The “take a knee” salute to our national anthem during NFL pre-game ceremonies hit a new level after President Trump weighed in with his comments in a campaign speech in Alabama, as players across the country have generally acted in solidarity with their colleagues in protest of his suggestion that any player taking a knee should be fired and that any team owner doing so would likely be considered a hero. And of course NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell chimed in with his support of the players by calling out Trump’s comments as “divisive”. One might expect some leadership from the league, for after all they are quick to enforce a number of other behavioral rules, but with the racial implications involved here, it is not surprising that the political correctness of “unity” with the players has priority, even though one of their rules requires that all players stand at attention during the national anthem. We should understand that this is where we go when our culture is poisoned by “progressive” identity politics and it has infiltrated a popular spectator sport because the left has made heroes out of its perpetrators.
Although the President’s ill-advised input certainly inflamed the issue unnecessarily, this issue didn’t start with him, having been with us since last season when now-unemployed quarterback Colin Kaepernick initiated this form of protest and, frankly, should have ended there, were it not for the total capitulation by the feckless team owners and the failure of leadership on the part of the Commissioner. One of the best responses I have seen on this failure comes from a recent letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal, in which a reader wrote:
“Mr. Goodell should have issued a statement like this when Kaepernick first knelt: The NFL is a business providing sports entertainment for our customers. Actions that are offensive to a majority of our customers will not be tolerated. Players are employees of the teams and league. A requirement of the job is to stand and show respect during the national anthem. This isn’t a free speech issue. This is a job requirement.”
As for my take on it, let me repeat much of what I said last year: If I were an NFL team owner, in anticipation of the continuation of this phenomenon I would have delivered a locker room speech before the opening game of this season that would go something like this:
Gentlemen, in a few moments you will take the field for our opening game and there will be an opening ceremony that will include the singing of our national anthem. It will be the policy of this team that all player personnel and all other employees of this franchise will participate in this ceremony in the traditional way that our flag is honored—by standing hatless at attention for the national anthem and saluting the flag with hand over heart. Singing is optional. Any player who in any way dishonors the ceremony and the flag with actions inconsistent with this tradition and the respect it is due will be directed to leave the field, return to the locker room, and remove his uniform, for this will be the last time he will wear it. If enough players join in such a demonstration that we are unable to field a team today, we will forfeit the game.
I am fully aware of your constitutional rights of free speech and I honor your right to protest public policy and air your grievances in your own way and on your own time, but I am your employer and this game is not about you and your grievances; it’s about representing your city, your team, and me, and you are here on my nickel. Any questions?
If every owner had made such a speech, I suspect we would have less of this nonsense. I have watched my last NFL game.