Shortly after the NFL announced its updated National Anthem policy last month, Bears linebacker Sam Acho — the team’s union representative — delivered some thoughtful and pointed remarks about the league’s edict.
The Anthem issue again roared back to the headlines after President Donald Trump on Monday dis-invited the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles from their scheduled day at the White House:
WH Statement: "The vast majority of the Eagles team decided to abandon their fans" pic.twitter.com/hxZRvcgFBo— Jonathan Tamari (@JonathanTamari) June 5, 2018
Multiple Eagles players disputed the statement’s accuracy (and B-roll Fox News used of Eagles players kneeling, but in prayer before games):
Imagine wanting to please the boss so very badly that you run stills of guys knelt down PRAYING during pregame. Not one Eagles player knelt for the anthem this yr. Keep carrying his water to sow division while misrepresenting Christian men. Aren’t many of your viewers.. nevermind https://t.co/QdlOvL0btq— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) June 5, 2018
And on Tuesday, Acho had this to say about an issue that seems sure to continue to be escalated by the NFL and President Trump well into this year’s regular season: “You just have to think about it,” Acho said. “Just because they make a statement doesn’t mean it’s true. I could make a statement about anything, that doesn’t mean it’s true. I could sit here and say, ‘The sky is green.’
“That’s why it doesn’t frustrate me. Nor does it surprise me because you see it time and time again. I think when you look at people’s history, you start to see themes. Someone said me once, ‘People show you who they are. It’s up to you whether you believe them or not.’”
For a league that has plenty of intriguing storylines happening on the field — including, potentially, a dynamic Bears’ offense — the issue of the National Anthem appears like it’ll dominate headlines for the coming weeks and months. That’s to say it’s not going away any time soon, or at least as long as the NFL and its players aren’t on the same page.
The reason why players — led by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick — began protesting during the National Anthem continues to get lost, as Acho sees it: Far too many people are viewing this as an issue about respecting the troops instead of a movement for social justice reform.
“I think it’s up to people to use common sense, use your intelligence and your brain to think about what the players are actually standing for, what they’re kneeling for or what they’re putting their fist up in the air for,” Acho said. “If you just stop and think, you realize that these players are (doing this) … you hear it’s to fight against injustice.
“I think people need to stop, think and listen. And not be so eager to say, ‘well, because you took a knee, you hate the military …’ I think that’s sophomoric thinking. It’s just too simple.”
The NFL’s ruling in May on the Anthem didn’t — and won’t — deter players like Acho from continuing to speak up for what they believe. Neither will tweets from the President. For Acho, these social justice efforts are all about using his fame and his high profile to make a difference.
“As a player in the NFL, people call us modern-day kings, celebrities, whatever you want to say,” Acho said. “Once you have this kind of platform, you have to use it. You can’t shy away from it. Different people use it in different ways. I am going to continue use my platform to speak up for social justice and speak up for people who can’t speak up for themselves. It would be wrong of me not to. To whom much is given much is required.”