The NFL has put itself into the middle of a situation from which it is trying desperately to extricate itself. The explosion of “protests” by players following President Donald J. Trump’s comments he would fire players who did not stand for the National Anthem has been totally misrepresented by the media and is now the subject of “spin” by the players and owners.
Trump, in a rally two weeks ago, made his comments as part of his “America First” agenda and theme. He said what he would do as an owner. Immediately, the NFL, the NFL Players Association and the establishment media went ballistic. They accused the President of undermining the Constitution and the First Amendment rights of the players to protest. The criticism, because there is always criticism, was wrong on two counts: 1) Trump was talking about his own feelings concerning the protests; and 2) as employees of the teams, their free speech rights are abridged if they come into conflict with the best interests of the company for which they work. As a reflection of the owners of the teams, the owners have the right to demand certain conduct at certain times. The New York Yankees in baseball, for example, prohibit facial hair on its players. Some would call this abridgement of Freedom of Expression. Maybe, but the owners have right to demand conduct that is a reflection of them, their traditions and the company.
The NFL for its part has been (and we’re being charitable) “selective” in its application of rules from its own operations manual. It denied players the ability to honor mothers, friends and others under its code of dress and conduct. The manual itself calls for all players to stand for the Anthem and have their helmets under their left arm.
The NFL has put itself in the corner of the players, and has seen its ticket sales plummet more than 17 percent. Its stadiums see games played at less than capacity, and its TV share has gone down dramatically.
Meanwhile, left wing pundits and columnists can’t figure out why those objecting to the protests are so against the First Amendment, and why this is such a flashpoint in the continuing culture wars. We think we know.
For the last decade, and particularly since the election of Barack Obama, national institutions were politicized, their functions adulterated, and those who objected were vilified. Those who objected to political decisions made by Obama were tarred as “racists.” Indeed, “racist” became the go-to word for any and all political foes. Since the election of Trump, those who support our traditions and institutions are called “white supremacists,” “racists,” “fascists,” and “Nazis.” Our college campuses have become play pens, where infantilized students need protection from words they don’t like and political speech they can’t handle. Statues of Founders, Confederate generals and even a musket on a cornerstone on the Yale campus have been removed or defaced because they are symbols of white supremacy, says the Left.
The protest by the NFL players was a bridge too far. Here are people who have benefited from the nation, its fans and its way of life, and they are claiming oppression. Seen in a world where there is real oppression, where people are thrown off buildings or stoned to death, or executed with mortar fire, these protests seem a bit self-centered.
Beyond that, sports are a diversion from the daily news cycle and the above-mentioned manufactured turmoil. This was one area of life that didn’t seem politicized and a place we could all come together rooting for our favorite teams. That has been taken away and people don’t like it. That is their right.
And while we’re on the subject of rights, no one is complaining about the players’ First Amendment right to protest or express themselves, but as the Left is so quick to point out when the shoe is on the other foot, exercising those rights have consequences. People who don’t like what you’re saying may exercise their rights as well. In this case, fans are voting with their feet, burning their tickets, and doing other things on Sunday afternoons.
The National Anthem controversy is the final straw for a good segment of the population that has had it “up to here” with those who attack our Constitution, our institutions and our way of life, while using the rights they have protected by those same things to call for their destruction.
People will only take so much. They have reached their limit. The NFL and the players and the snowflake students on college campuses can continue. The people who object must be given the same right exercise their options to protest with their feet.