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Saturday Morning Quarterback

Andy Reed • Sep 30, 2017 at 9:30 AM

People who look to sports as an escape from the real world didn’t find it this past week.

NFL fans found themselves looking at various forms of protests from all of the teams Sunday, a day after President Trump said owners should fire any (SOB) who didn’t stand for the national anthem.

A movement which started with Colin Kaepernick a year ago and spread to a handful of players throughout the league protesting police brutality against African Americans was blasted by the nation’s chief executive.

NFL teams, from owners on down, blasted back the following day in various forms. Some took knees, some sat, some locked arms (owners, players and coaches included) and some stood during the playing/singing of the Star Spangled Banner.

At Nashville’s Nissan Stadium, the Titans and visiting Seahawks decided to stay in the locker room during the anthem before coming out in locked arms.

Most high school and college teams stay inside during the anthem before their games without a peep from the fans. But the paying customers in Nashville booed, especially when the anthem singer took a knee.

Reaction across the country is mixed. But the Twitter feeds I’ve read indicate a large number of Titans fans are vowing not to support the team again, a trend which is being followed across the country.

Titans tight end Delanie Walker came back saying if the fans want to boycott the NFL and stay home, let them. Walker and Meghan Linsey, the anthem singer who took a knee, both have reported receiving death threats.

Remember four months ago when the Predators’ run to the Stanley Cup final united Middle Tennessee? Now the Titans and the other 31 NFL teams have, through Trump’s baiting, exposed the deep divisions (largely pre-existing) within their fan bases.

It’ll be interesting to see if these fans, many of whom no doubt reacted emotionally, follow through for the long term. I remember after baseball and football player strikes in the 1980s and ‘90s many angry fans vowed never to follow those sports again. Maybe some individuals have stayed away, but others either came back or were replaced by new fans in the stands and in front of their TV sets.

But doing what many view as insulting the country, and its military, which gives them the freedom to protest, is different from simply refusing to play by going on strike.

I’m not sure what to make of all of this. Trump is either an idiot or sly as a fox. More people are talking about the protests, and what sparked them in the first place, than would have if the president hadn’t mentioned it in his speech last week. Many players seem to be protesting Trump’s speech more than the issues Kaepernick brought out in the first place.

On the other hand, are the masses discussing treatment of minorities or the method of the protests which many perceive to be insulting the USA, its military and police? If that’s the case, if the players wanted to draw attention to police brutality, it may have missed the mark. To those people, oppression might be a legitimate issue which needs to be talked about, but sitting during the anthem is not the way to solve it. It’s a matter of two wrongs not making a right.

While what has played out with the NFL is distressing to most, what’s happening in college basketball is an overdue cleansing.

A handful of assistant coaches and top shoe company executives were indicted and arrested this week following an FBI investigation which has reportedly found a complex system of bribes to get top players to enroll at certain schools who have contracts with certain sneaker companies.

It’s been a rather open secret for years, but the NCAA was never able to do much about it. Without police powers, all the NCAA was really able to do was put teams on probation and blacklist coaches for a time.

This is different. This is the FBI. Instead of lying low for a year or two before finding the next job, coaches are facing federal prison time.

So far, only assistant coaches have been formally charged, though Louisville head coach Rick Pitino was “effectively fired” after the latest in a string of scandals involving his program. His boss - and chief enabler - athletic director Tom Jurich, is also on his way out the door.

Many people, and I agree, believe this is barely the tip of the iceberg. Don’t be surprised if a lot more coaches, including head coaches, in football and men’s basketball (and possibly other sports) find themselves in the crosshairs of the feds. There’ll be some coaches you might suspect and some you thought were squeaky clean (Remember, we thought the late Joe Paterno was pristine until the Jerry Sandusky mess came out).

I, for one, am looking forward to this. Let’s see who’s dirty and, hopefully, who is operating honestly. Of course, as long as there is money to be made in college athletics, people will stoop to unscrupulous ways to pocket the change. The coaches and shoe execs who are taken out of circulation will be replaced, unfortunately.

Looks like it may be a while before we can just watch the games for their own sake.

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