The 2020 NFL regular season starts in nearly two weeks, and the only suggestion for fans is to climb aboard, fasten your seat belts and enjoy the ride for a long as it lasts.
Because of recent practice and game postponements over racial injustices and the continuing impact of COVID-19, the NFL really could stand for Not For Long again. Unfortunately, football and other pro sports will have this uncertainly about fully completing seasons for a while.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll put it best when he said 2020 was “the protest season,” and that “anything’s possible” when asked if the Seahawks or other teams would consider not going onto the football field for a game. Ravens coach John Harbaugh agreed.
“That didn’t come up specifically,” said Harbaugh when asked if his players talked about not playing a game in protest. “We did talk about symbolic things as a team or as a league that might be done or not done or whatever. The thing that I stand on — and if those things happen, that’s good. I do believe we’ll play. Guys want to play. But I don’t know for sure. I’d be surprised. It’s not something we talked about.”
“But I can tell you this, that guys want to be able to make a statement,” Harbaugh said. “They want to do something that lets people know in a symbolic way how we’re feeling and how we stand together. And sometimes the greatest form of respect, the greatest form of unity, is the fact that we respect one another’s opinions. We respect one another’s perspective and background. And the ability to demonstrate that is difficult, other than basically treating one another with respect. So however, we can symbolically express that, that may be something we try to do. We’ll just have to see.”
This feeling won’t go away on Election Day in early November. President Donald Trump has a largely conceived and well-earned reputation of being a racist in the African American community; so if reelected he’ll continue to stir up more subculture wars throughout the country.
If Joe Biden wins, the divisions among the races are so deep that it will take him years to fix them. A change would be an improvement, but the perception would still be hard to overcome immediately.
So, it’s easy to imagine football games being boycotted by the players. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and most of the owners have sided with the players in a league that is predominantly Black. If 2020 isn’t the perfect time to take a stand against racial injustice than when is?
A lot of the other leagues, like Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association, have already walked out on games. Some NFL teams have canceled practices but that doesn’t always get everyone’s attention.
Walking out and shutting down games does. If a number of big-name players band together and form a brotherhood among the 32 teams they could slow down the NFL season. Pro athletes have had enough, especially Blacks, whose folks are treated much differently in the outside world as opposed to those on the playing courts and fields.
There will be more incidents where people such as George Floyd or Breonna Taylor are killed by police officers simply because of the color of their skin. That’s not to say all police officers are abusive or overly aggressive. But the system itself discriminates against African Americans, and until proper changes are made the situation will only get worse.
And that might mean NFL games get canceled.
Boycotting games, canceling practices and peaceful demonstrations are powerful messages but the Ravens have taken it a step further. The organization put out a statement Thursday with seven objectives such as Sen. Mitchell McConnell bringing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 to the Senate floor for a vote. The team called for requiring body cameras, banning chokeholds and establishing a framework to prohibit racial profiling at all levels of government.
There were several other objectives but the Ravens haven’t just provided lip service. Owner Steve Bisciotti’s foundation has donated $1 million to support social justice reform in Baltimore and the money has gone to many different organizations.
Harbaugh was correct Friday when he said football teams were a model for society. Players come from different backgrounds, have different religions and customs, but they all come together for a common purpose.
Maybe only families and soldiers at war are closer than a football team.
But racial injustice is only one of the two major issues facing the NFL this season. The other is the coronavirus. So far, the league has done a nice job of containing it despite the major contact involved in the sport.
But the toughest part will come once the season starts. That’s when teams played against each other for three and a half-hours once a week. They start traveling from coast to coast and staying in hotels. While the NBA is playing in a bubble the Ravens have to take their bubble on the road.
And if one player gets the virus, that could lead to a lot of trouble.
Right now, there are two big obstacles to the NFL season being completed. At least with the virus teams had time to prepare. Society had a chance to improve on socials issues but hasn’t done so in more than 200 years.
When will that happen?
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Maybe sooner now than ever before but until then more NFL games are at risk of getting shut down.