Nate Burleson was raised in a sports family and his 11-year career in the National Football League was no accident. His father played professional football in the CFL and USFL, and his brothers played Division I sports, one of whom played briefly in the NBA with the Charlotte Bobcats.
His household was filled with winners who understand team dynamics. With his recent addition to the CBS NFL broadcasting team, Burleson will continue his spot-on analysis of the National Football League that started with his work over at the NFL Network.
Recently, I had the chance to discuss many hot topics that may impact the upcoming season for the viewer, and broadcasters like himself. Heres what he had to say.
The Shadow League: Whats your stance on Colin Kaepernick and the current trend of social activism and protesting that he has been the catalyst for?
Nate Burleson: I feel like the NFL is one of those brands that will continue to move while trying to adjust with whats going on on a daily basis. I started in ’03 and one thing I recognize immediately is the NFL is going to address whats going on as far as social issues, the national anthem and individual players. The great things they do off the field, the terrible things they do off the field. You know like I know, the NFL parallels society. Theres great things we see from our brothers and sisters and the important things we see from our brothers and sisters. I feel like the responsibility for the league is to continue to look in the mirror, see the reflection, then move accordingly. We cant turn a blind eye to things, we cant act like protests arent happening.
TSL: And how do you think the NFL can move forward positively from here?
NB: We gotta hear what people are talking about, whether theyre in support of Colin Kaepernick or whether they arent in support. The one thing I appreciate about CBS is that theyre not gonna try to quiet us. Its the main reason why I can take a job and when Im asked about a question, I can speak my mind.
I think the most important thing is, as a network and league, that they cant just put people in front of the shield to remain quiet because of the idea of the brand, but ones who arent afraid and can speak up and have that dialogue. Thats the most important thing. Will it hurt the league? I cant tell you that. I never paid attention to that as a player. I feel like were gonna keep moving, but if were gonna keep moving weve got to stop and pay attention to whats going on in society. Its the only thing and its the right thing.
Calvin Johnson 1-on-1 with Nate Burleson (NFL Network Feature)
Produced by Mandon Lovett for the NFL Network
TSL: Ezekiel Elliott has been suspended six games by the NFL for a domestic violence incident that was dismissed by the court system. Do you think thats fair?
NB: I cant be completely dismissive to the alleged victim. So, I cant just act like a football player whos protecting a football player. At the same time, Im not going to call the man guilty if I dont know all the facts. As a guy whos been in that position to have seen individuals make mistakes and deal with the cause and effects of those mistakes, and also have been around individuals who have been falsely accused, Im not saying thats the case here, but Ive seen both ends of the spectrum. I have to be patient enough to take the football approach first and say, “This is whats going to happen to this offense.”
If youre a fan of the game, this is how its going to impact the running game moving forward with that offense. Now, with all that, whatever comes of Ezekiel Elliott as a player in the National Football League whos not only a star but a superstar in this league, you have to be very careful of the positions you put yourself in.
Whether its the circle you keep or even the family you have…and the relationships that you get yourself into and out of, and how you get in and out of them. I can speak more on it when the details come out and the league puts their stamp on it. But I will say this though; at some point the league will have to start dealing with certain issues parallel to the law of the land.
If something is dismissed from a certain jurisdiction then how can we as a league marry those two things and come to the same conclusion. Theres a lot of fans in Dallas saying, “If its dismissed there how can you suspend him here?” Its one of those things where as we keep moving forward as a brand, as things continue to happen you have to hop off the train and say, “Alright, the next time were in this situation”
Ill end it with this, I can appreciate the NFL being proactive and saying Heres six games. Good, bad or indifferent, theyre saying we cant stand for this. We can always pull six games off the table and say “Ok, you can play week one.” But what you cant do is dismiss something completely then try to backtrack and make up for it. I think in years past, not just in the NFL but in professional sports in general, teams have been too late. Thats when you get the bad reactions, not only from that particular team but from fans as a whole.