When I watched the game last night I didn’t realize this happened. Only today did I hear comments from Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt. I also watched some clips from ESPN’s First Take. Watt, and probably many others are baffled at the reaction. I was a little perplexed myself. Here the two best, or least bad, explanations I’ve seen:
First, fans booed because they don’t want to see politics mixing with sports. On some level, this seems plausible to me, although Ryan Clark, on First Take, points out that fans don’t boo when players lock arms for veterans, or breast cancer–which is a good point. So why boo this political action? Would they boo, if they felt sympathy for black players who descry police brutality to black Americans? This is harder to imagine to me. Unfortunately, Clark’s explanation for the boos–that this is about helping black people–is hard for me to dismiss, and I genuinely felt sadness.
The other explanation I heard came from a Kansas City sports writer. He wondered if these fans were tired of hearing/seeing protests or statements against blacks. The best case scenario, for me, with regard to this reaction is fatigue at awful news. I get tired and worn out by bad news (e.g., with Trump, climate change, etc.) and sometimes I just don’t want to see or hear anything about it. But the players didn’t say anything, as far as I know. The gesture was simple–and intentionally non-controversial. There are those who believed there were other ways to protest, besides kneeling during the national anthem. Well, this was another way, but apparently some folks felt strong enough to boo this gesture. And that’s the thing, booing is a kind of strong act. Would fatigue of bad news lead to this behavior? I’m a bit skeptical.
Now, as I mentioned this is more benign, least bad, explanations. The other explanations are far worse.