A bully pulpit by definition is a “position of authority that provides its occupant with an outstanding opportunity to speak out on any issue.”
NFL players may not have positions of authority, but they definitely have an outstanding opportunity to speak out on any issue. When Colin Kaepernick remained seated during the National Anthem, people noticed. People in the media noticed, and many asked Kaepernick why he’d made the choice to sit rather than follow standard etiquette during the Star Spangled Banner.
Here’s where the bully pulpit comes in. Any ordinary fan could sit or kneel, and no one would notice. Any ordinary office worker could choose to sit rather than follow flag and anthem guidelines. There might be consequences, but no one outside the office would know. Professional athletes have an opportunity to make a statement in a very public way. Remember Green Bay Packer Reggie White? He made religion a part of his mission in life. When Reggie retired from football, he lost his bully pulpit. People knew who he was and what he had to say, but he no longer had the renown he’d enjoyed as Minister of Defense. What did he do? He joined the Carolina Panthers.
Agree or disagree with Kaepernick’s actions, support his movement or not, it’s impossible to look past him kneeling while the rest of the team stands. He sticks out. He’s on national television. The photographers surround him. Spectators will pay attention.
My question for the young man is this: did he think through the consequences of his actions before he knelt? Did he realize that he would stir up a storm? Our first amendment gives him the right to speak out in this way. Was he aware that the world would be watching? Did he make his choices privately, or did he make his decision knowing that as an NFL football player, his bully pulpit was second to none?