The ReCap by Laina Stebbins: 5.30.18 Podcast / by HWTP Sports Talk

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“This whole movement has been hijacked”

George Martin told HWTP Sports Talk regarding the NFL national anthem controversy.

Former NY Giants defensive end George Martin joins HWTP Sports Talk with David Weinstein to discuss the ongoing NFL national anthem controversy. The result is a thorough, engaging discussion about social issues in America and where the NFL may be falling short in addressing them.  A must-listen!

Later, Michigan State University alumna and HWTP editorial manager Laina Stebbins speaks with David about the recent settlement agreement between MSU and Nassar victims, and the troubling First Amendment implications it may have for future sexual assault cases. Stebbins also discusses her interview with former NFL linebacker and defensive line coach Pepper Johnson, which will be available on the HWTP blog by Monday.

George Martin: “This whole movement has been hijacked”

The NFL’s new national anthem policy dictates that players must either stand for the Star-Spangled Banner on the field, stay in the locker room if they do not intend to stand, or face a fine and/or penalties from the league. George Martin, a former New York Giants defensive end and Super Bowl champion, offers up his thoughts as a former player who has seen the norms surrounding the national anthem at NFL games evolve over the years.

David points to widespread misconceptions in the public narrative about what the national anthem stands for, why players kneel in the first place, and how those protests should be interpreted.

In these misconceptions, Martin says, the original message behind the protests has seemingly been forgotten.

“I'm greatly disappointed that the narrative, that this whole movement has been hijacked,” Martin says. “It was never an intent to disregard the national anthem.”

“The issue was the infringement and the deterioration of the rights of People of Color...they used the national anthem to bring that to the forefront,” he continues. “That has been forgotten in this whole discussion, and to me, that is the whole shame of this whole situation.”

Speaking on his 14 years in the league, Martin says as a player he cannot recall there ever being a discussion about what to do during the national anthem. He and his teammates always stood proudly to “acknowledge the country in a patriotic fashion” – but Martin also says that this was never forced, always voluntary.

“I have a very, very staunch and very strong commitment to patriotism,” says Martin, whose father served in the military during WWII. “And at the same time, I know what patriotism stands for, and it can't be mandated. It can't be forced upon you.”

He adds that the American right to protest is also spelled out in the US Constitution – another reason why the mandate does not make sense to him as a measure of patriotism.

David also points out that the NFL Players Association seems to have been left out of the discussions prior to the league implementing the new policy.

“To implement a unilateral decision without the input the NFL Players Association, I think it's just totally misguided,” Martin says. “I think that they come together initially and sat down collectively, as our bargain agreement suggests and recommends.”

Had this procedure been followed initially, Martin contends that “a lot of the harsh rhetoric and language and conflict could have been avoided.”

HWTP’s Laina Stebbins on the ongoing mess at Michigan State

As David rightly puts it, the situation at Michigan State University regarding the Larry Nassar sexual assault case is “something that is simply not going to wash itself away.” It continues to spiral outwards, and has potentially far-reaching implications.

MSU recently entered into a $500 million settlement with Nassar’s victims. Many are now saying that although this number accurately reflects the great magnitude of damage done by Nassar, a portion of the settlement may unfortunately set a troubling First Amendment precedent by stifling the rights of victims and victims rights advocates to speak out about sexual assault and advocate for legislation pertaining to it.

Another new MSU/Nassar development – on Wednesday, former MSU president Lou Anna K. Simon was served with a subpoena at her vacation home in Traverse City. She is being compelled to testify before a Senate subcommittee about the Nassar case, and initially declined to do so because the new hearing date conflicted with her vacation time.

Simon resigned earlier this year under pressure from state legislators, MSU students and more following her apparent mishandling of the Nassar case and sexual assault in general at the university. Her interim replacement, former Michigan governor John Engler, is not faring much better and has been garnering controversies of his own with his words and actions regarding the Nassar case.

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Also...

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to interview former NFL linebacker and assistant coach Pepper Johnson.

Johnson has been involved with an organization called USA Natural Patches since 2016, selling patches of vitamin B1 that he says aid in bodily health and function when worn on the skin. He is currently in the process of obtaining the NFL's official approval for them. Once approved, the league's trainers and nutritionists would be able to directly supply the B1 patches to players for a boost of nutrition and energy without the use of steroids.

Other topics of discussion include: Johnson’s transition from player to coach in 2000, his take on the recent speculations surrounding Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick, his views on the NFL national anthem controversy, his thoughts about politics in sports, and more.

Look for my full interview with Pepper Johnson on the HWTP blog this Monday, June 4.