Football, Free Speech, and Reality

For the second time, I am glad to share a guest contribution to The Frustrated Americans. Please read, comment and share Rob Kirby’s thoughts on the current situation with the NFL.

Recently, I’ve seen blurbs on the news and posts on Facebook referencing the newest sports-related drama involving the NFL. Lots of folks are upset athletes are kneeling during the National Anthem rather than standing respectfully at attention with their hands over their hearts. Even our president has been caught up in the theatrics, stating players who kneel should be fired. Many fans are saying they will boycott the games because of the players’ behavior. Other fans are defending the rights of the players to express themselves freely as a Constitutional right. Still, others enjoy the games and say they will continue to watch… and they really don’t care whether the players kneel, stand, or dance a jig for matter. I have friends from all three categories on Facebook, and the debates concerning the topic are entertaining to say the least.

As for me, I’m not watching NFL games this year. To be honest, I’ve never watched the NFL much in the first place. I’ve watched a couple of Super Bowls and a few games on Thanksgiving here and there, but I’ve never been much of a fan. I personally don’t want to waste my time or money watching grown men dress up in a suit of plastic armor, stretch a pair of tights over it, and beat the ever-living hell out of each other whilst chasing an oblong ball around the field. I can appreciate their talent, but I’ll never be able to stomach the amount of money they make to do these things, and anyone who calls them “heroes” is, in my opinion, being very generous to say the least. They are, at best, entertainers, just like actors and singers. Now, if one of them donates part of their fortune to cure cancer, or to feed the hungry, I might consider them heroes. Otherwise, they are just performing on a big green stage with white stripes and getting overpaid to do it. So I can’t blame my non-viewing on players kneeling.

That being said, I believe if an individual wants to kneel during the National Anthem, they have every right to do it! For that matter, they have the right to throw an American flag down on the ground and stomp all over it if that’s what they want to do (as long as it doesn’t belong to someone else). This is all part of free speech, so I say have at it! And just like these individuals have the right to do it, I have the right to call them moronic jackasses for doing it, because I also have the freedom of speech.

I believe the problem here isn’t really the behavior – it’s the arena these individuals have chosen to exercise their freedom of speech. Rather than setting up a march or a rally, they’ve chosen to subject all of their customers (that’s right… CUSTOMERS!) to their politics. For a long time, their customer base has been diverse… all socioeconomic statuses, all races, all religions, all political affiliations. And now these individuals have decided their right to express themselves is much more important than keeping a nonpartisan atmosphere so all customers can feel welcome. I’m guessing a lump sum of the NFL’s profits come from ticket sales and advertising. Apparently, the individual athletes aren’t worried about pissing off half their customers – thereby cutting their ticket sales in half and causing half of their TV audience to change the channel. I think that’s eventually going to sting a little.

In my unnamed job, I am occasionally required to salute the flag as it passes or when it is posted or raised. Don’t get me wrong… I would do it even if my job didn’t require it, because I have great respect for my country, for my freedom, and for my forefathers who died defending those things. It’s not about the flag… it’s about what the flag represents. But my job does require me to salute on occasion. Now if someone who works with me decides to take a knee in public instead of saluting, my guess is that it wouldn’t work out well for them. An individual has the right to free speech and expression. That person does not, however, have the right to a job. Having a job is a privilege – not a right. The problem with the NFL, a very large business, is that by allowing individuals the freedom to express whatever the hell they want to while they are on the clock and in an NFL uniform, the entire business appears to have embraced the same view. Hell, the team owners have even taken to the field to kneel with the players in a “show of solidarity” against Trump – who, by the way, is neither the American flag nor what it represents. When your corporation gets involved in politics to this level, you can expect to create a divide between yourself and a large percentage of your customer base. It would be like going shopping at Walmart and the entire time you are in the store, somebody is talking over the intercom telling you over and over how sorry your political party is. Sooner or later, a crapload of folks are going to get tired of hearing it and stop shopping at Walmart.

The NFL could have told its players to kneel on their own time. Instead, they allowed it to not only continue, but to grow to what it has become. I stopped reading most news articles and watching most news channels because of slanted politics. Since I’ve never really watched professional football, I guess I can’t boycott it. But I’m sure as hell not going to start watching it! It’ll be interesting to see what happens next. If everybody who says they aren’t watching anymore really stops watching, the NFL might just get a lesson in the importance of customer service.

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