Shut up and stick to fill-in-the-blank.
For former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, it was acting. For former Congressman Sonny Bono, it was singing. For former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley, it was basketball.
Why do some folks insist on placing others in a box that limits their expression? We turn to movies, music and sports as a form of escape, but asking performers to otherwise be silent is selfish. An inability to separate great scenes, riffs or plays from entertainers’ thoughts is a “you” problem.
Granted, enjoying the work of someone who committed heinous acts like sexual assault or domestic violence can be a struggle. That’s more understandable than rejecting the artistry of someone whose opinion on, say, police brutality or racial injustice, differs from yours. Some consumers might have a problem with any expression of thought (Blue Lives Matter?), but too often the resentment is caused by disagreement with expressed thoughts.
In that case, some football fans surely were unhappy with portions of the speeches Saturday during the Pro Football NFL Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Former San Diego Chargers halfback LaDainian Tomlinson had the nerve to talk about his great-great-great grandfather being a slave and how America should fulfill the promise of liberty and justice all.
Former Seattle Seahawks safety Kenny Easley went a step further. He devoted one minute of his 22-minute speech to a social stance that can get a player blackballed.
“Black lives do matter, and all lives matter, too,” Easley said. “… We’ve got to stand up as a country, as black Americans and fight the good fight to protect our youth and our American constitutional right not to die while driving or walking the streets black in America. It has to stop, and we can do it, and the lessons we learn in sports can help.”
Yes, sports can teach lessons. But that doesn’t guarantee we’ll pass the exams.
Consider the case of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. His former NFL coaches, Chip Kelly and John Harbaugh, vouch for his demeanor and work ethic. His former teammates defend him, too, debunking claims that his kneeling during the national anthem caused a distraction. Also, approximately 99 percent of military veterans who expressed opinions found on Google supported the QB’s stance, a protest that Kaepernick in March said he’d discontinue.
But instead of taking those facts into account and concluding that Kaepernick deserves a job based on his ability, NFL owners are colluding to reject him based on his social activism. They point to fans who threaten to boycott their team if he’s signed, just like fans who say they stopped watching the NFL last season in response to the protests.
You’d think NFL owners were smarter than that. (Then again, a lot of supposedly smart people have proven to be incredibly stupid the last nine months.)
Recent reports proclaimed that anthem protests were the leading reason for the NFL’s 8 percent decline in TV ratings last season. Aha! Finally, there’s proof that owners exercise sound business judgment by leaving Kaepernick unsigned.
But a closer inspection of the survey – you know, beyond the incendiary headline – reveals the truth.
An overwhelming percentage of fans were unruffled by the demonstrations. Eighty-eight percent of respondents said they watched the same amount of football or more compared to 2015. Of the 12 percent who reported watching less, about one-quarter blamed Kaepernick and players who followed suit.
In other words, about 3 percent of more than 9,200 total respondents said they tuned out because they were turned off. About 2.8 percent said they watched less football because of issues like domestic violence or excessive game delays.
For the vast majority of us, we watched as much as ever – if not more. The hope is we see it like Tomlinson, whose 25-minute speech drew several standing ovations and was hailed as one of the greatest ever delivered during HOF weekend.
“Football is a microcosm of America,” he said. “All races, religions and creeds, living, playing, competing side by side. When you’re part of a team, you understand your teammates – their strengths and weaknesses – and work together toward the same goal, to win a championship In this context, I advocate we become Team America.
“… On America’s team, let’s not choose to be against one another. Let’s choose to be for one another. My great-great-great grandfather had no choice. We have one. I pray we dedicate ourselves to be the best team we can be, working and living together, representing the highest ideals of mankind, leading the way for all nations to follow.”
For LT, those ideals are more important than leading the league in rushing (twice) or yards from scrimmage (once). It’s more important than having the most rushing touchdowns or being a first-team All-Pro (three times each).
Kudos to entertainers whose priorities are in order before they retire. Especially those brave enough to use the platform while they have it.
Shutting up and sticking to fill-in-the-blank would be a disservice to themselves. Worse, their silence would dishonor those who fought, bled and died for the right to speak up.
— Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.