Dave Meggyesy and the legacy of dissent in the NFL

This weekend will mark Super Bowl LVII, one of the biggest events of the year for television viewership.

Many of us recall that in 2016, San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick used the visibility provided by the television platform in order to protest racial injustice in the United States by taking a knee during the National Anthem during NFL games.

But it’s less remembered that 50 years before Kaepernick’s protest, St. Louis Cardinals linebacker Dave Meggyesy also used the National Anthem as a time to make a political statement at NFL games. In the above clip, Meggyesy explains how he refused to place his hand on his heart to protest the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War.

In a 2017 interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Meggyesy said, “A columnist wrote a fairly scathing column about me. And there was sign, a big bed sheet that fans hung at the stadium that said, (implying communism) ‘BIG RED THINKS PINK.’”

Meggyesy’s National Anthem protest wasn’t his only act of dissent. In 1970, he wrote Out of Their League, a memoir about the dehumanizing aspects of football, from racism to rampant drug abuse. In the clip below, he speaks about some of those dehumanizing aspects, such as reveling in another player’s injury in the name of a good play.

In these clips, Meggyesy is speaking at an event in 1974 sponsored by Rising Up Angry, a Chicago-based radical youth organization founded by Michael James in 1969. In total, there are three 20-minute reels of black and white ½” video shot by Kartemquin Films viewable at Media Burn. In these videos, you can see the full spectrum of Meggyesy’s politics and how he believed football feeds into toxic masculinity in American culture. You can watch those clips here.



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