This is not about Game of Thrones, but rather our national anthem. In 2016 when 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick bent his knee during the national anthem it was a protest of a black man against racial injustice in America. It spread from there. Within a month similar protests were seen not only in the NFL but in college sports as well.
That was last season. This football season it became a national issue since Donald Trump waded in with “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out. He’s fired. He’s fired!’”. That played well in Alabama.
Because Mr. Trump has little support from African-Americans, especially the 70% who comprise the NFL, even those players who hadn’t taken the knee united in protest against Mr. Trump.
What a complex mess this issue has become.
This article is not about racial injustice. Racism is real and is a serious problem in America but if I wade into race, the volume gets turned up and obscures everything else. So I won’t. This is about politics, money, sports, and patriotism.
But I do have a beef about protests by athletes: when I turn on a football game, the last thing I want to see is someone lecturing me about politics. And that is what these protests are about. A protest is a political statement with political objectives. Give it a rest. I am inundated with politics morning, noon, and night. If players wish to protest on their own time, I applaud their right to do so. Leave me alone and let me enjoy the game.
I understand that these athletes feel they can make a bigger impact on a national stage. But so what. We aren’t paying them to lecture us on injustice. And they don’t have a “right” of free speech on the job: the First Amendment (right of free speech) does not apply to the private workplace. If Mr. Kaepernick and his fellow players who are demanding their right to free speech on the field had taken a class in government they would have learned that the Bill of Rights was enacted to protect us against government, not our bosses.
When NFL players put on their uniforms as employees of, say, the 49ers, they leave their right of free speech behind and their bosses, the league’s owners, can tell them what to do and can curtail their speech in their workplace. Every working stiff faces the same thing; they aren’t an exception.
Here is a solution to the problem: stop playing the national anthem at sporting events.
League owners have been mostly absent in this discussion. This is where the money thing comes in to play. These owners have huge stakes in their teams making them billionaires if they weren’t already. What do you do when most of your employees protest? Do you stand with them to show solidarity? If you do, what about your audience who pay their bills? A plurality of Americans don’t like these protests. Some 24% say they will boycott the games. The Steeler player who stood alone in the tunnel during the anthem, Alejandro Villaneuva, now has the best-selling jersey in the NFL. My guess is that the owners will keep their heads down and hope it will blow over.
Here is a solution to the problem: stop playing the national anthem at sporting events. Ditto with saluting the flag. Why do we have to prove our patriotism at a game? Why do we have to inject nationalism into a sporting event? And don’t tell me I am not patriotic or that I am disrespecting the flag, or you, your father, brother, sister, or grandfather who served in the military just because I don’t wish to sing or pledge. You are not more patriotic than I am because of your knee-jerk jingoism. And only 39% of you know the lyrics anyway, less if you count the celebs who flub the lines at the games.
I love America and I have the greatest respect for our soldiers but I’m not real fond of our government. Does that make me unpatriotic? The “country” I love is not our government, it is us, the nation, not the state. Pledging allegiance or singing the anthem is just another way our government gets you to support them, right or wrong. This practice started at baseball games during WWII to remind us what we were fighting for and to let our troops know we supported them. WWII was an existential crisis for America. That was then; this is now.
I have a libertarian view of the world. I believe that all of us would be better off with more freedom and less government. And history is on my side. The very fact of America and its founding principles stressing liberty and individualism have demonstrated that these are the most successful methods of creating prosperity, health, and happiness in all of human history.
I look at Washington and the key players in the Beltway don’t strike me as being anything but self-serving politicians who strive for power, fame, and political longevity. There are many fine exceptions, of course, but they seem to be in the minority. There is also a huge federal bureaucracy of very nice people who are engaged in spending your money in mostly inefficient and ineffective ways. Washington D. C. is the state, not the country I love.
I agree that the flag is an important symbol of the success that America has become, but I fear that we are losing our exceptionalism as a nation, and the flag represents less the humility of our Founders and more a symbol of a growing nationalism and the rise of a powerful and oppressive state.
Take politics out of sports. If you wish to show your patriotism publicly, erect a flagpole on your own property, raise the flag every morning, pledge allegiance, sing the national anthem, and then enjoy the game.