Why Everyone is Wrong About the NFL "Protests"
This whole taking a knee stunt has more than worn out its welcome. From the start it was missing the point of the playing of the National Anthem to begin with. But so was almost all of the reaction to it. First let's clarify what the "protest" has been from the beginning. It was a stunt to get camera time by a few players who can't seem to get enough attention just playing a kid's game for money. But when a fuss was raised, the me-too middle school stunts began to spread. First we were told the players were protesting police brutality (far below 1% of the interactions by police that are actually confrontational. Even less than that of the total interactions police have with civilians.) Then when that got laughed off the stage, we were told they were sitting on the bench or taking a knee to protest racism in general. That didn't make a lot of sense coming from people who were making tens of millions of dollars and hadn't heard the word "no" since early puberty. When so challenged, one player said it wasn't protesting, but praying. Anything wrong with praying? Uh...yeah, right. When the NFL Commissioner started to make a little noise about it, it was back to protesting racism again. Only this time we were told we needed to feel sorry for the players, by that great philosopher, Shiela Jackson Lee (who should be kicked out of Congress because she is named after two slaveholders). She said the players were actually being treated like slaves. With a name like that? She's such a hypocrite. The fluid reasoning is its own lie. By simply acknowledging all the different explanations we can rightfully dismiss the whole charade as just getting camera time and doing the whole me-too routine.
When the Cure Is Worse Than the Disease.
Enter the critics. I am not disgusted with the people spouting out against the players childishness as I am with the players and their cowardly employers. But I completely disagree with their reasoning too. I have heard and read repeatedly that the biggest offense ongoing here was the lack of respect for the sacrifices made by our military. If you protest during the playing of the anthem you must hate America and not care about veterans and our war dead. Sorry guys, but you can't know what anyone including NFL players think about that. And the playing of the anthem was not intended to be a salute to the military. If, when it is played, you are moved to remember such sacrifice, that's a good thing. But that is your reaction. You cannot correctly criticize anyone for not thinking about battles and death when the anthem plays because you do. That's projecting your wishes on the motivations of others. Some criticize the disrespect to the flag itself. If you feel the flag is something venerable, people who are religious might take issue with that because they only know one thing that rises to such a status. But that's okay. And YOUR reaction to the song and the National Ensign is none of their business anyway. And again, that's a good thing...for you. But for many, including myself, the flag is just a pretty piece of cloth symbolizing the nation we are feting in the anthem or pledging our allegiance to (far too infrequently). It isn't the flag so much as the nation; the incredible experiment it represents. In that, a real protest, one in which people actually knew what they were protesting, gains legitimacy. So to dismiss it on the basis of patriotism defies logic.
So Why Is the Protest Silly?
The playing of the National Anthem during a sporting event goes as far back as 1862. By World War II it was pretty much a tradition. The playing of the song, as a tradition, was never intended to make a values statement about America per se. It was not a way to, game after game, declare our pride in our military. It certainly isn't intended to stoke martial feelings against the rest of the world. When played at large gatherings it is intended to remind us, despite our differences, that we here, gathered on a happy occasion, no matter our creed, race or other differences, are all a part of something larger than ourselves. Even larger than our military. Literally, despite whatever is going on outside this arena, we remember now that we are still one people. No matter what your pleasure or grievance with society, today we are here to enjoy an event together. The playing of the national anthem simply places the only all-encompassing umbrella over the arena. Unless you are a visitor to this country, you are undeniably a part of this group. For this moment, before the players take the field, we have a happy way to appreciate this oneness - fleeting though it may be. As I said before on this subject there may be a gay man in the stadium who will tomorrow be marching for gay rights. There may be people who think the President is an idiot. There may be military people who worry that the country is going to hell on a rocket sled, and so on. But we still occupy the same soil. We still face the same challenges on some level, day in and day out. And like it or not, we indeniably share a history. We all have far more in common than we have differences - despite what you may hear outside the ball field. That is a simple fact. So when the players turn their backs on that, it is out of ignorance and misses the point of the moment. When people angrily say their interpretation of the moment is being ignored, they too are missing the point. For people, especially our challenged President to call them sonsofbitches, is unhelpful. For the players to keep making up stories about why they play up for the cameras is laughable.
Freedom of Speech? Yeah, Not the Point At ALL!
Finally, the whole "freedom of speech" thing has been the most perverted argument by both sides. Here are the facts: Rules governing the play of the game in the NFL are silent on this issue. However, the NFL team manual states unequivocally that the players will be on the field before the anthem and will stand respectfully during its playing. This is not a suggestion. It comes with penalties which include loss of revenues and draft picks. It's a rule. The cowardly silence by the NFL and team owners is an example of why we are the society we are. We only follow the rules when it is convenient. Worried that a star player might get his panties in a bunch league leadership kept silent on the issue, other than a few non-committal non-statements. Finally, before the start of the 2018-19 season they said that there would be no more anthem protests. Sadly, the union cried foul and the NFL rolled over again. So, until the team owners come up with a pair of gonads between them, the players are INDEED free to express themselves contrary to the manual. But at any time, the team owners can assert their correct authority and tell the players that while they wear the uniform, they will represent the club as instructed. If a player has the courage of his convictions and thinks he needs to exercise his free speech rights on matters of race or anything else, he is free to remove the uniform, forego his pay, go out to a public space and on his own time make his best case. But in a private relationship, where one is paid to follow rules, public speech rights do not apply. It is for the same reason, military members are not permitted by law anyway, from public protests against any level of government in uniform. It is wrong to represent your service while making such statements for your own reasons. This has been abused often in the last decade. Most frequently, I've seen members protest over gay issues while in uniform. Again, afraid of an empty outcry, leaders didn't enforce the rules. I don't have a problem with gays in the military. But the rules say, quite correctly and for good reason, that when you are protesting, you are not a representative of the U.S. Armed forces and should not be in uniform during a public demonstration - or even in a media interview. So the free speech cries from the NFL kneelers get as much sympathy from me as the cries about being treated as slaves. C'mon gang. The tantrum has played itself out. Your fans now see you as drama queens. If you believe any of what you claim I would expect to see you all on the streets carrying signs and fighting the good fight. But on game day stand up, rejoin your fellow citizens, enjoy the moment and then play some ball. If we can't do that, none of what you claim to be protesting will ever be solved. Don't be a political pansy! Read Street Politics: It Ain't Your Daddy's GOP Anymore! Available on Amazon. Let's demand good governance!
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