A potential backlash on social media and from the media, in general, explains why NFL players are reluctant to publicly express their actual feelings about the Colin Kaepernick take-a-knee, national anthem protest.
That seems to be the contention of Fox Sports 1 host Jason Whitlock.
The National Football League free agent's employment status as either a starter or more likely a backup at this stage of his career has consumed a tremendous amount of oxygen in the sports media industry, and the media in general, and has only intensified as the NFL regular season grows closer. It's unclear whether Kap's political activism or declining skills, or a combination of both, have kept him off of an NFL roster so far.
Unlike most sports media pundits other than perhaps Fox Sports Radio host Clay Travis, Jason Whitlock is often a lone voice expressing criticism of the Kaepernick national anthem protest against police brutality and racial injustice, describing it more or less as divisive, childish, uninformed, and self-serving. In a Wall Street Journal essay, Whitlock suggested that the ex-San Franciso 49ers quarterback might be "a Trojan Horse for the progressive media's attack on an iconic institution."
With Kaepernick still unemployed in professional football, a protest is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon outside NFL headquarters in New York City.
In an appearance on FNC's Tucker Carlson Tonight, Whitlock responded to ESPN First Take host Max Kellerman's insistence that more white players should join the take-a-knee protest in a gesture of solidarity with their African-American teammates, Fox News Insider reported. The FS1 anchor maintained that off the field, high-profile NFL stars can access any media outlet or platform they want to more effectively voice their complaints about politics or social issues without their message being obscured by the anthem controversy.
"I want to know why NFL players aren't offering voices of dissent. There are NFL players, black and white, who know that if you really want to address police brutality, social injustice, inequality in this country, protesting the national anthem is the perfect way for your message to get completely lost...if you protest during the national anthem...there are gonna be a massive amount of people that never hear a word you say, won't understand your message at all, and you can't tell me that there aren't NFL players who recognize the stupidity of the style of protest Colin Kaepernick has chosen, but they're all afraid to say it because of the backlash. So again, the cowardice or the real fear is stating the truth about the idiocy about what Kaepernick has done. That's where the backlash has come from, and people are afraid to voice that."
The contrarian Whitlock — the former Kansas City Star and Huffington Post columnist, and Ball State University football player — rejoined Fox Sports after two tours of duty with ESPN and now is the co-host of Speak for Yourself, an offering that airs weekdays on FS1 at 5 p.m. Eastern time, which appears to be the Fox network's counter-programming to ESPN's Pardon the Interruption. With views that seldom fit into either the left or right paradigm, Whitlock is a vocal critic of what he considers the intrusion of progressive ideology into sports culture.
When asked about last season's NFL ratings erosion, Whitlock told Tucker Carlson that it may have primarily been the result of viewer interest in the U.S. presidential election. Going forward, however, NFL player social activism may have a negative effect.
"But I do think, if these protests continue…its going to impact viewership, because I think it's off-putting to the traditional sports fan…people's expectations when the go to sporting events—it's not for the event to get hijacked by politics…sports have always been about bringing people together for a fun event. It's always been about racial unity and looking past your differences to achieve some athletic goal..."
Whitlock has separately suggested that the NFL may enact a rule that all players must remain in the locker room during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner. He has also dismissed the idea of an NFL boycott by Kaepernick supporters as long as he remains unsigned, noting on Twitter that the NFL has created many black millionaires.
Last night in a pre-season game against the New York Giants, at least 11 Cleveland Browns players, including one white player, kneeled on the sidelines during the national anthem, USA Today reported.
Separately, former professional boxing world champion and Olympic gold medalist George Foreman suggested that the anthem protests amounted to mere attention-grabbing by wealthy athletes. Said Foreman, "I still love this country. The greatest day of my life was when I put on the colors red, white, and blue," Yahoo Sports detailed.
Watch the Jason Whitlock interview and draw your own conclusions.