Editorial: Huddle up, America, in Canton
By The Canton Repository Editorial Board
There are some people who believe football, and specifically the National Football League, is losing relevance. President Donald Trump might be standing at the front of that line.
The NFL, however, might never be more relevant and more important than right now, and in no small part the game can thank Trump for his recent comments.
We live in the greatest democracy created, one that gives citizens the right to express themselves and to protest. While those rights are inalienable, that does not mean they always come without consequences. Some people might choose not to watch the NFL, or support its sponsors. Some might choose to support the league and sponsors more now than ever.
This Editorial Board has said more than once NFL players should choose a means of protesting that doesn’t involve kneeling during the national anthem, a move many see as disrespectful toward a symbol of our freedoms — the American flag — and a lack of class toward military service members often seen holding that flag before games. We recognize, though, the rights of those players to protest or express themselves in a way that brings attention to their causes of social injustice and racial inequities. And no president should call any citizen — professional athlete or otherwise — an “SOB” for exercising his or her right to expression.
In the second week of the NFL season, a handful of players knelt during the national anthem. After the president’s red-meat speech to supporters in Alabama last Friday — in which he backed the NFL and its players into a corner by telling league owners they should fire players who don’t stand for the anthem — more than 200 players took part in protesting this past Sunday, including many owners. The protests seemingly have become more about the president than about social injustice.
So maybe this is the right place to advance the current discussion. Maybe Canton, Ohio, can play a role in uniting.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame, long before today’s politics forced their way onto football’s sidelines, dusted off a speech former college coach Bill Curry wrote and narrated in the months after the 9/11 attacks. Titled “The Huddle,” it’s as appropriate now as it was in 2001. “The Huddle” was part of a campaign the Hall of Fame started last year, well before the issue of kneeling dominated this weekend’s conversation. Perhaps the Hall saw the direction we were heading.
“The football huddle is a metaphor for our culture; imperfect like all metaphors,” Curry starts out in the roughly three-minute video. “In that huddle is a bunch of folks that are black, brown, white, red, yellow, liberal, conservative, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist and Hindu.”
Football, Curry argues, is the greatest team sport invented. “We learn ever so slowly that our differences do not matter in the huddle. ... We know that sweat smells about the same on everybody’s body. When we get busted in the mouth, that blood that trickles is the same color. Everybody’s tired. Everybody’s hurt.”
Yes, we are. Everybody is tired. Everybody has been hurt a little, or a lot, in some way during this discourse. All of our tears are the same.
If, on the football field, Curry continues, “men who have been raised to hate each other’s guts” can become brothers, then it is our hope and belief the same can happen when we all “huddle up.”
Everyone comes to this current debate with a different perspective. Our challenge — what we must do — is learn to understand and respect each other’s perspective.
More than ever, it is time to huddle up, America. That is a message the Pro Football Hall of Fame has been delivering since last year.
Social injustice issues are solved with unity, not the divisiveness that only perpetuates the problem.
Let’s huddle up, America. Right here
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