It's been a hotbed issue for the past four years and it's about to get a whole lot hotter.

Professional athletes who kneel during the national anthem was once big news and a hot topic for water cooler discussions in the workplace. Most people, it seemed, had strong feelings about it and resented the players for showing perceived disrespect to the flag and to members of the United States armed forces.

The National Football League and its 32 teams tried to quell the effort started by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick to draw attention to police brutality against blacks and racial inequality. The president of the United States even tried to get involved and encouraged NFL owners to fire players who refused to stand for the anthem.

I don't know if you noticed, but during the most recent NFL season, players kneeling for the national anthem seemed like old news. A few players were still doing it, but they received very little attention on television broadcasts, and, from this fan's perspective, it seemed like the movement was dying.

Then came the tragic, senseless, and unfortunate death of George Floyd, which reignited and reenergized the kneeling movement. Before the season even begins, it has become clear that more players than ever will not be standing during the Star-Spangled Banner. This time, however, the response from the NFL has been much different. Not only will peaceful protests not be discouraged, they are actually being encouraged by the NFL.

Earlier this summer, the NFL tweeted the following message.

We, the NFL, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of Black People. We, the NFL, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the NFL, believe Black Lives Matter

Since then, many NFL coaches and team owners have also stepped out to express their support of players who choose to kneel as a form of protest.

Most recently, Denver Broncos President and CEO, Joe Ellis pledged the support of the organization for players who choose to kneel during the national anthem. "Everyone's got a right to do as they please, express themselves how they feel, and I'm going to respect that and we're going to respect that as an organization," Ellis said in a statement and quoted by the Denver Broncos website. Ellis went on to say "I think once we get down to 53, my guess is that the players will meet and convene and they'll want to do something as a team. I will be there to listen and learn, and it's been an eye-opening period of, what, about three months now. And as I've said, I'm going to respect whatever it is they decide to do. We're going to stand by that as an organization."

Clearly, protesting NFL players have gained the support of the NFL, but will they have the support of NFL fans? The message has been clear from the players, their protest is not a demonstration of disrespect to the flag or the military. Many players and coaches, at least publicly, have changed their response to the kneeling to support the effort, though they themselves may not be joining in the process.

It's possible that many NFL fans would prefer another form of protest, but given the current climate of racial tension across the country, are willing to "allow' the players this peaceful expression of protests. However, I've also seen on social media, those individuals who insist they will not watch the NFL this year if players are kneeling. Once again, we find ourselves divided as a nation, state, and community.

The question is, what side of the fence are you on? Answer the questions below and I'll share the results and some of the responses in a future post.

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