Why should we help out the NFL?
On Monday night, Jerry Jones, a smart businessman who owns one of the richest sports teams in the world, tried to save the NFL with a kneel before the anthem and then standing up for the flag. He wanted to stand with the players for now but tell the fans that the anthem is no place for protest.
Jerry Jones knows that the NFL is in a self-inflicted mess, as Selena Zito wrote:
"We bleed black and gold here," said Sean Parnell, a Pittsburgh native and former U.S. Army Airborne Ranger who served in the legendary 10th Mountain Division for six years, retiring as a captain.
"The Steelers are who we looked to as an example of achievement in the face of adversity, they were the ones who brought families and friends together every Sunday. They symbolized all that is good in us and it is hard to imagine a city in this country whose heart and soul is not more identified with their team than Pittsburghers are with the Steelers," he said of what is affectionately called "Steeler Nation."
But after the Steelers' decision to not participate in the national anthem last Sunday, Parnell is not so sure about the strength of that nation.
Replace "Steelers" with "Cowboys," and you will understand why Mr. Jones is worried.
I would like to make a suggestion to Mr. Jones and the NFL Players Union: put your money where your mouth is! In other words, take the initiative and start addressing some of the problems in the inner cities that cheer you every week.
Let's start with public schools. They are not serving African-American kids very well, as we read over and over again:
In America's public high schools, 45% of black students and 43% of Hispanics (as compared to 22% of whites) drop out before their classes graduate. Dropout rates are especially high in urban areas with large minority populations, including such academic basket cases as the District of Columbia (57%), Trenton (59%), Camden (61.4%), Baltimore (65.4%), Cleveland (65.9%), and Detroit (75.1%).
Of those black and Hispanic students who do manage to earn a diploma, a large percentage are functionally illiterate. Black high-school graduates perform, on average, at a level that is four academic years below that of their white counterparts.
Of all graduates in the class of 2011, only 11% of blacks and 15% of Hispanics were proficient in math, as compared to 42% of whites. Similarly, just 13% of blacks and 4% of Hispanics were proficient in reading, versus 40% of whites.
As political science professor Lydia Segal notes in her book, Battling Corruption in America's Public Schools:
"It is in cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Philadelphia where the largest numbers of children cannot read, write, and compute at acceptable levels and where racial gaps between whites and blacks and Latinos are widest. It is in large cities that minority boys in particular, trapped in poor schools, have the greatest chance of flunking out and getting sucked into the downward spiral of crime and prison."
It's the same old song, as the Four Tops used to sing.
Well, what about standing up for these kids? The NFL Players Union should create scholarships so that some of these youngsters can be saved in private or religious schools.
Let's go to the absence of fathers. This is a problem NFL players may be directly familiar with. Well, how about NFL players visiting the inner cities every week and talking about the devastating consequences of growing up without a father figure?
Economics professor Walter E. Williams writes: "According to the 1938 Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, that year 11 percent of black children and 3 percent of white children were born to unwed mothers."
In mid-1960s America, the nation's out-of-wedlock birth rate (which stood at 7.7 percent at the time) began a rapid and relentless climb across all demographic lines, a climb that would continue unabated until 1994, when the Welfare Reform Act helped put the brakes on that trend.
Today the overall American illegitimacy rate is about 40.7 percent (29.1 percent for non-Hispanic whites). For blacks, it is about 72 percent – approximately three times the level of black illegitimacy that existed when the War on Poverty began in 1964.
On this issue, we are asking NFL players to spend not money, but rather some time. Spend an afternoon or evening in the community talking to and reminding young men that there is more to fatherhood than getting a girl pregnant.
So let the NFL Players Union take the lead and put this issue of the anthem behind them. Otherwise, politics means turning off fans, and that means less people watching, and that means less money for the players and the aforementioned Mr. Jones.
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