Football provided plenty of conversation this weekend

Many have remarked — correctly — that you don’t see many high school football games end the way hundreds witnessed Friday night at Pirate Stadium in Platte City.

I scoured my brain trying to recall similar finishes in my ever-lengthening career covering sports — about 18 years now if you count high school. Not many came to mine that packed the excitement and emotion of Platte County’s 35-28 win over Class 5 Liberty in overtime.

I went home and pounded out my 1,500-word story in about an hour, eager to put an account on the web for readers to use in remembering the events. Three touchdowns in the final 1 minute, 43 seconds of regulation leading to overtime and then Devin Richardson’s game-winning touchdown.

A lot of memories were made that night, and I was glad to be there.

For all its imperfections, I can’t help but remain in love with football. I look forward to it each weekend in the fall — Fridays for high school, Saturdays for college and Sunday for the NFL with a few other weekday games sprinkled in as the schedule allows.

This weekend ended a little differently than others.

I certainly tuned in all day to the NFL on Sunday but ended up digesting more than football. While sports and politics are often told not to intermingle, this wouldn’t be the case this weekend — and possibly for many more moving forward.

As the hosts of Pardon My Take (my favorite sports podcast) said on Monday morning, “We don’t want to get too political, but we’re going to talk some football.”

I’m sure you’ve engaged in the debate or at least been witness to the opinions on players across the league taking a knee during the national anthem to protest racial inequality. President Trump helped stoke the emotions with plenty of Twitter statements.

I agree with any person’s right to protest in America, even if I don’t like it. Could there be a better venue for these actions to draw attention to social injustices?

I’d like to think so. However, I don’t agree with burning a flag as a form of protest, but I respect that it has been shown to be a legal act.

Regardless, people on both sides have started researching flag and anthem decorum more than a sixth grade Civics class, each trying to present the “right argument.” Stand for the anthem lest you disrespect the country and members of the military who presently fight, have fought or paid the ultimate sacrifice; don’t use patriotism as a tool to oppress free speech.

I’m not sure there is a right answer, but I know that athletes have as much right to speak their minds — through words or actions — as any citizen. Making millions from playing a sport doesn’t disqualify them from using their platform to speak for those who aren’t as readily heard.

The conversation remains difficult for some, but hopefully, this can truly be the conversation starter so many desire. We’ll get back to just football eventually, but for now, sports and politics will be inseparable whether we like it or not.

Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.