The National Football League returns to play! Through the gray haze of dissent over the COVID-19 pandemic, all the players charge the field once again, emerging from locker rooms clad in their colors. Well, actually not all the players.
The NFL adjusted its anthem policy in 2018 following the 2016-2017 movement to kneel during the national anthem, requiring players to stand, but allowing them to opt-out by staying in the locker room. On Sep. 13, six teams elected to stay inside during the national anthem, including the Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles, Jacksonville Jaguars, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Miami Dolphins, according to an article published by Bruce Haring for Deadline. Other teams opted to come together at midfield while displaying messages of racial equality on the scoreboard, widely deciding that, as stated by Cleveland Browns’ quarterback Baker Mayfield in a tweet on Sep. 12, “a gesture such as kneeling will only create more division or discussion about the gesture, rather than be a solution towards our country’s problem at hand.”
Dissent in the ranks of the NFL certainly does not only reside in what form protest against racial injustices will take. Largely, fans have not been allowed to fill the stands due to the coronavirus pandemic, and there was a serious debate over whether or not the games should be held at all. Social distancing is not possible to uphold in the context of a football game, as reported by Allen Sills, the league’s chief medical doctor, back in May.
“Football and physical distancing are not compatible with each other, so we know we’ll have people in close proximity with each other. There are some unique challenges we face.”
Unique challenges indeed face the NFL for this upcoming season. Today’s polarized, disparate era of opposition challenges every opinion and even apparent fact, as even facts often conflict from source to source. The changing nature of the pandemic and that of the racial relations of America create an ever-changing terrain of uncertainty in the face of such adversity, which is hard or should be, for every person. The ambiguity of our age continues to trouble the conscience of every free-thinking individual.
The mind of the world continues to shift and change, day by, though hardly does any individual turn back against the path they’ve come. It seems the more time goes by, the further and faster one slips into their current trajectory. The cavernous echo chambers of our culture and our politics become louder each day.
In so many of our convictions, we cannot even begin to look outside of ourselves; we’ve become so inculcated, we can no longer see the biases etched into our stream of consciousness.
Through the haze, the athletes charge the field, and we can’t help but wonder, in 100 years, which side of history each one of us will stand: the black or the white, the right or the left, the wrong or the right.