Days after the NFL declined to change its rule on the national anthem, about two dozen players protested around the league Sunday. Associated Press journalists counted 22 players protesting during the anthems in some way before day games. Some took a knee, others sat on the bench, stayed in the tunnel or raised a fist.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly called out the NFL for its lack of initiative and now again he tweeted Monday morning:
Two dozen NFL players continue to kneel during the National Anthem, showing total disrespect to our Flag & Country. No leadership in NFL!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 23, 2017
When it comes to the NFL’s national anthem protests, many have spoken out claiming they know the solution. They are entitled to think that, but none of them has the perspective of Pittsburgh Steelers icon Rocky Bleier.
Bleier was a four-time Super Bowl champion despite seeing his career cut short due to his service in the Vietnam War. In 1969, while on patrol, he was wounded when an enemy bullet hit him in the left leg. While he was down, a grenade exploded nearby, sending shrapnel into his right leg and taking off part of his foot.
Doctors told Bleier he wouldn’t play football again, but he survived the war and eventually made his way back into the NFL despite having half a right foot.
After his rookie season in Pittsburgh, the running back was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1968 and sent to Vietnam. Over his 11-year career, all with the Steelers, he rushed for 3,865 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Now 71, Bleier talked about the anthem protests to Yahoo Sports, saying, “It’s very simply this: This is a workplace. You are at the stadium. You are working that day. This is not a platform for protest.
“The American people, they can’t go to their workplace and start to protest about whatever may be happening in their life. That wouldn’t be allowed, and that shouldn’t be allowed in the NFL.”
“It’s not a violation of the First Amendment at all. You have off days, you can do it outside of the stadium or on other platforms, but not the game day platform. It’s a very simple question and people are making it more complex than it really is.”
The Purple Heart recipient said the situation should have been addressed early on.
“There was a lack of leadership there on the owners’ side as well as the Players Association long before to nip whatever was coming down the road, after the Colin Kaepernick situation a year ago, in the bud,” Bleier said. “It should never have gotten to this point. Nobody has stepped up to say, ‘No, this is not what we do on game day.’”
“It was a year ago that Kaepernick took a knee, so if you’re the commissioner or an owner, you have to be proactive in saying this: ‘If it happens again, fine, but if it does, what is our position?’” Bleier said. “Somewhere along the line I have not seen the leadership maybe I expected from the commissioner and the owners in this situation.”
Kaepernick, who has filed a lawsuit against the NFL alleging collusion is the reason for his continued unemployment, was invited to attend a meeting between league owners and players next week, and he reportedly plans to attend.
Bleier also said that he hopes that the issue will be soon resolved.
He concluded: “You can’t allow it to continue to drag on. Otherwise, it will be like an open sore that heals and if you peel off the scab again and it will continuously be there.”
Have in mind the fact that these protests have been going on for almost a year now, starting with the former San Francisco 49-ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, things will likely keep going down this road for a long time, but each day, the NFL will be facing more and more trouble.
Starting from outraged fans which leave stadiums nearly empty and burn seasonal tickets, and ending with the ever-increasing number of major NFL sponsors which have pulled down their advertisements, the league is stuck in a whole and it won’t get anything better from its outraged fans any time soon.