodell, and Mediator.
National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) Representative
The National Football League Players Association, also known as NFLPA, is a labor union who epitomizes all of the NFL players. The NFLPA protects their rights, salaries/wages, working conditions, work hours, etc. They assure the NFL players that the collective bargaining agreement terms are met and provide assistance with monitoring and negotiating players’ retirement and insurance benefits. And, most importantly, they protect the appearance of the NFL players and their profession both on and off the field (NFL Players Association, 2014).
Your Task: As a NFLPA representative, you are against the new NFL national anthem policy. You support Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players who protest against the national anthem. You and other representatives within the NFLPA consider the players “family” and will protect them unconditionally. Therefore, your task is to support Colin Kaepernick within the NFL new national anthem policy meeting. You plan to argue that the NFL players utilize their platform to peacefully protest on issues that deserve national attention (Thomsen, 2017). You believe that it is the NFL players’ constitutional rights to express their freedom of speech.
Colin Kaepernick is a former San Fransciso 49ers quarterback. In March 2017, Kaepernick chose to get out of his contract with the 49ers, after knowing that were going to release him, and became a free agent (Gaines, 2017). Since he has become a free agent, many teams were having discussions about potentially signing him but no teams have officially signed him as of yet. In addition, in October 2017, Kaepernick ultimately decided to file a grievance against the NFL, specifically against the NFL owners, for collusion. The grievance entailed that the NFL owners were colluding Kaepernick of his employment rights and retribution of his advocacy and leadership for equality and social justice within the U.S. Then, in September of 2018, Nike released an announcement of their 30th anniversary “Just Do It” ad campaign. Nike also announced that Kaepernick was the face of their campaign (Editors, 2018). After the announcement, Nike received a lot of backlash for supporting Kaepernick, However, despite all of the backlash and controversy, Colin Kaepernick is still arguably considered one of the most influential athletes and social activist within the 21st century.
Your Task: As Colin Kaepernick, you are against the new NFL national anthem policy. You will argue that you will not stand during the national anthem until you see significant changes for African Americans or people of color. Also, you will argue that although you have received a lot of backlash for kneeling, you have tremendous support from other NFL players, politicians, and celebrities (Editors, 2018). You believe that the new NFL national anthem policy goes against what you are advocating for:
criminal justice reform and the oppression of African Americans and persons of color. You also believe that the new NFL national anthem policy violates the rights of all NFL players.
Roger Goodell is the current Commissioner of the NFL and has served as the NFL Commissioner since 2006. In 1982, he joined the NFL as an intern and climbed through the NFL’s hierarchy. He has also effectively negotiated deals with the NFPLA and NFL broadcasting partners. He is very well known for establishing a hard-line approach for himself as well. However, he received a lot of criticism on topics such as refusing to acknowledge mounting evidence of health issues (i.e. brain trauma) in former NFL players, domestic violence cases, utilization of illegally deflating footballs, and most recently: the NFL protests (Editors, 2018).
Your task: As Roger Goodell, you are for the new NFL national anthem policy. You believe that NFL players should stand for the national anthem. You also argue that the NFL national anthem protests “created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic” (Zara, 2018).
Jerry Jones is the NFL owner of the Dallas Cowboys and took over the franchise in 1989. He is also the first NFL owner, in NFL history, to lead his team to three Super Bowl titles (Pro Football Hall of Fame, 2018). In September of 2017, he made national headlines for locking arms and kneeling alongside his team before the rendition of the national anthem (Harris, 2017). However, in July 2018, after all of the NFL owners approved the new NFL national anthem policy, Jones stated that his team had its own policy. He stated that the Cowboys policy requires all players on the team to stand for the national anthem and that his team will not support NFL players who choose to stay in the locker room during the national anthem.
Your task: As Jerry Jones, you are for the new NFL national anthem policy. You will argue that NFL players should be required to stand for the national anthem. You believe that NFL players should stand, place their hand over their heart, and show respect towards the national anthem and the American flag. You said in a press conference, “Our policy is you stand during the anthem, toe on the line” (Middlehurst-Schwartz, 2018).
Mediators are individuals who assist two (or more) parties into a mutual agreement. They are “in the middle” and they do not take either party sides (Curle, 1986). Mediators also assist both parties in understanding and focusing on the important issues in order to come to a resolution (FINRA, 2018).
Your task: As a mediator, you are a neutral third party. You are not going to be against or for the new national anthem policy. You will set ground rules for the mediation and offer private caucus sessions to all parties if needed. You will allow all parties’ voices to be heard and write down all of the main issues that all parties are in conflict about. And lastly but most importantly, you will explain to all parties that you will not take sides, that you will maintain confidentiality, and that you are a neutral party.
Boyer, N. (2016, August 30). An open letter to Colin Kaepernick, from a Green Beret-turned-long snapper. Retrieved from: https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/2016/08/30/an-open-letter-to-colin-kaepernick-from-a-green-beret-turned-long-snapper/
Brinson, W. (2016, September 27). Here’s how Nate Boyer got Colin Kaepernick to go from sitting to kneeling. Retrieved from: https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/heres-how-nate-boyer-got-colin-kaepernick-to-go-from-sitting-to-kneeling/
Curle, A. (1986). Mediation. In the Middle: Non-Official Mediation in Violent Situations, 9-20.
Editors, B. (2018, December 18). Colin Kaepernick Biography. Retrieved from: https://www.biography.com/people/colin-kaepernick-21132801
Editors, B. (2018, December 18). Roger Goodell Biography. Retrieved from: https://www.biography.com/people/roger-goodell-011316
FINRA. (2018, December 18). Role of a Mediator. Retrieved from FINRA.org: https://www.finra.org/arbitration-and-mediation/role-mediator
Fritze, J., & Korte, G. (2018, May 24). Trump praises NFL’s anthem policy, says protesters maybe ‘shouldn’t be in the country’. Retrieved from: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/05/24/trump-praises-nfl-policy-anthem-protests/639113002/
Gaines, C. (2017 September 10). Colin Kaepernick received less than one-third of his ‘record’ $126 million contract. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/colin-kaepernick-record-49ers-contract-2017-8
Harris, S. J. (2017, September 26). Jerry Jones kneels, locks arms with Cowboys players before national anthem. Retrieved from http://www.sportingnews.com/us/nfl/news/jerry-jones-
Maske, M. (2018, July 19). NFL puts national anthem policy on hold under agreement with NFLPA. Retrieved from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/sports/wp/2018/07/19/nfl-puts-national-anthem-policy-on-hold-under-agreement-with-nflpa/?utm_term=.9fed719edbb0
Middlehurst-Schwartz, M. (2018, July 25). Jerry Jones: Cowboys will require player to stand for anthem, not remain in locker room. Retrieved from: https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/cowboys/2018/07/25/jerry-jones-nfl-anthem-players-protest-dallas-cowboys/836464002/
National Football League Association (2018). About the NFLPA. Retrieved from: https://www.nflpa.com/about
Pro Football Hall of Fame (2018, December 18). Jerry Jones Career Highlights. Retrieved from: https://www.profootballhof.com/players/jerry-jones/
Seifart, K., & Graziano, D. (2018, May 24). New policy requires on-field players, personnel to stand for anthem. Retrieved from: http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/23582533/nfl-owners-approve-new-national-anthem-policy
Staff, A. T. (2018, July 10). NFLPA files grievance against NFL’s anthem policy. Retrieved from: http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000939860/article/nflpa-files-grievance-against-nfls-anthem-policy
Thomsen, J. (2017, October 08). NFL Players Association affirms support of peaceful protests after Pence walkout. Retrieved from: https://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/354489-nfl-players-association-backs-players-constitutional-rights
Wyche, S. (2016, August 27). Colin Kaepernick explains why he sat during national anthem. Retrieved from: http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000691077/article/colin-kaepernick-explains-why-he-sat-during-national-anthem
Zara, C. (2018, 23 May). Read Roger Goodell’s full policy statement on the NFL national anthem protests. Retrieved from: https://www.fastcompany.com/40577065/read-roger-goodells-full-policy-statement-on-the-nfl-national-anthem-protests
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