Some National Football League players may believe that “taking a knee” is advancing social justice change, but it sure didn’t advance them in the NFL playoffs.
It looks like concentrating on the actual game might be a better strategy than participating in publicity stunts.
As of Monday, every NFL team with players who were still actively opposing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the end of the regular season had been ousted from postseason play.
“By the end of the regular season, only five teams featured at least one player regularly sitting or kneeling on the sidelines for the anthem: the Seattle Seahawks, the San Francisco 49ers, the Miami Dolphins, the New York Giants and the Oakland Raiders,” reported The Washington Times.
“None of those franchises made the playoffs, even though four of the five did so in the previous season, leading to speculation about whether the take-a-knee protests wound up dragging down team performance along with TV ratings,” continued the newspaper.
Naturally, it still could be a stretch to say with certainty that taking a knee during the anthem directly led to losing games. Nonetheless, it’s a strong possibility that the drama and disturbance caused by the protests had a negative impact, both on and off the field.
“By their actions, the kneelers brought controversy into the locker rooms, and this kind of distraction is always going to be detrimental to team cohesiveness,” said Robert Kuykendall, a conservative pundit, told The Washington Times.
“They unfairly put their own teammates in the tough position, especially the players who believe the national anthem and the flag should be respected,” he said. “Obviously, teams without the distraction were going to be more focused on the game, and that is a catalyst for success.”
It’s hard to debate with that logic. There’s no denying that the anthem protests dominated sports media and even overshadowed many games this year.
That view may be more than just Monday morning quarterbacking, er, political commentary. An expert involved in sports psychology agreed, and explained that any type of distraction can have a major impact on performance.
“As a sports psychologist, if my mission is to help a team play better, I see it as a distraction,” sports psychologist and NFL player adviser John F. Murray told The Washington Times.
“I work with athletes, and I’m very sensitive to the impact of even a slight disruption in team unity,” Murray continued. “I think that would certainly be a possibility.
“If you’ve got some people who are strongly against that and some people who aren’t, you’re putting that issue in the way of going out there and performing well.”
That stance echoes what many critics of the kneeling protests have said since the beginning. Yes, players may have the right to protest, but that doesn’t make it a smart idea.
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There is a time and place to stage a protest, but a place of employment in front of customers — the fans and viewers — is not it.
At the end of the day, NFL players are well-paid employees, and the stadium is their workplace. It would be both rude and a bad career move to show up with political protest signs in front of your boss… especially if it disrespected the flag.
That’s essentially what many players have chosen to do, however. The teams who are now out of the playoffs will no doubt blame others for their failure to advance, just as they did during the protests themselves… and that is an ironic lesson in focusing on whining instead of winning.
It will be interesting to see if anyone learns it.
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