FOXBORO – Everybody’s keeping their eyes peeled during recent performances of the national anthem, trying to see who’s doing what and what it all means.
It’s worth pointing out that the NFL – which tries very hard to glom on to the flag and has a mutually beneficial financial relationship with the military – didn’t even compel teams to be on the field regularly for the anthem until 2009.
But I digress. Now they do. And in this particular late summer, it’s become an opportunity for players to send messages.
Sunday night in Arizona, Danny Amendola stepped onto the field during the anthem and helped the hundreds of other people hold the massive flag.
It was not a preplanned moment, said Amendola.
“Two ladies were right there and I was standing there waiting for it to start and they said, ‘Hey, come up here, come up here.' So I did."
NBC’s cameras captured Amendola doing that and also showed teammates Devin McCourty and Martellus Bennett raising their fists at the end of the anthem.
Asked if he was generally OK with other players around the league using the anthem as a platform, Amendola answered, “I can only speak for myself. I read a Pat Tillman story before I went on the field the other day. What he did for the flag and what he did for the country is pretty remarkable. That was inspirational to me.”
Tillman was the former Arizona Cardinal who, after 9/11, joined the Army Rangers in June 2002. He was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004.
Just steps away from Amendola, Bennett was explaining what he wanted to convey with his gesture.
“(Awareness is necessary from) everybody. It’s not just blacks, it’s not just white, it’s not just cops, just not police, it takes every single person in society to do their part,” Bennett said. “No role is too small. It starts with one step. Start the conversation, have a conversation with our kids, have a conversation with friends so we all can bring change. That’s what it’s really about. Like how can we bring change and how can we promote the conversation so that others can try to figure out ways to bring change?
“And it’s really what I call design thinking,” he continued. “You’re just thinking in a way that you can design society to be a better place. And America was built on diversity and we believe that in diversity and we believe that in diversity you can find university, just basically unity with us all. And an NFL locker room is the No. 1 place to prove that because we have guys from all different walks of life and different life experiences come together for one cause and one dream and one goal. And I think the same thing can happen in society. We’re all on one team and we all want the same thing, which is tolerance, equality. Everybody just wants to be treated fairly and with justice. It’s just bringing people together really.”
I spent a lot of time this week on Quick Slants The Podcast listening to McCourty speak about what the reaction to his raised fist was and also with Omar Kelly, a Dolphins beat writer who have a worthwhile perspective from within the media on how the demonstrations have been covered. Listen to the podcast below. . .