NFL stage is ideal place to make social justice statement

Dontari Poe
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[Dontari Poe]
Harry Edwards: “Anytime issues of Black people are at stake, athletes are of no consequence. When (athletes) become a spotlight for something other than what (fans) are comfortable with – entertainment, fantasy teams – they boo it.”
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Give Dontari Poe credit. And grace.

Last weekend, the burly defensive tackle became the first player in the 60-year history of the Dallas Cowboys to take a knee during the national anthem as a silent protest to social inequality.

He still has a job.

It took some guts for Poe to make that specific statement, given that no Cowboys player had dared to do as much in these years since Colin Kaepernick introduced the NFL universe to anthem protests, and until lately, team owner Jerry Jones threatened job security with hard-line rhetoric.

Yet another litmus test looms. After taking a knee in a sparkling-yet-empty SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, Poe’s next projected protest will come before real, not virtual, fans at Jerry World as the Cowboys put on their home opener Sunday against the Falcons.

Let’s see how the home crowd reacts. The Cowboys haven’t publicly revealed any specific attendance expectations, but with coach Mike McCarthy throwing out a 25% capacity tip this week, that sounds like maybe 20,000.

Will they embrace, jeer or even ignore Poe’s protest? Considering the booing in Kansas City before the NFL kickoff game, when Chiefs and Texans players locked arms in a show of unity, Poe should brace himself for low-blow reaction. 

Take it from Mike Ditka. Even given heinous, caught-on-video events of recent months that involved the killing of George Floyd and the shooting of James Blake, there’s still a segment of this world that can’t fathom the NFL stage as an ideal place to make a social statement. Especially one where a Black man is sticking to his convictions to protest social inequities that include police brutality and systemic racism.

“I’d be shocked if there’s not any pushback,” renowned sociologist Harry Edwards told USA TODAY Sports, referring to protests during the anthem in general. “That’s part of the struggle. Anytime issues of Black people are at stake, athletes are of no consequence. When (athletes) become a spotlight for something other than what (fans) are comfortable with – entertainment, fantasy teams – they boo it.”

 

Read rest of story here: https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/columnist/bell/2020/09/19/nfl-...

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