Social justice, or more importantly, the fight against social injustice, was a major theme in the opening weekend of the National Football League. Baltimore Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh made comments on the issue that were as powerful as anything anybody has said anywhere.
Harbaugh, whose Ravens have arguably the best overall roster in the NFL this fall, said that the struggle African-Americans are enduring right now will ultimately go down, far ahead in the future, as “the greatest freedom story in the history of the world.’”
Via an interview with PFT’s Mike Florio: “I asked coach Harbaugh, ‘What will you say to those who will inevitably criticize the players for taking a knee during the (national) anthem?’ And he said to me, ‘I don’t know how you can criticize someone for being passionate and for believing in something important to them.”
“They want America to be great and to realize the ideals we were founded upon. One hundred to two hundred years from now, the African-American story will be the greatest freedom story in the history of the world.’”
Harbaugh continued his dominance on opening day, as well as his mastery over the Cleveland Browns, as Baltimore went on to blow out their AFC North division rivals. Few people in the NFL have said something as relevant and meaningful as John Harbaugh, but where we’re at right now in society, it’s all about action, not talk.
That is the message espoused by Nate Burleson on the CBS NFL morning show, and we’ve seen a couple NFC South quarterbacks fulfill that expectation.
Said NBC NFL Analyst Rodney Harrison: “Chris Simms talked about it on Thursday night. He said we need more prominent quarterbacks, white quarterbacks, stepping up and getting involved. Matt Ryan did exactly that down here in Atlanta.”
“He donated $500,000 to communities in Atlanta and he told me, ‘I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help.’ Drew Brees, he spent the offseason not only listening to his teammates, but also leaders in the Black community. He stepped up and donated $5 million.”
“So, Coach (Dungy), just like you talked about, it’s not just about talking, but these guys are making that next step in action and I’m really proud of these guys. Great work for taking action.”
You can expect these topics to be a theme all NFL season long, not just in week one. The path to progress and equality is a long and arduous one, but hopefully, we will get there sooner rather than later.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears in WGN, Sports Illustrated, Chicago Tribune and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
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