Douglas V. Gibbs
Author, Speaker, Instructor, Radio Host

A couple weeks ago I was at my folks house talking to them as they prepared to move out of their house.  Like many Californians, they are leaving the Golden State for good.  They are building a house in Arkansas and will be staying with my sister in Arizona until it is done.  So, when I was visiting them during those final days in the house I spent my teenage years in, I realized that it would likely be the last time I’d see them for a while as well.  My wife and I stayed for a couple hours, and we talked about just about everything under the sun.

Knowing that my dad (step-dad, actually, but he’s been my dad since I was three, though, so, he’s dad) could never understand my choice in National Football League teams, I decided to poke a joke.  “How about those Raiders.”

I have been a Raiders’ fan since the mid-seventies.  Ken Stabler was a scrapper.  Through the blood and grit he always found a way to win.  I absolutely love the game of football, or at least the game it once was.  The touchy-feely, overly protective of the quarterback, make impossible tackles without the head getting involved, league I watch now is entertaining, but not like it used to be.  Back during the days of blood and grit, Dad was a Kansas City Chiefs’ fan, and my biological father rooted for the San Francisco 49ers.  As a rebellious young man, it seemed appropriate to pick a team that would tick them both off, so the Raiders was the natural choice.

Dad would usually say something like, “I don’t know why you like that team,” whenever I ask, “How about those Raiders.”  But, it had been many years since we’d talked football, so I wasn’t sure what the response would be, this time.  Looking back, I can honestly say I was shocked by the answer I got.

“Why are you still watching the NFL.  Screw the NFL.  They don’t deserve my time.”

My knee-jerk reaction was, “because of the kneeling during the National Anthem?”

“No,” he said, “the NFL lost my viewership long before that.

He explained that in 2014, when the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture by protesters in reference to the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, which led to riots in that part of The Show-Me State, emerged, he was watching a game and the St. Louis Rams came out of the tunnel with their hands up, mimicking the gesture.  The NFL did nothing, and the players were celebrated for dragging their politics onto the field.  He turned off the television that instant, and has not watched an NFL game since.

He, like many of my conservative friends, questioned me as to why I still give professional football any of my time.

Just about everyone I know has abandoned watching the game and buying any official NFL merchandise.  In the case of those folks other than Dad, however, it was the Kaepernick kneel during the National Anthem that did it for them.  So why, they ask me, should any conservative be willing to watch the NFL?

The abandonment of the NFL by Conservative America is based on a boycott mentality.  Football is a product, and if you wish to alter the behavior of the industry, starving it of money and attention should do the job.  I get it, and I agree.  But, that said, we must ask another question.  Should we abandon those who stood up for the flag during the National Anthem, and those players, coaches and other personnel who had a problem with some players playing the “hands up don’t shoot” game?

My favorite player in the league is Derek Carr, the quarterback for the Oakland, soon to be Las Vegas, Raiders.  I think he’s a talented quarterback that is getting ready to reach elite status under the guiding hand of Head Coach Jon Gruden.  Many Raiders’ fans don’t agree with me, because after nearly half a dozen years in the league Carr has not been “great.”

A few years back in the second to last game of the regular season he broke his leg.  Without Carr at the helm the Raiders went on to lose the last game of the season, and their first playoff game in a very long while.  I believe his offensive line let the defenders through to show him a lesson because he refused to kneel during the National Anthem, and for his verbal support for our country.  Rather than kneel during the song, Carr kneels during prayer, and he was praying for his teammates and fellow NFL personnel while all of that junk was going on.  He had led the Raiders to a 12-3 record that year, and the Super Bowl was a serious topic in conversations about the Raiders that year.  Since then, Carr has been trigger-shy.  A broken leg will do that to you.  I think Gruden has gotten Carr out of that funk, and this year Carr has been much better than he has been in the past.

Carr is a Christian, and wears his faith on his sleeve (and literally on his wrist with a tattoo).  He holds prayer before and after each game with a few players and coaches.  When a microphone is thrust into his face he will at one point or another say, “God Bless.”  I talked to a linebacker who played against Carr in high school, and after the young quarterback was sacked, Carr popped up, congratulated the defensive player on his “great hit,” and he said “God Bless You,” before he trotted back to his side of the line of scrimmage.

“How do you talk trash in a situation like that?” said the young man I was talking to.

Derek Carr is a class act, and he always has been.  He’s a shining light in an otherwise secular, left-leaning NFL.  Why would I abandon someone like that because a bunch of players made a spectacle of themselves with the kneeling thing?  I have only bought Derek Carr NFL gear, and I have remained a fan of football, largely because I enjoy the game, but also largely because I don’t wish to abandon the one player who stood firm with his hand over his heart when it was the unpopular thing to do.  I don’t wish to abandon the player that, when the verbal attacks were flying, was in prayer.

No thanks, I will remain a fan.

So, to answer the question, “Should conservatives watch the NFL?”  That is up to you.  If the “hands up don’t shoot” silliness, and the deconstructionist “kneeling to the National Anthem” antics, has you fed up, then I agree.  Don’t watch the NFL and don’t purchase anything affiliated with professional football.  But, if like me, you wish to support those players who had it right, and stood firm on their convictions, and only kneeled to pray, you might consider doing as I do.  Remain a fan, and only buy merchandise affiliated with the players who are class acts.

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