It no longer is about kneeling at the start of football games. Rather, it is about the soul of America.
So many of us have not seen it slipping away, but it took President Donald Trump to call our attention, in his recent remarks about the National Football League (NFL), to the fight we now must engage to save the soul of America. This President was elected by people who had given up on the electoral process and who had found themselves voiceless amid the “inside baseball” politics of Washington. Certainly the Democrats were not speaking for us, but neither were the Republicans. After the eight glorious years of Reagan, we found that we had won a battle for America’s soul but inadvertently also had planted seeds for losing a war over that soul within the Republican party. To get elected, Reagan felt he needed to nod towards the party leadership by bringing in a Bush for Vice President. George H.W. Bush had mocked Reagan’s free-market vision and Laffer Curve as “Voodoo economics.” And suddenly our Reagan Presidency and its soul were stolen by the Republican Establishment for the next three decades.
We were lied to by George H.W. Bush, who told us to read his lips when he promised “no new taxes.” Bush lied, and the economy died. By 1988 we just could not come out to vote for him in droves. Some of us, genetically incapable of voting Democrat, held our noses and even voted for Ross Perot. We ended up with Bill Clinton backing his Arkansas trailer into the White House, elected with a pathetically small 43% of the votes cast.
Thus began the long Republican midnight. Bob Dole of Kansas was next, a nice enough conservative guy, a bona fide war hero, but not someone to carry the Reagan revolution and America into the next millennium. Alas, as the Republicans’ leader in the Senate, it was “his turn.” So Bill Clinton got a second “freebie” and found himself elected once again with less than 50% of the vote, while Dole embodied the Republican establishment by proceeding to do Viagra commercials. We then got two terms of George W. Bush — because Gore would have been so much worse, even though he had invented the internet, and Kerry-Edwards were two Johns whom subsequent history would prove we had to avoid. The new Bush again mixed mushy Republican establishment quasi-conservatism that barely addressed the demands of the day, while expending tax dollars to build bridges to nowhere, and again the economy died. He failed to impose truly conservative responses to the Clinton Democrats’ initiatives that had destroyed responsible mortgage lending in the country, and we all paid the terrible price. He took America into adventurist endeavors overseas that aimed at superimposing American Western values of freedom and democracy onto people whose cultures and societies rejected the regime changes. For so many of them, all they really wanted was to know that, if they liked their suicide bombs, they could keep their suicide bombs. In the end, he destroyed a part of the world that once luxuriated in a beautiful war between Saddam Hussein and the Ayatollahs that had seen Iraq and Iran killing each other for nearly a decade while embroiling us in one mess after another that cost us human treasure and killed our economy.
And then came McCain and Romney. The former had been a bona fide war hero in the late 1960s who somehow had become so politically emasculated forty years later that by 2008 that he could not stand up to Barack Obama in presidential debates, even though we already knew that Obama had been in bed with Tony Rezko, with the Reverend Wright, and with the unrepentant terrorist, Bill Ayers. We knew that Obama was a fraud and an empty suit who had accomplished nothing in his single term in the United States Senate, building on a remarkably undistinguished career in Illinois politics, where he made his mark by voting “present” rather than standing for issues. This, a Barack Obama who earlier had been made president of Harvard Law Review even though he had not — and still never has — published a single piece of original legal scholarship. McCain could not stand up to that emptiness. And Romney could not even stand up to Candy Crowley.
By the time we got to 2016, we had no voice we could trust, even as we perceived we were losing the soul of America. Everyone wanted the Republican nomination, but we seemed to have no voice in their number. The 613 Republican presidential candidates all promised us at least some right things in debate after debate, but we knew we could not trust any of them to follow up if elected except for Ted Cruz and — maybe — Donald Trump. All the others would turn their backs on us after the elections, as the Bushes had done, as the Doles and McCains and Romneys were “etch-a-sketching” to do. And we knew that, if we nominated Cruz, he probably would not get elected. So we were looking at a choice between Hillary and her divisive Village of Identity Politics and a Republican who probably would give us much of what Hillary would give us: continued porous borders on the south with a defeatist concession ultimately to grant amnesty to everyone here illegally, continued adherence to the antiquated and brutally unfair tax code that has driven trillions of American investment dollars overseas, a declining health system propelled to destruction by a disastrous Obamacare initiative that Republicans would not willingly take down, and continued trade deals and other buddy-buddy agreements in Washington that somehow seem always to leave the Democrat minority ruling the roost and Republicans in Congress with gold-standard personal health plans exempt from Obamacare.
So, without a voice and without a realistic alternative on the debating platforms to emerge as our voice, we elected Trump because enough of us believed he was our last best shot and our only shot. That we were one election from losing America. We elected him not only to serve as the nation’s chief executive but also to be our voice. And this past week, once again, despite all the media mockery, Donald Trump has been our voice.
We just do not have the platform or microphone the President has, but we all have despised Colin Kaepernick for a year since the first time that lunkhead publicly disrespected our flag and anthem. We all have turned away from following sports on ESPN. For decades we have been sick and tired of watching the Left steal our venues of television and movie entertainment, our newsmedia, our universities. But damn if we will let them steal our football. For so many of us, Colin Kaepernick was not about that one over-tattooed moron whose team ended the season with two wins and fourteen losses — itself a wonderful reason to kneel on the ground in front of 70,000 people — but about the soul of America.
When Tim Tebow would kneel on a goal line in gratitude to Heaven after leading his team to a touchdown, the Left media excoriated him. Tebow did it often, and he was hounded out of the public square. The analysts thundered against him because the Left now had imported its war for the soul of America into sports. But when Kaepernick publicly disrespected the flag and anthem of the United States of America, he was lauded for bravery and for exercising his First Amendment freedoms.
Are the First Amendment freedoms sacrosanct in sports? We saw the answer when the equally moronic Donald Sterling, then owner of the Los Angeles Clippers of the National Basketball Association, was recorded by his erstwhile mistress as criticizing her for attending Clippers games in the presence of a prominent African-American NBA star. The shocking racism uttered within private kitchen talk and telephone conversing between the screwy racist billionaire and his manipulative mistress was enough to induce the NBA to force Sterling out of the league, compelling him amid his kicking-and-screaming to sell his team. His First Amendment freedoms did not save his ownership.
OK. Lesson learned. There is no crying in baseball, and the First Amendment does not protect the profane and offensive in professional sports.
The First Amendment does not shield the employment of any athlete who disrespects our flag and our anthem. These tuition-free “college grads” from the universes of college football and college basketball — and if you have heard them interviewed after important plays or big wins, you may draw your own conclusions about the state of American higher education — suddenly are paid millions and tens of millions of dollars for throwing a ball, or catching it, or running with it, or knocking someone over. They are the luckiest beneficiaries of America’s bounty and freedoms. And we who pay the exorbitantly priced tickets to attend the games, to park in the lots, to buy the concession snacks that support these lunkheads, just so happen to be among America’s proudest citizens, the deepest lovers of the flag. We know the words to the national anthem, and we sing them proudly, hand over heart, as we rise with proud attention and deep reverence for the stars and stripes that represent 241 years of freedom and the blood shed by so many heroes to protect those freedoms for us today.
If Donald Sterling could be forced out of the NBA for abusing his First Amendment rights to speak his racist mind, so should these Colins and Semi-Colins who barely can articulate what the Constitution stands for as they kneel. The National Football League is a private enterprise, and the teams exist to make a profit. The owners are not loyal to their cities or fans but to their own pockets. For decades, when they could make more money elsewhere, the NFL deserted Los Angeles. Now they have deserted other California cities to make a buck in L.A. For them, despite their immediate defiance of President Trump, it is all about making a buck off our backs. And if their employees’ kneeling during the national anthem starts costing them millions of dollars in empty venues boycotted by former fans, they won’t need their teams to be called the “Patriots” to lead the charge defending the flag.
When I was a boy, I followed boxing. I was mesmerized by Cassius Clay as he prepared to fight Sonny Liston. One day a rabbi spoke to me and asked me whether it accorded with the high values of the Torah I had been studying to take an affinity towards a sport where one human being, created in G-d’s image, pummeled the daylights out of another. I realized that secular society had pulled one over on me. I never watched another boxing match, and I proudly know nothing at all about boxing, wrestling, or anything — except for a bunch of hubbub about some woman named Ronda Rousey who apparently was invincible and unbeatable and then apparently got the stuffing kicked out of her, once and again.
Having learned to live without boxing, I also can live without football if I have to. Until this weekend, I had no voice, though. Why boycott a game if no one is doing so but me? And then President Trump, as he has done so often since his election, emerged as my voice on yet another issue, the fight for the soul of America. And so, here is my way of joining the movement on this one:
For more than fifty years, I have been a fan of both the New York Giants (with some moments of real joy) and the New York Jets (don’t ask). Even as I have lived in Los Angeles these past thirty years, my heart is in the east though I am in the utmost end of the west. If the day ever comes when a single player on either team kneels during the national anthem, I will wait two weeks for my team to resolve the matter. I do not care whether they publicly apologize, force the player to apologize publicly, fire or trade the player, or even just come to a private behind-the-scenes agreement with the player that he never kneel again. And if that matter is not solved by the team in one of those ways within two weeks, I will never again follow that team or spend another penny or moment on them — just as I have stopped watching ESPN and would not watch any game that my Jets played last season against the Kaepernick team. (’Twas a shame missing the December 11 Jets overtime win against the 49ers, but principle matters.)
And in support of President Trump, I boycotted all football on Sunday, September 24. Amazing how much extra life an American can live and experience if he takes the flag-hating football teams out of his and her Sunday routine. When enough of us follow, and those team owners feel our patriotism in their pockets and pants seats, their hearts and minds will follow.