The first full Sunday of NFL games – 13 of them – are scheduled this afternoon and not in the first 99 years of the National Football League has there been a bigger distraction. In the past two years the owners of the teams have allowed politics inside the huge stadiums, creating a havoc to equal the unrest of the nation itself, and the toll has been noticeable and divisive.
Today it has grown worse. From Union Square in San Francisco to Times Square in New York, there are huge billboards featuring the face of perhaps the country’s biggest activist, and Colin Kaepernick has torn our loyalties and allegiance anew with the words, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. Just do it.”
The huge sportswear giant, Nike, has just launched a controversial advertising platform that I can not recall being equaled in my lifetime, and the loudest question has become “why?” Oh, there is the age-old belief that brand names thrive most on how many times they are used in our daily sentences. But equally valid is the reasoning that you never pick a fight you cannot possibly win and, with the discord between the liberals and conservatives among us never greater, any football coach can tell you all that matters is the final score.
Just you watch … at the end of this cyclone Nike will not have sold more shoes, the NFL will continue to hemorrhage millions of dollars, and the divide will deepen between those who believe kneeling during the national anthem is a greater insult to our country than any overblown claim of police brutality against blacks will ever be. Yes, we have deep scars of Ferguson, of terrible yet isolated racial incidents where our justice system still prevails, but when did angst, rancor, and hatred become more important than first-and-10 on Sunday afternoons in the fall?
I am already on record – I am over this. I would far prefer spending my day away from a football culture I no longer admire. That said, I am also one who wakes up every day in the greatness of the United States and, whether it is wincing at the President’s unnecessary tweets, grieving over another mass shooting somewhere, or wondering how tearing down a statue is going to help heal the hurt of a war fought 150 years ago, I can promise you that, just nigh of age 70, I will dislike and studiously avoid anything I find unpleasant.
I happen to feel the great majority of my countrymen are the same way. We love college football games, where players “behave or hit the highway.” We love the great athleticism – played by the rules – where one team wins as the other loses. We are a nation of achievement, yet we are also one where we cherish that this week’s loser can become next week’s winner with more of our country’s greatest of all products – sweat.
Sadly, we make millionaires out of those who not a one should be. Professional athletic salaries are a nauseating symptom of one of America’s greatest wrongs, surpassed only by the attitudes and boorish behavior of the pretenders who hardly earn a nickel on the dollar. That’s eked into our corporate offices, where CEOs are paid obscene amounts at the expenses of mid-management where all the work is done. Our medical care is dictated by insurance policy and our compassion by fear of legal discourse. The trickle-down has now become obvious.
A local example? In the Hamilton County Department of Education, there are 60 in the “central office” being paid over $100,000 when at all 78 of our schools not one teacher is being paid enough. And you wonder why 72 percent of our students are not “on track,” or why a whopping 90 percent are deficient in math? It is ludicrous but, what in heaven’s name did you expect: there is nary an eye-wink of accountability.
Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago who has allowed the city to become a shooting gallery unprecedented in all of America’s history, bemoaned our lack of values and family standards when he just announced he was through -- no mas! Yet we look at today’s role models in the NFL who every parent prays their child will not turn out to be, and to our total chagrin nobody can seem to connect the dots.
So, look what just happened this very week! With the new multi-year “Just Do It” campaign, Colin Kaepernick just became a “top-tier” spokesperson for Nike, which translates to many millions. Here’s the guy who infamously wore “cops are pigs” socks to San Francisco practices and who still hasn’t figured out why his own teammates came to believe he was a loser. You want the real reason he left the 49ers? With his wacko beliefs, he was actually exiled from the NFL. And believe this: he sacrificed absolutely zero.
Nike can say Kaepernick “sacrificed” all it wants, that he “believed” in acting such a fool nobody in the league wanted him around, but in the final synopsis the greatest witness of truth – known as Father Time -- will prove the American public both dislikes and rejects anything that isn’t pleasant, good, or worthy of the values and standards of our beloved United States of America.
Get this right. I’m saying Colin is the new Coke II. Nike will survive just like “original” Coke did back in 2002, but not without leaving a bad taste in a lot of America’s mouths.
You have every right and most certainly the freedom to watch the NFL, or to burn your pairs of Nikes, but I’m telling you that if you avoid all appearance of evil – including all of that which is unpleasant and thrust on you today – you will like yourself a whole lot more. What’s more, it’s easy. Just do it.