January 7, 2019 - 6:00am
For years now the National Football League has grappled with the swirling controversy over players kneeling or otherwise staging a personal protest during the National Anthem. Initiated most recently by Colin Kaepernick, then of the San Francisco 49ers, a number of players adopted his kneeling activism. This led to fan backlash, and surprisingly a dip in game attendance and ratings in the aftermath.
Not having learned this lesson, Robert Quinn of the Miami Dolphins was trying to tilt the spotlight toward his continued anthem posturing. The team, following another pedestrian season, is in a state of upheaval. After closing out the year with a dismal loss in Buffalo, three-year head coach Adam Gase was fired, and other front office personnel have been terminated. But Quinn sees a need for extending strife.
“Y’all ignore it,” Quinn said to The Miami Herald, just ahead of that Buffalo trainwreck. “Because when I gave my first message on trying to bring unity, y’all swept it under the rug.”
Quinn referenced the fact that during the opening of games, he has been raising his fist as the anthem plays. He has not been properly recognized for this act, according to him. His teammate Kenny Stills has been kneeling at the same time and has received far more attention. “It’s not me,” he said to the Herald. “When you don’t give a problematic story, y’all just ran away.”
Apparently Quinn operates from the standpoint that coverage of his activism is compulsory. This, during a time when fans have grown weary of the protests, and the league and the owners have gently tried to move on from the controversies. Many casual fans may have even felt this player protest has died off. That's because the league and networks have decided the way to stem the reactions to these actions is to not show the singing of the National Anthem during broadcasts.
The anthem protests did have a direct impact on NFL attendance and ratings, evidenced by a number of owners shifting their position of initial support of the actions. Following those dips in the ratings -- the first years of such, following generations of steady growth -- the league moved to distance itself from the pre-game activism.
The result was, this season did see an uptick in the metrics. However, it is a mixed result. A breakdown of the numbers shows that while ratings did climb, it was a result of those watching choosing to tune in to more games. There was an actual drop in the number of active viewers. This is not a full fanbase recovery, in other words.
Quinn seems oblivious to this desire to place his activism on a back burner. Or, he simply is demanding attention for personal gain. While he declares not receiving due attention (the writer notes that Quinn is frequently a quick exit from the locker room on game days), The Miami Herald did give his protests coverage last April, and he was profiled by Sports Illustrated in August.
So, what is it that Quinn is boldly taking a stance against, or for? That ... is not entirely clear. Based on his own words, you get a sense that the media avoidance of his stance could be due less to a lack of bravery on their part than a lack of cogent commentary on his.
Among numerous subjects of outrage, Quinn is mostly trying to bring attention to the condition of a woman convicted in Tennessee of a murder committed when she was 16. He is backing leniency based on her age and the details of her charges. However, the defensive lineman seems incapable of clearly laying out the reasons for his protest. To wit:
● "You’ve got this lady named Cyntoia Brown, or whatever her name is, and you sent her to life in prison because she was being sex trafficked."
A note: Your message is more easily overlooked when you display an evasive grasp on the details. Why should anyone invest time ferreting out specifics you have not bothered to become familiarized with yourself?
On broader issues, Quinn is uniformly opaque.
● "The way America was built, and the way people talk .... The president said to build a wall to keep Mexicans out."
Um, that’s incorrect. The intent of the border wall is to stem illegal entry to the country. Entry via legal immigration practice is welcomed, from Mexicans or others.
● "This country was built off of — they killed Indians, built off the backs of the blacks. So yet, they tell us to keep quiet."
I am at a loss as to this connection of the wall, native American genocide, and silencing of blacks. Quinn seems at a loss as well.
● "So at the end of the day, let’s confront the situation and let’s bring humanity and friendship and let’s get rid of all the ignorance. Let’s face it head-on, let’s look at each other as humans."
Not sure who was being looked at something other than human. But as for the call to be rid of ignorance, it's a case of “protestor, heal thyself”.
● "Treat each other like you want to be treated. You don’t ever want to smack someone in the face and don’t expect to get smacked back. It’s just that simple fact. Don’t treat someone bad and expect not to be treated the same way. That’s just how it is."
Here, Quinn is exhibiting some more of the obliviousness many NFL protest supporters have previously shown. They feel their actions should be fully supported, with no blowback from fans or others. Yes, they have a right to voice their opinions, but in making that declaration, many have ignored that fans likewise have a right to voice their displeasure. Quinn’s own words here undermine his position. Many people have viewed protesting during the National Anthem as a slap in the face. But Quinn has not expected to be slapped back, curiously enough. You can't act in a provocative fashion and then be surprised to provoke a reaction.
● "All I’m saying is, my production went up because I’m just playing football and America’s got a lot of problems to fix within itself."
We are left to assume there is a connection between these two comments. We need to assume, because Quinn provides no connective concept between them.
● "Tell America to look at itself in the mirror and the people who built it."
A final word to Robert Quinn: When a lecturer fails to heed the content of his own lecture, said lecture is easily ignored by the intended audience. I would suggest that peering into your own looking glass could be of help, or maybe at least looking over a transcript of your delivered lessons.
It appears there is a sound reason few people are listening to Quinn’s protest. There also appears solid reasons the NFL wants to slowly keep stepping away from these players who have a muddled lesson to deliver to fans.
Brad Slager, a Fort Lauderdale freelance writer, wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News. He writes on politics and the entertainment industry and his stories appear in such publications as RedState and The Federalist.