Rick's Space: The NFL’s criminal lineup

A Knight’s Tale




It troubles me so many of us willingly surrender to the allure of football rather than question the wisdom of putting some of these thugs on a pedestal, thus justifying their subhuman behavior. And I’m a fan.

But I’m not just talking about NFL players. I’m talking about the team owners and huge TV advertisers who stoke the star-making machinery.

I abhor the double standard that forces America to watch a player knock a woman senseless and then show up on a field six months later being cheered by millions. I wonder how Ray Lewis, who pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in connection with the stabbing deaths of two men in 2000, is now a featured analyst with the NFL network.

Analyzed strictly on its merits, football should probably be forbidden. Former players, we are now finding, almost inevitably suffer from brain damage.

This is the first week of the NFL season. Forget Tumbleweed Tuesday — this is the beginning of the real action. I will live the life I secretly want to lead vicariously through my team. I will cheer when players are knocked senseless, at least if they are on the team I am betting against. I will be locked in my Man Cave, my 75-inch Samsung with surround sound blasting away for 12 hours.

Doubtless, my wife Karen will periodically voice her disdain for the lifestyle and the game itself and I will be forced to listen, with one ear tuned to the game action.

In 2016 Colin Kaepernick, then the San Francisco 49ers quarterback, refused to stand during the national anthem before an NFL game in protest of what he deemed to be the mistreatment of minorities in this country. Fair enough.

He started pressuring other players to do the same, and some fans felt dissing the American flag was something they would not tolerate. So, they stopped buying tickets. That left the owners of NFL teams, some of the biggest lilywhite fat cats on Earth, in a peculiar quandary: support their players or risk losing their fan base.

Karen wondered why Kaepernick couldn’t stand and honor our country’s flag during the anthem and then kneel down afterward. She said that she would kneel down with Kaepernick every time. And, she believed, so would thousands of other fans.

I think its germane to point out after leading the San Francisco 49ers to consecutive NFC championship games and one Super Bowl, Colin Kaepernick was rewarded with a record seven-year, $126 million contract in 2014.

But after three seasons of declining production, including one season of headlines surrounding his protest of the national anthem, he was cut and hasn’t played since.

Karen asked me if the NFL would boycott Tom Brady if he dissed the flag. I could only laugh. When you’re good in the NFL, you can play wherever you want, even if you beat your girlfriend half to death, mow over a pedestrian while driving 120 miles per hour, or shoot someone at 4 AM outside a nightclub. There are no scruples at play here, folks: no one is accused of Doing The Right Thing, not really.

Irving Shulman was a shy, good-looking 18-year-old from Wilkes-Barre, PA with a disarming smile and gentle nature, but he went off to fight in Korea for his country. Just two hours before the truce, he was killed on Pork Chop Hill. When they came and knocked on the door to inform the family, Irving’s father keeled over and died on the spot. Irving’s sister Miriam, who was Karen’s mother, was never quite the same, her life shattered in that one moment.

Phil Knight, the CEO of Nike, the sneaker company, recently signed Kaepernick to a deal worth at least $50 million — not to play football, but to promote the Nike brand. Irving Shulman was handed a rifle and a death sentence for believing what he was doing was important, too.

Nike, of course, has been busted repeatedly for using offshore sweatshops and child labor, paying pennies an hour for sneakers that can cost upward of $200.

Why would Kaepernick, seemingly a man of intelligence and deeply felt convictions, align himself with this type of behavior?

In March 2014, a freshman accused three University of Oregon basketball players of rape just as the team advanced to the second round of the Division I national championship.

Rather than launch an investigation, the school suppressed the information, and assisted by Nike’s public relations staff, came up with a PR strategy to “contain the crisis.” The university “employed some 80 communications, public relations, and marketing staff, on top of the various Nike employees” in an attempt to quell the outrage and bury the story.

That’s one communications professional for every 295 students enrolled at the school, which is more than the combined faculty in Oregon’s departments of history, economics, and philosophy, according to “University of Nike” by Joshua Hunt.

No criminal charges were filed against the players. The student body continued to rebel, and eventually the university was forced to dismiss the players.

Knight’s alma mater is Oregon: He has reportedly contributed almost $1 billion to the university over the years. This is who Kaepernick has chosen to jump into bed with as he so mightily protests the inequities of this country.

But who stands for that college freshman? Who is left to defend the honor of a young lady who went off to college to pursue the American dream? Not Irving Shulman.

The more pertinent question is, who kneels for her?

rmurphy@indyeastend.com