Late last week, before President Donald Trump made comments about the NFL to a crowd in Alabama, Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter talked thoughtfully about race and sports.
Commenting in reaction to the news that Stage 3 CTE had reportedly been found in the brain of Aaron Hernandez, Carter gave a heartfelt explanation of his fears regarding a lifetime in football. Beyond touching on the prospects of his own future health, Carter addressed the circumstances that led him to the sport.
"There's not a whole bunch of options in America for a black man," he said on Fox Sports' First Things First. "But sports, it's gives you that opportunity."
Players making it to the pros are expected to be appreciative of the wealth they attain, even as it likely comes at a cost to one's long-term health. That's one reason why detractors bristled at Colin Kaepernick for beginning his protest addressing police brutality and racial inequality. When Kaepernick and NFL players like him demonstrated, critics often pointed to their high earnings to describe them as out of touch, even though many African-American athletes came from underprivileged circumstances and dealt with prejudice before they ended up as well-paid pros. What's more, the average NFL career is done within four years. It's not easy to fit peak earnings into that window.
On some level, it seems, most of those in the business of running the NFL understand this dynamic. This helps, in part, to explain why owners who have supported Trump in the past -- such as Shad Khan, Robert Kraft or Dan Snyder -- attempted to show solidarity with their players on Sunday.
Dolphins safety Michael Thomas started breaking up when talking about Trump calling him "a son of a b!tch." pic.twitter.com/Z4wroPcvzW- Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) September 24, 2017
Football wasn't alone in the spotlight this weekend, with the Warriors finding themselves in a back and forth with POTUS regarding a White House visit for the NBA champions, while Oakland A's rookie Bruce Maxwell took a knee during the national anthem before an MLB game. That said, the pointed remarks from Trump at the NFL and the responses from conservative pundits (in addition to those on the left), means that football will probably be at the center of a sprawling culture war for the foreseeable future, even if the anthem protests taper off. Could tuning into the league be part of #TheResistance? That would be the biggest upset of all.
If the ratings down, Trump will use it. In solidarity with #TakeTheKnee and the NFL, let's watch as much football as humanly possible. 🏈- Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) September 24, 2017
Hey, it was a standout Sunday of NFL action
Player demonstrations on Sunday wers robust and varied. It just so happened that the games were also compelling. The Jaguars blindsided the Ravens. The Bills shocked the Broncos. Though they fell just short, the Texans gave the Patriots everything they could handle at Foxboro. The Bears upset the Steelers. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers erased a 21-7 deficit in route to getting the first overtime victory of Rodgers' career. A controversial ruling in Detroit in a loss to the Falcons frustrated many Lions fans accustomed to seeing wins stolen from them. The postgame fire was fitting, however.
OBJ is un-pee-lievable
If it's levity you seek, there's Odell Beckham celebrating a touchdown against the Eagles by getting down on all fours, then lifting his leg to simulate a dog peeing. That wasn't the star receiver's only score on the day. After his next touchdown, Beckham lifted his fist in salute, which was a little more in keeping with the theme of the day.
Let Von Miller have his fun; we all need this
lol at everything here pic.twitter.com/5SjJ38kbTz- Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) September 24, 2017
In the future, the NFL needs to make it so defenders doing a "down low/too slow" gag on players trying to get to their feet can only be penalized if the victimized party is upset about it. And Tyrod Taylor definitely was not. This may not be an enforceable standard, but it's the one I'm insisting on.
Fan of the Week
Not everyone upset with the anthem protests is actually undertaking a full-on boycott of the NFL. Some are limiting it to the players they use in fantasy. Maybe that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. They have their reasons.
1. Chris Thompson
Unexpectedly, Washington proved to be the only team with offensive firepower in the Sunday night meeting with Oakland. The 'Skins running back amassed nearly 200 yards on just 14 touches, doing most of his damage through the passing game, where he gained 150 yards. It was Thompson's second straight game going over 100 yards total from scrimmage after only doing that once in his previous 36 outings.
2. Jake Elliott
A 60-plus yard field goal is an extreme rarity from any kicker, much less a rookie. Most won't even get the chance to try, especially in situations where the game is on the line. Elliott came through to give the Eagles a win over the rival Giants with a field goal that has only been exceeded yardage-wise by six others in NFL history. Philly had just signed Elliott before last week's game after Caleb Sturgis went down with an injury. And just that quickly he has the longest converted kick in franchise history.
3. Brandin Cooks
It took a few weeks, but the former Saints receiver had a breakout game in his new home in New England. Cooks finished the day with 131 yards and two scores, including the 25-yard game-winner in the final minute.
4. Marcedes Lewis
The Jaguars tight end more than made up for his silence over the first two weeks. In Sunday's blowout win over the Ravens, Lewis notched three touchdowns after coming into the game with no catches on the season.
5. Glover Quinn
His second quarter pick-six kept Atlanta from running away with the game in the first half, allowing the Lions to at least be in position to win later on. In general his coverage was excellent, as the Falcons only mustered 16 yards on him from a screen.
1. Joe Flacco
Schrodinger's quarterback was clearly on the bad side in London, as the Ravens faced their worst deficit ever late in the loss to Jacksonville, losing by 37, tying a franchise-worst margin of defeat. Flacco was out by the start of the fourth quarter, and it was up to backup Ryan Mallett to register Baltimore's only points of the day against Jacksonville's defensive reserves.
2. Trevor Siemian
A week after Siemian had his best NFL outing to date in a key win over Dallas, the Broncos QB took a step back in a loss in Buffalo. When facing pressure, he was a mess. On the day he finished with two interceptions and suddenly all the confidence that Denver fans had about his ability to guide a title run is a lot more shaky.
3. Cam Newton
That 2015 MVP season feels like forever ago now. Like Flacco, Cam found himself replaced late in a loss by his backup. The Panthers are still in fine shape at 2-1. They still haven't seen a good performance from their quarterback yet in 2017.
4. Marcus Cooper
Pulling a Leon Lett at the end of the first half, fumbling as he casually strolled into the end zone, was bad enough. While the Bears ended up winning in overtime, they would have done so in regulation with that score. Cooper also committed pass interference in the end zone, setting up a Pittsburgh score.
5. Vernon Hardreaves III
Making the Vikings' Case Keenum look like a top-flight starter is almost an achievement in its own right. According to PFF, the Bucs corner gave up 126 yards on seven receptions over 10 targets. He had all sorts of issues with Stefon Diggs, who skied over him for a score at the end of the first half.
And then there's this ...
Vernon Davis finally gets to do the free throw celebration he got penalized for last year pic.twitter.com/DQSxLxEqOy- Mike Tunison (@xmasape) September 25, 2017
Who says it's the No Fun League?