Look, the NFL is problematic. I wrote this open letter to football a few years ago. None of those issues have gone away. And certainly we get a lot of coverage of often silly things especially when it's still pre-season and we can't really convince ourselves those games are anything other than glamorous practice.
But this level of coverage, and the way just about ever current and former player has been asked to weigh in is unprecedented. A small list below of things that have not received this intense level of coverage.
Also, as you may suspect, trigger warnings for racism and domestic and sexual violence as we move ahead.
1. Rape. Sexual assault. There are many players with rumors. There are numerous players with allegations. And there are plenty with for real actions against them.
2. Domestic violence. It is rampant. And quickly swept under the rug. And only dealt with after terrible outcry, and we mean dealt with, as in press conferences, adorable donations, and no actual change.
3. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Which it turns out to cause, among other things, depression, erratic behavior, and possibly violence. So, yeah, other than we don't have a good solution, it may turn out to be counter to the NFL's interests to solve it. This is the list Wikipedia has of known and suspected players affected. It is staggering.
4. Cheating. We keep getting stories of coaches illegally taping other players, offering bounties for causing injury, and sure, every once in a while, a team gets fined, a coach or player gets suspended for a bit, but eh.
5. Racist team names. And I don't just mean my hometown team, although certainly that is the most egregious one. See also racist mascots.
6. Substance abuse. I have seen the most passing mention to the idea that as we learn more about CTE we might see that a lot of this substance abuse is self medication, since most of the known stuff is not performance enhancing. But we may never know they way the coverage is going.
7. Money problems. And the relationship to plucking kids out of college giving them ridiculous amounts of money and no skills to handle such a thing. Or awareness of how safe sex procedures might reduce the liklihood that you'll be paying child support to four different women and how that cuts into your pension.
Also, just FYI, there's a website that tracks NFL arrests. So, yeah.
Now, it occurs to me that the only thing I can think of that maybe came close to the level of coverage is Michael Vick's dog fighting charges. He has served his time and been brought back into the league and played on.
The sad thing for Colin Kaepernick is that he has done nothing wrong, and yet this small tiny act has gotten incredible amounts of attention, and if he stops, if he keeps going, it almost doesn't matter. So much of the discussion is about what he did, and not why. I wish him and others the best of luck in directing the conversation toward the issues in our country that make both protesting such a huge firestorm. Because yes, it is not lost on me, that we are mostly talking about who stood when, not why. Because why is hard.
It does not interfere with my loyalties at all to also be a 49ers fan this year. But I'm also going to keep working to address some of the issues that might encourage a player to sit down or take a knee during the anthem.