Earlier in the week we pulled some quotes from a recent appearance on the SnapBack Sports Pod by Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back, Dare Ogunbowale. He spoke with the hosts of the show (Jack and Abe) for quite some time, and the three covered a wide array of topics.
If you missed the write-ups focusing on the arrivals of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski or about playing in a COVID-19 NFL, please go back and do so after finishing this one. There’s good stuff in all each of them.
This one though, as the kids say, is going to hit different. And I’m not really going to frame the quotes a whole lot. I think what Ogunbowale had to say was genuine and clearly true to how he perceives everything happening in the country today. Asked about the current state of social unrest and how the league and players have responded (including the planned playing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” prior to Week 1 match-ups in 2020), Ogunbowale said,
“I feel like guys do like what the NFL is doing as far as what we’re trying to do with social justice (and) social injustice. I love that it’s just pretty well known now what kneeling actually means. You know it has nothing to do with the flag, and I feel like it’s kind of just - now you’re different if you don’t understand what it means versus when (Colin Kaepernick) was actually doing it you would only rarely hear people talking about what he actually meant. I think it’s beautiful what the NFL is doing as far as bringing attention to everything. Do I necessarily think that the Black National Anthem is going to save everything? No, of course not, but the fact that there are these things that we just keep seeing, the media keeps seeing, different announcements, that’s just continuously bringing attention back to racism at the end of the day.”
According to the NAACP website,
“Lift Every Voice and Sing – often called “The Black National Anthem” – was written as a poem by NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) and then set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954) in 1899. It was first performed in public in the Johnsons’ hometown of Jacksonville, Florida as part of a celebration of Lincoln’s Birthday on February 12, 1900 by a choir of 500 schoolchildren at the segregated Stanton School, where James Weldon Johnson was principal.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time demonstrations on an NFL stage have taken place in reference to social injustice and/or police brutality. Famously - or infamously depending on how you look at it - Colin Kaepernick was seen sitting during the National Anthem when he was still a member of the San Francisco 49ers. A move which drew national attention and a mixed bag of support and condemnation.
Following the media storm Kaepernick and Nate Boyer (a Soldier and NFL player) connected and eventually agreed it would be better if the quarterback took a knee on the sideline beside his teammates instead of sitting on the bench behind them, during the National Anthem.
The gesture has still sparked mixed emotions across the NFL landscape, and recent events have brought the discussion back to the forefront with many players already committing to kneeling during the 2020 NFL Season.
Which brought up an interesting question by one of the show’s hosts during Ogunbowale’s appearance. Would the players be kneeling during the Black National Anthem?
“I haven’t heard anything specifically about kneeling for the Black National Anthem at all,” Ogunbowale said. “I guess that is an interesting kind of topic. I would imagine they would continue to kneel. The point isn’t necessarily the National Anthem, it’s just the symbol of kneeling.”
I imagine if the players were to stand during the playing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and then kneel during the National Anthem, there would again be a spike in media and social media activity surrounding the protests.
Of course, I won’t pretend to tell anyone which side to be on. I will however draw from Boyer’s initial interactions with Kaepernick. During a time which he was quoted in a Los Angeles Times article as saying,
“...I support the message behind what he’s demonstrating for, but I’m also standing with pride because I feel differently in a lot of ways too. But there’s nothing wrong with feeling differently and believing different things. We can still work together to make this place better.”