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Don’t let ‘unity’ confuse the purpose of NFL demonstrations

The NFL is among America's largest and richest sports businesses. (AP)

So it’s another Blue Friday. Yes, I’ll be gearing up to watch my favorite team of SOBs take on another city’s favorite SOBs. Good times.

I feel 100 percent certain that we are all going to hear the word “unity” a lot this weekend. Like, “What a show of UNITY,” “They’re locking arms because this is about UNITY,” or “We wanted to do this as a team. It’s about UNITY.”

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Except that it’s not. In fact, the movement to protest during the national anthem has very little to do with unity. It was started by a man who wanted to draw attention to all the unarmed people of color being shot by police in America. He still doesn’t have a job in the league.

For our own group of SOBs, it’s about injustice and oppression for people of color. It’s not about unity.

When you look the word “unity” up at, the first definition is “the state of being one; oneness.” That’s what the NFL wants to project. We got this. We’re all in this together. But if you read down a few more variants you land on the fourth definition for unity: “absence of diversity; unvaried or uniform character.”

Now that’s really what the NFL has always been about. You hear things like “Defend the shield,” and “Next man up.” The ethos of the NFL has been to systematically convince the players that it’s not about them individually. It’s a business. You are replaceable. You are just another cog in the machine. You better behave or we’ll fine you. There’s a thousand guys out there waiting to take your spot, so don’t get too out of line. There’s a reason they earned the mocking title “No Fun League.”

But things are changing. Players are waking up to the fact that there aren’t a thousand athletes like Richard Sherman or Earl Thomas. It’s not easy to replace a Marshawn Lynch. There are only a handful of human beings on the planet that can become an elite quarterback in the NFL.

So while they’ll be selling unity to you this weekend, don’t buy it.

Go do your own research. Do black people get shot by police in alarming numbers? Is that true? Is there systemic racism in America? What does it look like? Do I really believe in equality for all people regardless of the color of their skin? Only you can answer those questions for yourself.

That has nothing to do with unity.

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