In a game against the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football, the Dallas Cowboys came up with a way to show unity and respect. Before their 28-17 victory, the Cowboys decided to kneel as a team before the national anthem. They also chose to lock arms while standing as the anthem was sung by Jordin Sparks.
One specific quote about this demonstration really stood out to me. “How do we achieve these two objectives? How do we somehow someway convey unity? Somehow someway convey the importance of equality in our country? And do so without, in any way, involving the American flag and the national anthem? And that’s what we came up with.”
Those are the words of Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. The same words apply to addressing this polarizing topic on the sports talk radio airwaves.
How can a host emphasize the importance of equality without disrespecting the anthem? It’s a tricky puzzle to solve. I’d argue that it’s unsolvable because someone somewhere is going to take issue with every host’s opinion. That doesn’t mean you simply stop trying to solve the riddle. It’d be like a quarterback saying, “I’ll never have a perfect passer rating, so screw it. Why try?” You try because perfection isn’t necessary to have great success.
Donald Trump’s words last Friday were far from perfect or positive. During a rally speech in Alabama, the president delivered a ridiculous message. Speaking about NFL players that protest during the national anthem, Trump said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. He is fired. He’s fired!’”
He sounded less like the president of the United States and more like a WWE wrestler challenging an opponent to a steel cage match at SummerSlam. The only thing missing was a Stone Cold Steve Austin double beer chug after adding, “Gimme a hell yeah!”
When discussing any topic (especially this one), don’t be like Trump for starters. Instead, be mindful of something I call the four f-words.
Fresh — It isn’t easy to come up with fresh angles and thoughts about anthem protests because it’s been discussed so much. It isn’t impossible though. Challenge yourself to find ways to produce unique and fresh content. Stand out.
Fair — It’s impossible to get a 100% approval rating when throwing out opinion after opinion about protests, racial injustice, and honoring the flag. However, you can at least be fair. Adding “s-o-b” blasts is just plain silly. Sharing viewpoints that listeners disagree with is fine. Sharing hateful opinions that are totally disrespectful won’t get you anywhere.
Firm — If Trump was a mattress, he’d be a boulder. That’s way too firm. Being Charmin soft with your views isn’t the way to go either. Stuff like “well, I mean we have the right to peacefully protest” is a waste of time. News flash — we live in America. We’re free. Don’t waste my time pointing out the obvious. Find the middle ground of being firm without sounding soft or rigid.
Foresight — If Trump actually wants the protesting to stop, he chose the worst possible path to achieve this goal. Anybody with reasonable foresight could see a tidal wave of anthem protests following his words. Foresight is the most important f-word for hosts to be mindful of. Anticipating the audience’s reaction before saying anything is crucial.
If you’re a host reading this, you might think, “Good Lord, Brian. How about I just avoid this altogether? I gotta remember f-words. Don’t be too this. Don’t be too that.” Look, this applies to anything you talk about — especially the controversial stuff. You can’t just curl into a ball, cower in fear, and resist talking about a subject that might rile up a listener or two. Just let the f-words lead the way.
Don’t dwell on reasons to avoid talking about this anthem subject. Sure, there are many landmines – it can be divisive. It creates a serious vibe that transitioning to upbeat stories feels strange. There’s the “stick to sports” crowd to deal with. The topic has been talked about so much that coming up with a fresh angle is difficult. No one said it’d be easy. I love a challenge, and this topic definitely qualifies.
Keep in mind that this topic is so huge that the president of the United States of America has weighed in. Some of the biggest names in sports have also. Roger Goodell, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Steph Curry, LeBron James, Gregg Popovich, and Jerry Jones are among many others that have expressed their views. Everyone has an opinion about this subject. How can your show afford not to?