These are sad days in America. It’s gotten so that I can’t enjoy watching one group of overpaid athletes outplaying, outthinking, and generally pulverizing another group without the whole thing devolving into a political controversy.
I refer, of course, to members of the National Football League who refused to stand during last weekend’s pregame performances of the national anthem.
Not that I actually saw the protests. While the early Sunday games were commencing I was embroiled in another great American tradition—church committee meetings. The hot point of discussion this week was whether or not the replacement for our failed sump pump should be upgraded by one entire horsepower. (Makes me dread the prospect of ever being called upon to vote for new hymnbooks.)
A Matter of Respect
But thanks to timely media coverage, I know that hundreds of players kneeled during the anthem in order to protest President Donald Trump’s assertion that those who fail to show respect for this symbol of patriotism ought to be fired.
These anti-anthem antics apparently began with ex-professional football player Colin Kaepernick, when he was still warming the bench for the Forty-Niners way back in 2016. The man with the massive afro reportedly decided to disdain this musical paean to the United States in order to support Black Lives Matter.
(Hate to say it, but I just can’t take the brother seriously while he’s sporting a superbad 1970s look that went out with Huggy Bear.)
A handful of players followed Kaepernick’s lead, which prompted Trump—our illustrious agitator-in-chief—to share what was probably already on the minds of most football fans in a manner that only made things worse.
Which, as I mentioned, led to broader defiance over the weekend, with other NFL players, coaches, and even some team owners—locking arms with the kneelers, not necessarily in protest but at least in support of those who were protesting Trump’s protest of the original anthem protest.
Can’t Tell the Protesters without a Scorecard
To help clear things up, the Washington Post ran images of every player from every team who took a knee. I wish they had also published just who was protesting what, since it wasn’t obvious, and since I’ve heard more than one person say they oppose the Star-Spangled Banner because they can never remember the tongue-tripping words. (Who’s that Jose guy, anyway?)
Seriously, one thing we can be sure of is that the protests wouldn’t have happened without NFL executive approval. Commissioner Roger Goodell and his minions run the league in the fashion of many other great American businesses—by protecting their monopoly and exercising strict messaging control.
Indeed, one reason why the NFL takes great care to wrap itself in the flag via anthem-singing and tributes to the military is to disguise how in many ways it’s the evil empire.
Consider these juicy facts. The NFL extorts tax money from municipal governments. It bullies churches that use its Super Bowl moniker to advertise outreach events. It banned players from wearing stickers to memorialize police officers killed in the line of duty.
Late last season the league almost fined running back Ezekiel Elliott for jumping into a giant Salvation Army kettle after scoring a touchdown. The rule-makers relented, which turned out to be good public relations when the spectacle led to a surge in donations for the non-profit. (Still, that’s money that could have been spent on $8.50-a-cup stadium beer.)
All of this sorely tempts me to declare that I’m giving up football. Truth is, despite the fact their team name offends me because I have ancestors who were murdered by Indians, I’m looking forward to watching the Redskins matchup this week.
I doubt, though, that I’ll catch the pregame stuff—protests or not.
I’ll probably get tied up at church. Rumor has it the nursery workers are about to issue demands.