The National Football League may have stood for its players not standing for the National Anthem, but millions of Americans will not.
The obscene spectacle is an affront to the greatest country on Earth – one which has been exceedingly good to those pampered, overindulged ingrates – as well as a profane insult to all Americans. They are flipping us all the middle finger – for in this country, there is no king, prince or potentate to decry. A desecration of America can only be aimed at we, the people.
This newspaper and millions of folks across the country stand with America – for its unprecedented freedoms, its unassailable principles and its grassroots goodness. And if the National Football League stands against America, then America will stand against the National Football League.
There can be little doubt that’s precisely what America is doing, turning off NFL broadcasts in droves and turning to social media to vent their indignation and anger at a professional sport that is increasingly turning its back on those of us who pay the freight.
It’s difficult to know which one the NFL’s anti-American protests are hurting more acutely – the league or the nation. But we think it’s hurting the league more: These repugnant displays have gone on for so long, across two seasons now, that we’re not sure the league will ever recover its hopelessly sullied image. It has become a disgrace that the league’s logo mimicks the American flag. At this point the similarity seems mere mockery.
Yet the damage to the country is infinitely more deplorable. These players, engaged in a pursuit – athletics – that should unify the country, have instead further divided it, and bitterly.
America, while imperfect like everything else in life, is a team – no less so than an NFL squad. We’re bonded not by ethnicity, but by a shared set of values. We’re family.
Alejandro Villanueva, who was briefly hailed as an inspiration for being the only Pittsburgh Steeler to be on the field for the National Anthem last Sunday, later apologized for having thrown “my teammates under the bus.” Well, what are the protesting players doing, except throwing the rest of us under the bus? If you don’t want to do that to your fellow teammates, why would you do it to your fellow countrymen?
And what an absolutely horrid example they’re setting.
Remember the vintage Coca-Cola commercial in which an adoring youngster offers his Coke to an injured and grateful Steeler, “Mean” Joe Greene? We know of one child who this week, to his parents’ horror, took a knee during his school’s Pledge of Allegiance, innocently imitating today’s NFL’s showing of contempt for the country. Even “Mean” Joe was a better role model.
Whatever message these players are trying to send is completely obscured by the reckless, reprehensible way they’re doing it. If the players are trying to persuade anyone to action, the mass slander of an entire nation is a bizarre and wholly ineffectual way to do it.
The sad irony is, if their point is to condemn unjustified police shootings of blacks, the vast majority of the country would have linked arms with them, were it not for the divisive disrespect being shown the country. That said, there are multiple sides to the issue. Police have a highly perilous job – more dangerous to life and limb than playing ball will ever be.
Moreover, there are much more effective ways of addressing perceived wrongs than slapping the entire country in the face.
The league is more feckless than powerless to stop this madness. This is an entity that has routinely fined players for sporting an unapproved brand of attire or equipment – or even for having the wrong color of cleats. And until this year, the league has even tightly controlled how players celebrate touchdowns. Surely it could’ve required reverence for the National Anthem.
Nor is this a First Amendment issue. These players are hardly muzzled; they have nearly unequaled access to the public microphone. And ask yourself: Do you have a constitutional right to embarrass your employer? Try it and see.
It’s just tragic the NFL didn’t move sooner to protect the country’s good name – at least as surely as it used to protect its own.
The compromise reached by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on Monday night – he linked arms and knelt with his players beforehand, then they all stood for the National Anthem – could be a way to defuse this explosive situation, where there is deep hurt on all sides. We’ll see.
Just as the NFL has come together as a team in this terribly unpatriotic act, let us come together as a team in support of our country. Americans are fully within our rights to stop watching NFL games and to stop buying their sponsors’ products.
Don’t smear this country and expect us to bankroll the insult.