Like most Americans, I love football. I’m partial to the college game (Go Vols!), but I enjoy NFL games, too. I don’t follow it like I do college, but if there’s a game on, I’ll usually have it on, even if I’m not watching every play. I have great memories of watching games on a tiny television at my Grandmother’s house after Thanksgiving dinner and of Super Bowl parties with friends. I look forward to lazy fall Sundays at home with a game on. Football is great entertainment, an opportunity to escape for a few hours and watch large men wearing plastic armor clobber each other. But that’s all it is.
After a long day in the field on a recent Sunday, I was looking forward to watching a couple of games and relaxing. Unfortunately, politics has infiltrated football. As if we didn’t have to hear about this debate or that protest enough, now it has come to football. The latest craze in protests, as I’m sure you’ve seen, is for a few incredibly wealthy and privileged athletes to kneel, sit, or be absent from the performance of the National Anthem prior to the game. This is ostensibly to show their displeasure with race relations or something stupid uttered by the POTUS. As if that wasn’t bad enough (and certainly it was), the aforementioned POTUS had to insert himself into the conversation during a public appearance. Now things have really gotten out of hand, with entire teams kneeling, or staying in the locker room during the anthem. This is wrong and reflects poorly on the players, their team, and the league. It does nothing to solve the problems which they claim to be protesting.
Before I go on, I am aware they have every right to protest. I know it, you know it, we all know it. They have the right, but that doesn’t make it right! By extension, I have the right to think they’re butt-holes for doing it, team owners have the right to forbid them from doing it while on the clock, and fans have the right to not partake of their product because they’re doing it. Constitutional rights do not exempt one from the consequences of their actions.
In addition, I think the POTUS should try focusing on the extremely long list of things which are more important than football. I agree with some of Trump’s ideas and not others. But I find it very annoying that he can’t seem to stay out of things which are just none of his business or shouldn’t rise to the level of presidential concern. He needs better handlers and someone really needs to do away with his Twitter account. His chief of staff should do us all a favor and take a hammer to the presidential smart phone.
Anyway, if I owned an NFL team I would expressly forbid my players and staff from protesting in any visible form during the performance of the National Anthem. They can do that on their own time. They would be heavily fined the first time, suspended the second time, and looking for work the third. I know that won’t be a popular opinion, but I own the team, so who cares? Heck, I wouldn’t let them have hair hanging outside their helmets either! If I managed the NFL, the team of every protestor would be penalized severely. How about you only get one time out in the second half? Maybe you get a 15 yard penalty on every kick-off? How about a big, fat fine for your team owner? Is your little hissy fit worth hurting your team? If I was in control of the media coverage of the games, no camera would come to rest on someone behaving badly during the anthem. If the media would quit giving them all this attention, they’d quit doing it. I watched the anthem being sung by a very talented young lady at a game last night and the coverage spent the entire time showing the players. This is just wrong.
There is a time and place for protests. There are ways to direct one’s energy where it may actually do some good. The performance of the National Anthem should be a time that transcends politics. Regardless of who is in the White House or what is going on in this country, those few minutes are supposed to be used to honor America and all of the things which make our country great. It is a moment when the focus should be on the pride in being an American. This is not the time to try and make a statement, no matter how valid it might be. Furthermore, pride in your country is not the same as support for any elected official. The POTUS does not equal the flag. President Trump is not America.
NFL players need to remember they are grown men being paid insane amounts of money for playing a game. They are paid performers, just like actors in Hollywood. As a consumer, I don’t care about their politics anymore than I do about those of the elitists in Hollywood. Instead of being disrespectful and making themselves and their teams look bad in front of the entire nation, they should focus their money and influence on working to solve the problems they perceive worthy of protest. Many of them do just that and should be applauded for their efforts. The youth of today need every positive role model they can get and we all need heroes. There is nothing heroic in behaving badly during the National Anthem. So, gentlemen, get on your feet! Cover your heart with your right hand and think about how fortunate you are to live in a nation where you can become one of its wealthiest citizens for playing a game. That’s not too much to expect. You are professionals. Act like it.