When players started kneeling for the national anthem, the reaction broke down into three separate categories:
“Good for them, exercising their first amendment rights and using the only pulpit they have to protest injustice.”
“How dare they not stand for the anthem! It’s disrespectful to the flag and troops! The troops!”
“Who gives a shit?”
Well, people did give a shit. One specific group of people, a loud group currently led by the President of the United States and his incoherent, grammatically-challenged Twitter feed. (Besides the stupidity and lies found on that feed, I’m always fascinated by the words Mr. Trump chooses to capitalize. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it. He just randomly chooses a words and CAPS.)
Suddenly, the sideline became the big story.
State Television – Fox News – started blaming the kneeling players for the league’s declining TV ratings every single night on every single show. Oddly, the company pushed this narrative while preparing a $3.3 billion offer for the league’s Thursday Night Football package, which they acquired in January. It’s almost like those folks had an ulterior motive behind what they were incorrectly stating about television ratings. Almost like they were trying to devalue the package.
[Side note: I worked for Nielsen for several years in their television department. No issue has been more incorrectly reported than the TV ratings issue. But here’s what you need to know. TV ratings are declining across the board. NFL football ratings are declining at a much slower rate than the rest of the medium. It has actually INCREASED the value of the commodity. And now with sports gambling, look out.]
A lot of other shit went down too. Bob McNair and the “inmates”. The Steelers debacle at Soldier Field. Whatever the hell Jerry Jones and the Cowboys did that one time. But it was this ratings debate – the economic one – that seemed to truly bother Roger Goodell at the home office on Park Avenue. With the NFL, it’s always money.
So now there is a new policy regarding the anthem. I’ll break it down simply.
- Players don’t have to come out for the anthem. They can stay in the locker room.
- If they come out for the anthem, they have to stand.
- If they don’t stand, the team is subject to league fines from the league.
- The team also has the ability to fine players for not standings.
This last point is the interesting one. Players don’t work the league. They work for individual teams. The Jets and Niners have already come out to say they won’t be fining players for kneeling. If that’s the case, with more teams certain to follow, why did the NFL even wade into these waters? What is achieved by this legislation?
My thoughts on this entire issue are simple. The national anthem should not be played at NFL games. Attending sporting events is not a patriotic endeavor. It’s a fucking game. A third of the crowd is hammered by the time they play the song anyway and another third of the crowd is getting a beer or grabbing a last-minute piss. If they must play the song, players should be able to do whatever the hell they want during it. Why? Because this is America. And that’s their right.
But the NFL’s policy statement makes its most egregious error in line one:
1. All team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.
No, these protests were never about the flag. They were never about the troops or the song. But that doesn’t even matter. Players have the right to protest THOSE THINGS too. There’s no law in this country that we have to respect our flag and honor our troops. Many of us do because we love the country but I have news for you: there’s no law stating we have to love our country either. The first amendment isn’t about the freedom to say things that are convenient. Saying convenient things doesn’t require Constitutional protections. Saying challenging things does.
I love The Masters. I hate Augusta National. I now feel the same about football. I love professional football in this country. I hate the National Football League.
Oh, and the players seems really happy about the new rule.
The new anthem policy states that players “shall stand and show respect for the flag and anthem.” Issue with this: it implies that those that kneeled weren’t respecting the flag. Furthering the false idea that the protests were about the flag. The protests are about injustice.
— Taylor Rooks (@TaylorRooks) May 23, 2018
In truth, the only significant change under the proposed new anthem policy is that players no longer will be subject to discipline from THE LEAGUE if they demonstrate. That decision now rests with the team.
— Jim Trotter (@JimTrotter_NFL) May 23, 2018
If the NFL players want to resist, they should ALL remain in the locker room during the anthem.
— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) May 23, 2018
49ers owner @JedYork abstained from the anthem vote, thinks a deeper look is required, and says his team will not make concession sales during the anthem. “I don’t think we should be profiting if we’re going to put this type of attention and focus on the field and on the flag.”
— Sam Farmer (@LATimesfarmer) May 23, 2018