Conflicted Heart

I have a conflicted heart, but the above tweet Sunday morning woke a part of my brain that I could not turn off.

In my heart, I believe no one on any level–peewee, youth, high school, college or professional–should be playing football due to COVID-19. As a woman that has played, I know there is truly no way to play the sport without incurring the risk of catching the infection. COVID-19 is a infection, or virus, that causes permanent as well as temporary injury to one’s organs including death. It is passed between individuals through droplets coming both the nose and the mouth.

As a football player, your mouth is constantly open whether you breathing, jawing at an opponent or gasping from a hit. Football players cannot maintain social distancing at all and succeed at their sport. It is a sport of in your face hits and tackles. That in your face hitting and tackling is like inhaling and swallowing your opponents and teammates spit. And I’m sorry but hitting and tackling and then social distancing on a bench or sideline is well . . . stupid. It does nothing.

Most of the time, my heart aches for lives to be spared from unnecessary pain, suffering and death. But then, I am reminded that COVID-19 is not the only thing killing people especially People of Color. There is this thing called racism and the ignorant who do not understand or who do but are willing participants like below:

Source: Marc Rudov

While African Americans and other People of Color are dying at a higher risk from the virus due to health issues and a lack of access to decent healthcare, I am reminded that part of the reason those issues exist is due to the very racism that Black Lives Matters is trying to fight. That group, which is inaccurately assumed to be bad by the narrow-minded, is focusing on the racism that has killed several Black people at the hands of police men and women.

That same racism is why Colin Kaepernick first took a knee at the request of Nate Boyer. Boyer, a former Army Green Beret, realized early in the game the point Kaepernick was trying to make was not disrespect to the flag but to keep Black people especially Black men from dying at the hands of the police. It is the reason why Malcolm Jenkins helped to form the Players’ Coalition. No one is saying that Blue Lives don’t matter, but they’re lives are not any more important than Black lives, White lives, Native American lives, immigrant lives and so forth.

And if individuals like Bob Sellers and Marc Rudov cannot understand that, then as far as I am concerned the NFL does not need them. The players and the League are now starting to be on the same page in the realization that EVERYONE’s life is EQUAL. We need serious, mature people to solve the problems in the United States. That is the message the NFL is sending. If that is hurting their brand, the United States is doomed.

It is with that in mind, my conflicted heart will be spporting the NFL by watching every game I can. As long as they continue to be true allies and not performative allies, it will have my support. I will not be watching the lower levels of football, but the men and women in the NFL have earned that much from me. Sports has always been medicine for the world, and the NFL’s brand is dishing that medicine out. It is up to us to decide if we want to remain ill or get well.

Source: Harsha Mannepalli

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