NFL’s defense of free speech can’t be a short-term thing

Bret Stephens, a conservative New York Times columnist, recently lamented in a speech the shortcomings of civics education in the United States.

“Younger Americans seem to have no grasp of what our First Amendment says, much less the kind of speech it protects,’’ Stephens said.

The NFL stepped into the void this past weekend with a civics lesson on free speech with its protests during the national anthem about racial inequality and police violence against African-Americans.

The protests ramped up after Donald Trump criticized the protests, and many Americans agreed with Trump even though America was founded on dissent and sprotesting is part of our way of life.

Critics say protests during the national anthem are not American, but they are very American. The players aren’t showing disrespect, but respect for American ideals.

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It’s a start, but NFL needs to do more to stand up to racist bully Trump

Donald Trump has done the impossible now that he’s added the NFL to his list of bullying targets.

He’s united the NFL players and owners.

After his rant Friday night in Alabama calling for, among other things, “son of a bitches” who protest during the national anthem to be fired and for fans to leave the stadium if players protest, the reaction was swift Saturday from both owners and players.

They are together on this issue, arm-in-arm like brothers.

Commissioner Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith, the head of the NFLPA, both issued statements.

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Colts suddenly looking hapless and hopeless again

It looks like the bad old days are back for the Indianapolis Colts.

After the Colts made their midnight move from Baltimore in 1984, they didn’t win 10 games until Peyton Manning’s second season in 1999.

They then posted seasons with double-digit victories 11 times and went to two Super Bowls, winning one.

When Manning was injured in 2011, the Colts went 2-14 — but that was a good year to get the first pick in the draft. It gave them a chance to start over with Andrew Luck.

Owner Jimmy Irsay released Manning, when went on to appear in two Super Bowls with the Broncos, winning one – and fired general manager Bill Polian and coach Jim Caldwell. He replaced them with Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano.

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QB-less Texans’ continuing mediocrity is entirely their own fault

When the Houston Texans open the season Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, it will likely be an emotional scene.

It will be the Texans’ first game since the city of Houston was devastated by the floods from Hurricane Harvey.

The Texans have already dedicated their season to Houston, and star J.J. Watt has done an amazing job of raising millions for the victims.

From a football standpoint, though, there’s another interesting storyline. Both teams have shown how it can take a team years to overcome a mistake at the quarterback position.

And both made a huge mistake in the 2014 draft when they both passed on Derek even though they both needed a quarterback.

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When will the NFL realize the Kaepernick issue isn’t going away?

Most of my younger readers have probably never heard of Frank Serpico.

He was a New York City police officer whose campaign against police corruption was chronicled in the 1973 movie “Serpico.’’ He was played by Al Pacino. It’s a very good movie, by the way.

Anyway, it turns out Serpico is now 81 and still an idealist.

He turned out at a rally Saturday of about 75 mostly minority police officers who gathered in Brooklyn wearing black shirts reading “imwithkap.’’

Kap, of course, is Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who remains unsigned after refusing to stand for the national anthem last year.

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Bortles’ garbage-time stats are another damning indictment

“Blake Bortles is the Tom Brady of Garbage Time,’’ blared the headline on the fivethirtyeight.com website.

The site is noted for crunching the numbers on political issues, but also covers sports. And Michael Salvino studied the numbers on Blake Bortles, the fourth-year Jaguars quarterback, for the past two seasons.

It turns out he was the best quarterback in the league in garbage time the past two years. Garbage time is defined on being down by nine or more points with four minutes or fewer left.

There has been a perception that Bortles tends to put up meaningless numbers in garbage time and Salvino’s research shows it is true.

Bortles completed 78 of 118 passes for 964 yards and 12 touchdowns and just four picks with a passer rating of 111 in garbage time. Tom Brady, who barely even knows what garbage time in a loss feels like, had a 112 passer rating for the season last year.

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Already past time for Ravens to make up their minds on Kaepernick

When is the last time an NFL team issued a statement saying its owner isn’t preventing the general manager and coach from signing a player?

That’s just what the Baltimore Ravens did Wednesday.

“We are going through a process and have not made a decision,’’ the statement said. “Steve Bisciotti has not told us we cannot sign Colin Kaepernick, nor has he blocked the move. Whoever is making these claims is wrong.’’

That is just one more example that the Kaepernick story isn’t going away any time soon.

ESPN’s Dianna Russini had reported that general manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh support signing Kaepernick but have met resistance from Bisciotti.

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