It’s Thursday as I write this and NFL players are back at practice, banging heads, as is required in this gladiator sport, and, in too many cases, practicing their kneel-downs for Sunday. There is still verbal small-arms fire between the NFL and President Trump over whether the league and team owners should allow players to use pre-game time to disrespect America by claiming it to be a racist hellhole where black citizens are hounded and oppressed. It isn’t. And they shouldn’t.
OK, like many others, I hope our Donald is paying closer attention to Kim Jong-Un and his merry men than he is to Roger Goodell and his buffed and obstreperous employees. But make no mistake, NFL players showing their disrespect and contempt for America is an important cultural and political issue, one that bears on whether we will remain the United States of America, or whether identify politics warriors are going to be allowed to turn America’s melting pot into a pressure cooker that will scald us all.
Those who say Donald Trump will pay a political price for taking this stand are wrong. Trump is far closer to the heart of most Americans on this one than those who are hyperventilating over his “divisive” remarks. The polls on this have confirmed what we already knew. A large majority of Americans want players to show respect rather than contempt during the playing of the anthem.
One doesn’t have to be paying very close attention at all to see that it was the players and their enablers who were and are helping divide the country on racial lines, not those, including Trump, who object to their behavior. The left is following its standard operating procedure on this one, which goes in this wise: Do or say something outrageous, and then claim that anyone who objects to your outrageousness is being “divisive.”
The chatterati and high profile Democrats have spent this scratchy week claiming that athletes have a right to protest. This is true. In this instance it’s also a non-sequitur. Of course all Americans have a right to protest, even to protest phony problems ginned up by a political party that needs all black votes to survive, a media that loves conflict, virtue-signaling Hollywood airheads, and leftist hell raisers of various stripes who will use anything to disturb the peace. But, as many have pointed out this week, employers have a right to restrict speech and behavior on the job. (Wear your Trump for president button to work at any trendy American corporation and see how long it takes security to march you and your pink slip off the property.)
NFL team owners and officials have every right, and in my view obligation as patriots, to tell their players that when the national anthem strikes up, it’s on your feet or out the door. Protest, for either worthy or crackpot causes, on your own time. When you put the uniform on you’re about football and nothing else. Stick your thumb in the paying customers’ eyes and you’re gone. The NFL, and most team owners, have made a decision not only to tolerate this despicable behavior, but to praise it. There should be consequences for this, and there likely will be.
Sensible Americans don’t have to support this silliness perpetuated by pampered and self-indulgent malcontents. Early data on NFL attendance and TV ratings for this season show that many Americans, including those who really love football, are not going along with the gag. It will be interesting to see how many more people this weekend take up Trump’s invitation (and mine) to blow off the NFL. I’ve enjoyed watching football for decades now. But I can live nicely without it, thank you. The fall is a beautiful time of year, and there are many things to do of a Sunday afternoon other than watch Odell Beckham Jr. do impersonations of various animals’ bathroom habits. (What a knee-slapper that was, Odell. Really classy. And, by the way, where did you get that cheap carpet sample you wear on your head?)
What if Roger Goodell put on a football game and nobody came? Now there’s a beautiful thought. Would a genuine threat to the financial foundation of the $14 billion industry the NFL has become convince Goodell et al. how America has blessed them? It would be nice to find out. Clearly nothing short of this will do the trick.
Wishing all TAS readers a happy and football-free Sunday.