There are very few unifiers of human spirit like sports. The camaraderie physical competition inspires is unique, and in this country professional football is king. Although the root of the sport is just running, tackling, catching, and reacting –the NFL’s social equity is rivaled only by music. No other sport demands attention, instigates debate, or sparks controversy like this irresistible game.
Historically football was a form of entertainment that fans of all ages and backgrounds could enjoy. A weekend pastime from the mundane Monday-Friday office strife. You have your favorite team, I have mine, and we squabble and cheer for bragging rights.
However, as of late the NFL seems to be in flux. Whether it be reports of domestic violence, player enhancement drugs, or concussions; the NFL has been a topic of discussion for the wrong reasons.
But never before has politics infiltrated this game like it has. The social injustices in this country have reached a tipping point and spilled onto the football field.
It all started with Colin Kaepernick taking a knee in protest against police brutality. Nearly a year later, players are still following suit and relaying the message Kaepernick has since been exiled from the league for.
This past weekend Set Free was given the opportunity to capture a contest between the Oakland Raiders and the Washington Redskins. But this matchup meant much more than a game.
With President Donald Trump enticing an already politically divided league, (and nation) the players took to arms, and knees in display of solidarity.The Oakland Raiders roster the NFL’s only all African-American offensive line, and for the national anthem they all remained seated.
Over 200 players across the league protested. Many kneeled, some barred arms, and some teams even remained in the locker room during the national anthem.
This is new territory for sports. Subconsciously, athletes can be looked at as merely entertainers. We forget they are people with their individual beliefs and opinions. But in today’s political climate these professional athletes are voicing their concerns, and trying to deliver a message in unison. A message that is essentially a fight for our rights as Americans.
Photography by Set Free aka The Black Peter Parker