The Detroit Lions are 3-1, and currently in first place in the NFC North.
ESPN even listed the Lions as one of the biggest surprises of the season due to their defense forcing almost as many turnovers (11) in the first four games of this season than they had all last year (14).
But, something else is also going on in The Motor City.
According to the Detroit Free Press, team owner Martha Ford asked her players not to kneel during the national anthem during a team meeting last week.
Ford’s request, however, isn’t what’s most interesting here. It’s the backstory to this situation and her motives that are the most intriguing.
According to Lions officials, before Donald Trump’s remarks about the NFL and national anthem protest, no player on the roster had taken part in any kind of anthem protest all last year. But on Sept. 24, the Sunday after Trump’s tweets in which he called those kneeling sons of b—-es, eight players took a knee during the anthem, while Ford stood on the sidelines with her arms linked with the rest of the team, in a show of unity and solidarity.
That Sunday was also when Rico LaVelle sang the anthem in Detroit and took a knee while raising his fist in the Black Power salute as he belted out the final note.
That was the backstory.
Here’s the motive.
Ford told her players that she was willing to cut a check and donate her name and money to any of the community issues that were at the core of the player’s cause for kneeling.
With that news, only two players decided to kneel this past Sunday. One of them was Steve Longa, whose father was struck by a car and killed last week.
There’s also the case of Akeem Spence, who was one of the players who kneeled before the Falcons game, but then decided to stand on Sunday.
Spence’s father lost a contract job over his decision to kneel.
And that’s the complicated thing about this entire situation. If Ford does live up to her word, then her dollars could be put to good use, because what community program or non-profit doesn’t need more cash?
However, words also matter.
And Ford used some words that make her gesture seem phony.
“I don’t think it’s a cure-all kind of thing, but it’s a step in the right direction and then for somebody as powerful as her to say to come in and say she’ll stand up and she’ll back and put her name on whatever it is that we want to do, whatever it is that we want to attack, try to bring some real change about for the issues, to me that’s big,” said Lions defensive end Cornelius Washington.
Pay attention to when Washington said, “put her name on whatever.”
“We do dance around the topic a lot and Mrs. Ford has come forward and said that as long as we compromise as a team and unify and make a unified demonstration, she’ll back us financially. So I’m definitely going to hold her to her word,” said Lions running back Ameer Abdullah, who took a knee for the anthem before the Falcons game. Abdullah stood last Sunday.
If Ford really wants to make a difference by donating to causes to address police brutality, systemic racism, and inequality, then why does her name have to be “all over it?”
And why do people of color always have to compromise their voice when they want to address their concerns for humanity and equality?
Martha Ford doesn’t want to help, she wants to hush.
According to CNN, the Department of Defense spent $6.8 million on “paid patriotism” between 2012 and 2015 amongst 50 teams from the NBA, NFL, MLB, MLS, and NASCAR.
Mind you, besides 9/11 and the Super Bowl, teams in the NFL weren’t mandated to be on the field for the national anthem until 2009.
Money is in play, yet again.
Check this out from an article on ThinkProgress.com.
“Overall, the Defense Department spent at least $10.4 million on ‘marketing and advertising contracts with professional sports teams’ across the board between 2012 and 2015, although, the report noted, the department ‘[could not] accurately account’ for the full number of contracts and payouts it had awarded. ‘It only reported 62 percent (76 of 122) of its contracts and 70 percent ($7.3 million) of its spending in its response to our inquiry,” wrote Arizona Senators Jeff Flake(R) and John McCain (R).
“Even with that disclosure, it is hard to understand how a team accepting taxpayer funds to sponsor a military appreciation game, or to recognize wounded warriors or returning troops, can be construed as anything other than paid patriotism.”
I never knew patriotism had a dollar amount.
But wait, there’s more.
The article goes on to say that the NFL announced in May 2016 that it would refund $724,000 of the Defense Department payouts, which had been awarded for military “appreciate activities.”
The NFL has shown once again that money is their motive, and that they’d rather cut a check to be a patriot, then to do the actual work of one.
Now, players inside of the Lions locker room, and as I suspect, others from around the league, are now being forced to answer some serious internal questions.
How much is taking a knee worth?
And is that price high enough to allow you to sleep at night?