With diminished ratings, thanks in part to Colin Kaepernick’s protests, the NFL has been struggling to regain fans and be seen as a patriotic institution once again.
The NFL should be taking notes after a speech given at the Canton, Ohio NFL Football Hall of Fame ceremony on Saturday. Former NFL player LaDainian Tomlinson gave an amazing speech of unity and patriotism that had the audience on its feet with applause, according to Independent Journal Review.
Tomlinson played running back for 11 years, much of that time with the San Diego Chargers. He was admired by many. His excellent athletic performance led to his induction into the NFL Football Hall of Fame.
It was there that he gave an inspiring speech he described as the “final speech” he would give had it been his last day on earth.
Tomlinson started with the story of his great-great-great grandfather coming to America on a slave ship. At that time, his family’s surname was changed to Tomlinson. He talked of how he visited the land his great-great-great grandfather slaved over and how the sacrifices of his ancestors led to his freedom and opportunity today.
He spoke of unity and the greatness of America. “Football is a microcosm of America. All races, religions, and creeds living, playing, competing side by side. When you’re part of a team, you understand your teammates – their strengths and weaknesses – and work together toward the same goal, to win a championship. In this context, I advocate we become ‘Team America.’”
Tomlinson also made it clear that America provides an opportunity to all who choose to take it. “In sports, we’re evaluated on our desire, ability, and given a chance to compete. America is the land of opportunity. Let’s not slam the door on those who may look or sound different from us. Rather, let’s open it wide for those who believe in themselves, that anything is possible, and are willing to compete and take whatever risks are necessary to work hard, to succeed.”
He showed a patriotism that hasn’t been common in recent times. “I’m being inducted into the Hall of Fame because my athletic ability created an opportunity for me to excel in the sport I love. When we open the door for others to compete, we fulfill the promise of one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all,” he said.
His final words called on Americans to come together regardless of differences. “On America’s team, let’s not choose to be against one another. Let’s choose to be for one another,” Tomlinson concluded.
Tomlinson’s speech was amazing in that it appealed to all beliefs and creeds. Republicans were likely inspired by his patriotism and cooperation, and Democrats could also be inspired by his words of unity and acceptance. Everyone should be able to find hope and inspiration in his words.
His speech of unity wasn’t meant for one people, one group, or one party, it was meant for all Americans. At a time when political parties are at each other’s throats and voters for both sides are at odds, Tomlinson’s speech reminds us of what’s truly important.
The NFL should pay close attention to Tomlinson’s speech and use it as a model for how it should approach the game and its fans. Though many may believe Colin Kaepernick was a “hero” for refusing to stand because of his beliefs, a true hero is one who stands for them and brings people together instead of tearing them apart.
Let’s all seek to be better players on America’s team and stand for our beliefs.