All those SOBs in the NFL — as President Donald Trump classified them last week — who knelt during this weekend’s football games did more for the resistance than a dozen street protests and a thousand op-ed pieces.

The kicker, when Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones joined America’s Team* in taking a knee during the “Monday Night Football” national broadcast, surely gave even some of Trump’s most ardent supporters pause.

Because if you love the Cowboys, and the Cowboys are pissed off about something, well then maybe you might get upset about that thing, too, especially if it affects their game. Presidents come and go, but fans’ relationships with their teams are forever.

Gestures of protest, ranging from locking arms to kneeling to opting out of the entire ceremony, were deployed by 29 of the league’s 32 teams — the Carolina Panthers being a notable exception.

It was not about veterans or the flag, a canard being propped up by the right-wing propaganda machine. And for some it might not even have been about social injustice — more of a thumb in the eye to a president who thinks he can tell the NFL what to do. But it’s hard not to imagine the millionaires of color in the NFL have not been profiled a time or two during their lives.

There’s so much to unpack here: the hard rebuke of President Trump, the labor issue, the disconnect between the weekend’s games and the league’s behavior toward former San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick who began the protests in 2016 as a response to racial injustice for black Americans and who has since been drummed out of football.

But for those of us too young to remember the Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, the raised fists at the 1968 Olympics or any other time sports has been at the forefront of social change in the United States, it was a powerful indicator of the things that bind us, which are sometimes stronger than those that divide.

 

*Not America’s team