The new NFL national anthem policy doesn’t change a thing.
Players who stay off the field will be criticized for staying off the field. Liberals will still think Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid are being blackballed. Conservatives will still think the demonstrators hate America.
This does nothing but reignite a divisive issue that was slowly fading, just like Occupy Philadelphia, which started as a meaningful and peaceful protest and devolved into some blob of bitching and whining that literally had nothing do with anything specific by the time protesters were kicked out of Dilworth Plaza.
And it’s not like the different approaches to the anthem had any partitioning effect on the Eagles’ locker room. You had some black players raise a fist and lock arms with white teammates, while others observed the anthem in their own way. The team ended up winning the Super Bowl, so if there were internal fractures, I can’t imagine they were very large. Then you had more than a million people of different ages/genders/skin tones come down to Broad Street to celebrate their achievement.
Now the league is fanning the flames of conflict just 13 days before the Birds are supposed to travel to Washington to meet with President Trump.
Me, personally, I enjoy the anthem at games. Is it necessary? No, I don’t think so, but I see it as a moment to kind of stop and look around and be grateful for what we have in this country. I see Ron Brooks doing his thing at Sixers games and think, “Hey, I appreciate being an American, I appreciate the opportunities I was given.” Sometimes writers are fumbling around on their computers or some guy forgets to take his hat off, or some lady is at the concession stand buying a $7 hot dog, but I don’t get pissed off at those people and think they’re being disrespectful. You wanna know what’s un-American? It’s un-American to tell people how to behave or what to think. This country was founded by dissidents who certainly weren’t perfect, but valued differences of opinion.
Kaepernick said it himself; this was about social injustice and the treatment of minorities. It wasn’t about the military. It wasn’t meant to be disrespectful to the armed forces. That’s the whole reason he decided to kneel in the first place; it was a compromise he reached after speaking to a Green Beret over his initial decision to sit down during the anthem. Kap listened to someone with a different viewpoint and decided to kneel OUT OF RESPECT for the military, not to slander the military.
I do think Kaepernick hurt himself with the pig socks and commie routine, so that’s where he loses a lot of moderate and/or otherwise neutral people. It’s easier to get behind a guy like Malcolm Jenkins, who shares a similar viewpoint but brings more credibility to the table. Some people called him a sellout or an Uncle Tom or whatever, but he turned nothing into something when the NFL agreed to put $89 million into social justice programs. That’s in addition to his independent, award-winning charity work.
Still, people kept missing the point entirely. Opponents would always say, “go protest on your own” or “stick to sports” or whatever, but – as I wrote in September – that’s the WHOLE POINT OF THE DEMONSTRATION. They want you to be uncomfortable and think about what they have to say. Rosa Parks wasn’t concerned with offending people on the front of the bus. That would have been a pretty pointless protest if she felt that way.
Seriously though, I’m all for honoring the military. My grandfather was a U.S. Marine and served in Korea. I have five uncles who served in the different branches and Boyertown classmates went over to Iraq and Afghanistan. Some came back worse for wear. I’m all for supporting those guys whether or not I agreed with the war(s) or our military policies in general. I always felt like the vitriol should be steered towards the loser politicians who are sending teenagers to war while they sit around doing nothing on Capitol Hill.
But more than symbolic displays at NFL games with big flags and a bunch of bullshit bravado, we can do real, tangible things for servicemen and women. Take the taxpayer money the military gives the NFL and increase soldier pay instead. Put more money into their healthcare and the programs that help them find jobs and re-acclimate to civilian life. Maybe try to address the ridiculous military suicide issue that we don’t spend enough time talking about in this country.
All of that serves more purpose than 15 seconds on the jumbotron with a standing ovation. That’s nice, but we can do better.
At the same time, the NFL is a private entity and not some public employer. If 32 rich owners want to force players and coaches to stand for the anthem, they have every right to do it. And if the players don’t like it, they can choose to play in another league.
That’s America in a nutshell; if you don’t like it, carve your own path. Get a bunch of people together and make your company bigger and better than the other guy’s company. That’s the whole point. If UFC is trying to short-sell you, go sign with Bellator instead. Vince McMahon didn’t get it done with the XFL, but there’s enough money and interest in this country to present a formidable challenge to the NFL. And if you, the fan, don’t like it one way or another, you can turn off the TV or spend your money elsewhere. That’s free-market Capitalism.
Until then, here we are, with a new policy that only renews the debate and results in more yelling and shouting and 900-word columns, like this one.