This is a Huge Moment in History. Here’s Why I’m Still Cynical.

Updated 2020-6-7 12:45pm

The NFL is talking the talk. Now for the walk…

What a week this has been. I’m wondering if, when historians look back, they’ll regard this as being the most significant moment of the era in which we have lived.

But I’ve greeted it with a degree of cynicism, sarcasm, and snark. I was embarrassed by Vic Fangio’s Grandpa Simpson moment. I landed on Drew Brees with both feet. And I replied to Roger Goodell’s utterly unprecedented “we were wrong” video by asking where Colin Kaepernick will be playing this season.

It’s been suggested to me that I’m not being fair. Fangio really wound up saying some things out of the context of what he meant, we think, and his apology seems genuine. Today he joined Broncos players in leading a protest march.

Brees’s reaction to the backlash seems very, very real. And his wife’s note earlier today reads like a genuine road-to-Damascus moment.

Goodell? Well, I’ll give the league credit when they prove it to me.

And that’s where my cynicism lies.

Goodell-we-were-wrong

In short, show, don’t tell.

The words are dead-on. If they reflect your new truth, if from this day forward you march the path of wokeness, then we will all be incalculably better for it.

But I live in a society of lies. PR, political spin, rhetorical misdirection, and a thousand other tricks to manipulate the public – this is what we are. Truth, justice and the American way? Please, there’s nothing remotely American about truth or justice. And since I have spent my career largely in various corners of the corporate communication world and have a doctorate in communication, I experience our collective dishonesty at a deeper level than many.

NFL owners don’t need to be committed to racial justice as long as you think they are.

So I welcome the message, but I’m going to need to see the actions that flow from them. You’ve talked the talk, now I need to see the walk.

Here are things I want to see.

I want to see pro athletes able to kneel with the league’s blessing.

I want to see white players on a knee. White stars. Like, say, Aaron Rodgers. Or Tom Brady. Or maybe Drew Brees.

I want to see owners taking a knee (I’m looking at you, Jerry).

I want Roger Goodell to say Colin Kaepernick’s name.

Those are nice symbolic things that actually do have meaning because they’re public displays of humility on the part of people who aren’t typically humble.

Beyond that, I want to see Kaep on a roster, or at least in a training camp being afforded an honest, good faith chance. (You know, the opposite of this.) And if he can’t make it on merit, or once his playing days are through, I like my friend Andrew’s idea: Colin needs to be working for the league in a meaningful way, with power and compensation commensurate with the commitment all the pretty words have promised.

I want to see investment by the league in minority communities. And I don’t means a couple million dollars. The NFL generated $15 billion in revenues last year, so I’m talking about transformational, life-changing dollars.

Beyond that? Well, let’ consider Andre Snellings’ ideas. He’s got some good ones.

If we wind up with someone like Kaep in charge of league philanthropy and the budget actually shows they’re serious, I think we’ll all have reason to be happy.

And I’ll be able to look back on my bad attitude this week and feel great joy at how wrong I was.

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