News & Politics

White NFL Players Need to Take a Knee in Solidarity With Their Black Teammates

Tom Brady, you need to get down on one knee.

While dozens of black NFL players took a knee during the national anthem over the weekend in support of Colin Kaepernick’s protest, Tom Brady locked arms with players to "show love" for his teammates during the Patriots vs. Texans game on Sunday.

“I just think there’s just great love for my teammates,” Brady said. “I got a lot of love and respect for my teammates and opponents.”

Brady’s stance is a classic example of ineffective white allyship. Those in positions of power, like NFL players who make millions of dollars annually and speak to the press almost every weekend, have a responsibility to use this platform for good. Demanding justice for racism and violence perpetuated against African Americans by joining their black teammates in kneeling is a readymade opportunity to do exactly this.

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As of Sunday night, of the meager handful of white players who took a knee during the anthem, two are in relationships with black women. Are white NFL players so unaffected by the demonstration of activism that only those with black partners are willing to show solidarity?

To their credit, some white people in the NFL are doing it right. On Monday night, players for the Dallas Cowboys knelt during the anthem. They were joined by the team’s owner, Jerry Jones, in a symbol of solidarity with his teammates. (Although, it should be acknowledged that it’s hypocritical of NFL team owners to make gestures like this while they participate in a de facto blacklist against Kaepernick.)

Other team owners, coaches and players have spoken out against Trump’s attacks on Kaepernick and his fellow knee-takers. Even if their intentions are good, more is needed than a vanilla “show of love” when Trump and his supporters have repeatedly attacked those who speak out against oppression. This kind of allyship is all talk and no action. True white allies in the NFL need to do more than make simple remarks of support, whatever that means to them. In other words, they need to move from being allies to being accomplices to truly make an impact on this protest.

If you really love your teammates, Tom Brady, you need to get down on one knee.

Roger Goodell and the operators behind the NFL should encourage white players to kneel. In fact, they themselves should take a stand. All Goodell has done so far in the midst of this controversy is complain that Trump’s words are “divisive” and disrespectful to football players. The NFL has terrible PR. Fewer people are watching or going to games because the games are longer and filled with more rules and lengthy commercial breaks than they used to be. In recent years, over 40 professional football players have been accused of assault, and multiple poorly handled cases have contributed to the NFL's image as regressive and backwards. The future of the sport is in jeopardy and this will directly affect the players. Every one of them, white and black, should take this opportunity to step up and embrace the chance to be role models again.

Liz Posner is a managing editor at AlterNet. Her work has appeared on Forbes.com, Bust, Bustle, Refinery29, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter at @elizpos.