I narrative that I have seen since the teams that will be facing each other in Superbowl 50 is one of the comparison of Cam Newton and Huey P. Newton. Two black "panthers" who are/were unapologetically black. There is sometimes some outside pressure for star athletes to make overt stands on some social topics. Depending on what side of the social issue at the center of the debate some may be inclined to dismiss the players perspective or in a few instances attack player's characters because of the profession/ means to education that they choose.
Missouri's football team staged a strike standing in a movement called Concerned Student 1950 in regards to incidents of systemic racism See story here. Upon the presssure from the team, boosters and others former school president Tim Wolfe stood down. No doubt that the game is violent and that there some problems, however the team understood that they had the power to affect a change, The football program is a cash cow for the university and the threat that they would refuse to play would cost the school a good chunk of money. To make change sometimes one have to make some noise in ways that get folks thinking.
As someone who has played football, the united front is something that is value. It does seem to be an oxymoron. Family and trust forged through brutally tacking a teammate is confusing to explain.Maybe it has something to do with how we define masculinity. How praise physical strength and aggression (in the proper sphere). Again there is a lot of layers that are a part of football just like there are in most games