While the NFL and its Players Association struggle to find a solution to suit both sides on the national anthem controversy, can we at least stop with the false narratives about why four Jaguars – Telvin Smith, Leonard Fournette, Jalen Ramsey and T.J. Yeldon -- and others who chose to not come out for “The Star-Spangled Banner” in preseason openers made those decisions.

It’s fair to disagree or be offended by those choices, but please stop with any notion that these NFL players are disrespecting the military, police, firemen, veterans or anybody deemed to fit the image of true Americans. They are simply protesting, in a peaceful manner, what they believe is social injustice on different fronts in this country.

They’re fully aware many people take exception to their form of protest and still vilify them for it. But to suggest that these players are ungrateful for the privilege of playing in the NFL or are any less American than anybody else is pure fiction.

Smith made it a point after the Jaguars’ 24-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints to say how much he respects the military, wearing his salute-to-service cleats. The Jaguars’ linebacker also hosted a football camp before training camp began for kids in the 13-16 age group, which provides an outlet of hope and goal-setting for youth at an impressionable age. Smith is also one of the NFL’s friendliest, people-pleasing players, not exactly the profile of somebody feeling entitled or anti-American.

Fournette rarely misses an opportunity to give back to the people of New Orleans or his Louisiana high school alma mater, St. Augustine. He talks to kids at the same Boys & Girls Club that used to be his haven, and recently paid off the college tuition bill for an athletic trainer he knew at LSU. So if Fournette chooses not to come out for the national anthem, does that make him unpatriotic when the Jaguars’ running back is making an honest effort to help fellow Americans in other ways?

It’s fair to disagree with NFL players not coming out for the anthem or raising a fist/taking a knee as a form of protest. Just don’t get the idea that gesture makes them worthy of scorn and ridicule. See what each protestor does with the rest of their lives before painting them as un-American. . . .

>> Jaguars among NFL teams with players that resumed national anthem protests on Thursday night

>> Gene Frenette: Takeaways from Jaguars’ loss to Saints, players’ anthem absence

Antonio Callaway, the troubled ex-Florida receiver whose draft stock plummeted until the Cleveland Browns stopped his free fall in the fourth round, is living proof that a knucklehead gene doesn’t go away just because a football player leaves college for the NFL.

The former Gator, cited for marijuana possession just as he was making inroads toward a starting job, will never maximize his potential until he grows up. It’d be quite a story if Callaway, who had a 54-yard TD catch in his first preseason game, and the Browns had a rebirth at the same time. But I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen. . . .

Watching the Pro Football Hall of Fame acceptance speeches, it was nice to see most of the recipients focused on thanking the people on their journey to Canton. Few moments were more touching than Raines High product Brian Dawkins, midway through his talk, presenting wife, Connie, with a gold shawl. And then there was Ray Lewis, prancing around the stage like a preacher with a wireless mic and making his speech mostly about him. Not a surprise. . . .

Here’s my question for President Trump and others spouting negativity about LeBron James: what other superstar athlete is investing real time and money in funding the education of at-risk kids? James is a hero off the court far more than Michael Jordan ever thought of being in his playing career. . . .

Memo to Jalen Hurts: One way to lose ground on the starting job as Alabama quarterback is to publicly whine about how people aren’t being sensitive to your feelings. It’s a safe bet Nick Saban isn’t losing sleep over it. . . .

First Coast News sports reporter Alyssa Lang is going to Charlotte to join the SEC Network and will also host Carolina Panthers’ GameDay on Sunday nights. With FCN colleague Brian Chojnacki joining the update desk at ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney, the movement among Jacksonville sports TV personalities has rarely been at this level. Don’t be surprised if there’s more in the works.

 

gfrenette@jacksonville.com: (904) 359-4540