Ask any NFL fan why they love to watch football and you’re bound to get a variety of answers.
The competition, the pageantry, the athleticism, rooting for one’s favorite team and hating on Tom Brady are all valid reasons to watch football.
Some responses you likely won’t hear? National anthem protests. Social justice messaging. Criminal justice reform.
Even if you truly believe in those types of initiatives, you don’t tune in to the NFL to see players pushing them.
That being said, if the current state of professional sports is any indication, fans who want to watch the NFL may not have a choice but to be subjected to social justice messaging and protests.
But as dangerous as it is to go against the grain, one NFL coach is doing so by questioning the effectiveness of these protests.
And to the surprise of nobody, not everyone is thrilled that he’s doing so.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians sparked a wave of controversy when he dared to suggest that tangible “action” would do far more to combat perceived injustices than vapid demonstrations of protest amid turbulent social times.
“Your responsibility is to take action. I don’t know if protest is an action,” Arians said Thursday, according to NFL Network reporter James Palmer.
To be fair, protest can be an action. But given that multiple NFL teams have simply opted to cancel practice, that’s a major stretch of the definition of the word “action.”
“I think each guy has a personal thing. I would beg then to take action,” Arians added. “Find a cause and either support it financially or do something to change the situation.”
But Arians really raised some eyebrows when he outright questioned the effectiveness of protests.
“Because protesting doesn’t do crap, in my opinion. I’ve been seeing it since 1968,”Arians said.
That particular line caught the attention of NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, who responded on Twitter with a reference to the recently deceased John Lewis, a Democratic congressman from Georgia.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but it’s clear he is woefully misinformed about the history of protest both within sports and in America,” Smith said in response.
Arians, who clearly didn’t take too kindly to being called “woefully misinformed,” fired back at Smith.
“Yeah, I have a history,” Arians said Friday, according to ESPN. “It might be a little bit longer than his.”
And as ESPN pointed out, Arians does have a long — and positive — history when it comes to racial relations.
The 67-year-old coach was actually the first white player to become roommates with a black teammate when Arians was a quarterback at Virginia Tech. Arians roomed with James Barber, the father of NFL legends Tiki and Ronde Barber.
Arians is also the only coach in the NFL with offensive, defensive, special-teams and run game coordinators who are all black.
Given all of that, Arians’s history might be a “bit longer” than Smith’s. But even if it’s not, Smith is in no place to to be calling the Bucs coach “woefully misinformed.”
Because ultimately, Arians has a point: Canceling practice in the name of social justice is a relatively meaningless gesture.
If anything, it feels like a pandering misuse of the massive platform and resources that NFL players actually have.
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