NFL Players’ Union Four-Square for Disrespecting America
Larry Thornberry
by

It’s about football, so I guess a misdirection play is not out of place. And check out the misdirection in the headline above a wire story in Tuesday’s Tampa Bay Times, a reliable leftwing newsletter published in St. Petersburg and servicing the entire Tampa Bay Area. (I purposely say “servicing,” rather than “serving,” and those with the barest familiarity with animal husbandry will know what I mean.) The headline reads: “Pence’s anthem exit, Jones’ decree elevate clash.”

Get it? Show any objection to anti-American slander and hot-dogging, or attempt to set reasonable rules of respectful behavior, and you’re elevating a clash.

Of course the headline refers to Vice President Mike Pence walking out of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Sunday, the site of an NFL game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers. Pence and his bride left the stadium after 15 to 20 members of the 49ers took a knee during the playing of the national anthem. 49ers safety Eric Reed helpfully explained that he and his teammates were refusing to give the anthem, the flag, and thereby America, the respect expected of citizens because blacks in America are subjected to “systematic oppression.” He said this oppression has been “rampant in this country for decades on top of decades.”

The rampant oppression of black Americans Reid and others have been banging on about has to be believed to be seen. Pence explained his departure by saying he would, “not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our flag, or our national anthem.” Reid called Pence’s departure “a PR stunt.” He didn’t say if he thought players taking a knee or giving the black power salute during the anthem were also engaging in a PR stunt. And apparently no journalist was nimble enough to ask him.

The Jones referred to in the headline is Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who announced this week that any Cowboy players who show disrespect for the flag would be benched. Hallelujah and jubilee! I wondered if any NFL owner would show even the faintest trace of testosterone in this sorry business.

And this helps clear up the considerable confusion caused by Jones’ weird do-si-do a couple of weeks ago before a game with the Arizona Cardinals when he and his Cowboy teammates locked arms, took a knee before the anthem, and then stood up. Huh? This double-dismount and sleight-of-hand caused me to suspect that Jones might soon be seeking public office. The stunt showed Jones to be adept at showing that he feels very strongly both ways on emotional public issues. I’m delighted to learn he has finally achieved some level of clarity on this, though we’ve yet to see how much resolve he will have if one of his overpriced employees insists on continuing to stick a thumb in the eye of most of Jerry’s patriotic paying customers. What he said seems clear enough, and difficult to retreat from:

“If there’s anything that is disrespectful to the flag, then we will not play. OK? Understand? If we are disrespecting the flag, then we won’t play. Period.”

Yes, Jerry, we do understand. That’s as clear as spring water, and exactly what is called for.

Jones’s new policy not only clarifies where he stands but led the NFL players’ union to declare as well. NFL Players’ Association executive director DeMaurice Smith called Jones’ comments and policy “provocative” and said they contradicted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s assurances that NFL players could engage in political protests on company time without retribution. He hinted the union might raise hell about this.

“I look forward to the day when everyone in management can unite and truly embrace and articulate what the flag stands for, liberty and justice for all, instead of some of them just talking about standing,” Smith said. Anyone who wishes to try to unpack whatever this might mean is welcome to try.

Jones’s new and clear policy indeed does contradict what the commish said. And thank God for it. Jones has made it clear that he will not stand still for his players disrespecting the flag, the anthem, and the country. The players’ union, vague statements notwithstanding, has made it clear that they are four-square for disrespecting America. Despicable on the union’s part. But good to know who stands for what.

Larry Thornberry
Larry Thornberry
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Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.
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