Flag on the Play: Penalty from Fans overlooking the Sideline (by Jhantu Randall)

During the 2018-2019 NFL season there is something that feels a bit different. Its as if these players and this league has become a conduit to share everyones negative energy as the individual players stand there, unsuspecting targets for the culmination of rage taking its aim at them. I have participated in the circus myself, falling into the group think of the misinformed yet sanctimonious crowd, frothing at the mouth as they chug over priced beers, sitting safely in the stands. It’s no surprise the the term Fan comes from the word Fanatic, and after seeing so many people wearing jerseys with other mens names on them, the latter begins to make even more sense.

To apply your 9-5 rules to the world of pro sports its the first issue. Your job is vastly different to their career and the same could be said whether they're a business owner or professional athlete, this is one lane where the average person holds absolutely no knowledge on the subject they are screaming about. Even though the league is a business, the teams, individual franchises, the players are more than just exchangeable pieces in the machine in my view. They’ve trained from a very young age, put in the work and reached their goal. It’s because of this that they sacrifice their bodies and potential mental capabilities in the future all to stop another team from advancing the ball under the bright lights for millions of strangers and advertisers to see. 

Now if your teams selling point is that they are family bonded with the surrounding community, then do their closed door actions deserve criticism? If that’s your big selling point and you've had a history of players laying everything on the line for you on any given Sunday, then the least you could do is listen to their requests and be honest with them up front. Instead, delaying contract negotiations and kicking players out of the house for standing up for their personal experiences doesn’t give off the illusion of family, it gives the perception of drunk step father who can’t keep his composure as he punishes family members for any kind of spoken opposition. 

Going against the grain from the rest, when Colin Kaepernick knelt, I was right there with him because I knew that he was standing for something much bigger than Football. When Michael Bennett, Malcolm Jenkins, Eric Reid and Chris Long came aboard, I still held on with what they were addressing. Or when Marshawn Lynch answered every interview with “I’m just here so I don’t get fined,” and “Im all about that action, boss,” I embodied those statements. He got countless criticism for not speaking and proving his dedication on that field. Whats even more amazing was that he had become the most quoted celebrity in the country and he hadn't even said a full sentence! One of the best moments is when then running back, Arian Foster looked directly at the camera during a press conference and repeated, “I’m just apart of the team,” completely breaking the fourth wall and exposing the absurdity of the whole procedure.

The NFL doesn’t give a damn about the players who make the league, they care more about town identities and the bottom line as they try to use their influence to trick the tax payers into spending money on their overly extravagant stadiums. Richard Sherman was right when he said, “Tax payers should not be left holding the back for billionaires private sports arenas.”

Now with all that being said, we are bombarded with pictures of Earl Thomas flipping off the Seahawks sideline as he gets carted off with a broken leg. Again giving 110% for no guarantee, no
loyalty, no love from a team that he was instrumental in creating a foundation for. As a fan, I throw my middle finger up in the same spirit that he did, because with a future now uncertain he is lost in a sea of opinions and ad homonym attacks on his character from glorified gossip columnists and clueless drunkards who think they know the nuances of the sports business.

As fans, the question arises, who are we? Die hard supporters or judge and jury? The problem with our role is due to social media we feel we are experts just because we can criticize those who are experts in their selective fields knowing that they'll be able to see what we think. In this world we claim we want people to be “Real” but in actuality, we are ready to pounce whenever anyone shows any signs of emotion of even humanity.

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