Anti-American anthem protests soured the NFL experience for millions of people.
Colin Kaepernick, the ring leader of the protests, and Eric Reid, his team teammate and second person to kneel, are both out of work and blame the NFL for blackballing them.
However, one free agency move just made their martyrdom stories lose credibility.
Safety Michael Thomas, one of the players who protested and spoke out on the issue, just signed with the New York Giants.
Apparently there’s no cabal at work against Kaepernick, Reid, and all other protesters.
The New York Giants added another anthem protester in free agency, signing former Miami Dolphins safety Michael Thomas.
Thomas joins a team featuring defensive end Olivier Vernon, who knelt during the national anthem last year, even when sidelined for several games with an ankle injury.
Thomas protested the anthem the last two years in Miami, sometimes kneeling, sometimes staying the locker room, during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner.
Vernon and Thomas were teammates with the Dolphins from 2013-15, so they know each other. It’s unclear what the players plan for the anthem in 2018, as Giants teammates.
Perhaps they will stand. But according to Vernon, some things need to happen for change for that to happen.
“What it would take for me to stand is if people can understand what the whole is behind it,” Vernon told Newsday last November. “That would actually help a whole lot, but everybody doesn’t see things that way and tries to distort what the message was from the beginning, which is basically social injustice on African-Americans and police brutality.”
Vernon also told the New York Post that if fans are bothered by his anthem-kneeling, “Don’t come to the game.”
Surely the Giants’ ticket office couldn’t have been thrilled with that challenge. Vernon is currently under contract for $17 million-a-year. The Giants selling tickets help pay that salary.
So we know why Vernon kneels, but what is behind Thomas’ protests?
“A conversation was started by one of my peers, Colin Kaepernick,” wrote Thomas in a guest column for Time Magazine in September of 2016. “The topic of this conversation is that, social and economic inequality is very real in this country, and it is time for a real change with real results. I took a knee to keep that conversation going and to show solidarity with my peers who feel just as strongly about this issue as I do, in the hopes to create awareness to those who don’t know or don’t acknowledge these issues in our society exist. I am all for equality and unity. I understand that there are many different perspectives other than my own. I am open and willing to listen to anyone. I just want others to do the same as we continue to strive for solutions because it will take everyone as a human race to truly enjoy the reality of equality and justice for all.”
The NFL TV ratings slipped the last two years, and some polls indicated that anthem protests contributed. But Thomas isn’t convinced protests contributed to the rating’s decline.
“A lot of polls say a lot of different things,” Thomas told Breitbart Sports in November of 2016. “None of us can say exactly what [is causing the rating’s dip]. When it comes to statistics, you can manipulate the data to say whatever you want to be honest with you. No one can say for sure what it is. So for someone saying (it’s hurting ratings), it depends on who you ask.”
So Thomas isn’t sure ratings are hurt by anthem-kneeling.
But we will find out in 2018, if the Giants lose some customers with two anthem protesters on their roster.
Clearly some fans/customers aren’t enamored of that behavior.
Compounding the problem for Reid is the fact Thomas plays the same position. If teams were taking worse safeties to avoid signing an anthem protester, Thomas would be unemployed.
Reid is hurting his own chances of getting signed. Free agency stretches for months. The NFL draft hasn’t yet taken place.
Instead of trusting the process, Reid immediately lashed out at owners a mere two days into free agency.
If he doesn’t get signed, he has nobody to blame but himself.