The NFL season kicks off on Thursday night with a rematch of the AFC Divisional Round game between the eventual Super Bowl champion Chiefs and the Houston Texans.
It will not just be the first game of the season but the first look at the NFL’s new pregame process, which now features “Lift Every Voice And Sing” (known as the Black national anthem) being played along with the national anthem. That, along with the new “End Racism” text on the end line behind the end zone are part of the NFL’s push to appease players amid calls for the league to do more for social justice, but the league is learning some words painted on the field and playing an extra song isn’t going to do that.
The Miami Dolphins announced as a team that they will not be coming out of the locker room for either anthem prior to games, calling on the league to actually use its power and voice to impact change by calling local and national politicians and wielding their immense wealth and influence to create real change instead of “empty gestures.”
BREAKING NEWS: The@MiamiDolphins players will stay inside for both national anthems. They express their discontentment with what they call “fluff and empty gestures” by the @NFL pic.twitter.com/ghUktHhPt9
— Jay Williams (@RealJayWilliams) September 10, 2020
It’s a powerful statement from the team and illustrates the frustration players in many leagues have shown to the “efforts” of leagues in listening to their calls to do something and being given lip service and some words tucked behind the end zones on the field. The league did announce a new $1 billion endowment for Black businesses on Thursday in a partnership with Alicia Keys, but players want more than just words and money. They want leagues to use their influence and connections to those in power, both at state and national levels, to push for change.
The Dolphins video lays out many of the things they want to see done and does so powerfully, calling on owners and the league to do more and providing those things that need to be done to avoid the “well what’s the plan” response. If nothing else, they show they don’t want to be used as pawns to garner good PR while not doing enough of the work in the areas that they can to make a real difference, and so this season they’ll remain in the locker room before games.