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Trump’s Football Follies

So, not being a football fan, I guess I’m not feeling the controversy over the kneeling business. I don’t like the virtue signaling of the gesture, but I think it’s beyond ridiculous that the President of the United States has made an issue of it. It unnerves me to think that on the same weekend that the president taunted Kim Jong Un on Twitter — a pointless, juvenile conflict that could spiral out of control into actual war — the only thing the people of the United States (and the news media) wanted to talk about was what he said about football players.

I guess the culture war is more important to Americans than nuclear war. Note that only 37 percent of Americans have confidence that the Commander In Chief can be trusted to handle North Korea — the crackpot commie country whose leadership he keeps poking with a stick.

I am on my way to Arkansas, where I’ll be appearing Tuesday night with Michael Wear at John Brown University. We’ll be talking about faith and public life at 6:30pm; the public is welcome. See here for more details. [1] Because I’ll be on planes and in a rental car for most of the rest of the day, I’ll open the thread up for reader commentary on the football/kneeling topic.

My view is that the country is so divided already over issues that really matter; why on earth would any president wish to make it worse? Secondly, if we are going to go to pieces over Colin Kaepernick’s gesture, how would we feel if Tim Tebow took a knee to protest the mass slaughter of the unborn in the US?

I think using singing the National Anthem as a protest gesture — no matter the righteousness of your cause — is a bad idea. And I’m not a fan of the Black Lives Matter movement per se. But because I would strongly sympathize with NFL players who took a knee over abortion violence, even though I would not join them, I can’t see where I have grounds to begrudge Kaepernick and his comrades their protest. I may not like to see it, but I can tolerate it, and respect their right to silently protest. Suck it up, snowflakes; this is America, not the People’s Republic of Berkeley.

It frustrates me that Kaepernick and Trump have now made professional football and the National Anthem a culture-war battlefield. But Colin Kaepernick conducts himself with dignity, and more to the point, he is not the President of the United States. To whom much is given, much is expected.

I wish to associate myself with David French’s remarks [2], especially these:

He told his political opponents on the football field — men who have defined their lives and careers by their mental and physical toughness — to essentially, “Do what I say or lose your job.” In so doing, he put them in straits far more difficult to navigate than anything Colin Kaepernick has wrought: Stand and they are seen to obey a man who just abused his office, and millions of Americans will view them as a sellout not just to the political cause they love but also to the Constitution itself; kneel and they defy a rogue president, but millions of Americans will view them as disrespecting the nation itself to score political points against a president those Americans happen to like.

At one stroke, thanks to an attempted vulgar display of strength, Trump changed the playing of the anthem and the display of the flag from a moment where all but the most radical Americans could unite to one where millions of well-meaning Americans could and did legitimately believe that the decision to kneel represented a defense of the ideals of the flag, not defiance of the nation they love. If we no longer fight to secure the same rights for others that we demand for ourselves, we become more tribal, and America becomes less exceptional.

So, yes, I understand why they knelt. I understand why men who would never otherwise bring politics onto the playing field — and never had politicized sports before — felt that they could not be seen to comply with a demagogue’s demands. I understand why even owners who gave millions to Trump expressed solidarity with their players. I understand why even Trump supporters like Rex Ryan were appalled at the president’s actions. I fear that those who proclaimed yesterday’s events a “win” for the president — after all, many of the players were booed for their stance, and in American politics you generally don’t want to be seen as taking sides against the flag — are missing the forest for the trees. If we lose respect for the First Amendment, then politics becomes purely about power. If we no longer fight to secure the same rights for others that we demand for ourselves, we become more tribal, and America becomes less exceptional.

It’s true. Only Donald Trump could make taking a knee during the National Anthem a patriotic thing to do.

157 Comments (Open | Close)

157 Comments To "Trump’s Football Follies"

#1 Comment By David On September 27, 2017 @ 10:55 pm

If I cancel my cable TV and explain why (no sports – no need for cable), will I be called racist?
If fans in the stadium don’t kneel, as I’m sure some will start doing, will they be called racist?
I’m not entirely sure either way, but I am sure that the absurdity of it all will become evident. Goodbye NFL.

#2 Comment By DonChi On September 28, 2017 @ 9:25 am

When Colin Kaperich dressed for a media-attended practice by wearing socks visibly depicting police officers as pigs, he made his mission in the culture wars very clear. Michael Bennett was even less subtle when he recently sacked a white quarterback and immediately celebrated by giving the black power salute. The mainstream media almost uniformly gives these idiots condescending pats on the head–gold stars for being such good social justice warriors. As for white baseball player, Steve Clevenger? Not so much. When he tweeted his disgust for Black Lives Matter, the media furies destroyed him and he was run out of the MLB.

Donald Trump gave voice to the silent/silenced majority once again. This was a huge win for him, and a gigantic blow to the NFL. The First Amendment really isn’t germane here. These are paid entertainers–circus performers, basically–and they needed to be reminded of that fact. And they were.

[NFR: I didn’t realize Kaepernick did that with the socks. Disgusting. Shame on him. — RD]

#3 Comment By Ronda Wintheiser On September 28, 2017 @ 10:58 am

Do you moderate comments?

[NFR: Yes, but I have been traveling overseas and haven’t been able to get on wifi for at least two days. — RD]

#4 Comment By James Kabala On September 30, 2017 @ 8:21 pm

MM: There have been a few. Tim Thomas of the Bruins was the one I remember, but he was not alone.

[3]

#5 Comment By Lord Karth On October 2, 2017 @ 11:49 am

The NFL and the players thereof should pay a little more attention to the criminals, fathers of multiple children out of wedlock and perpetrators of domestic violence in their ranks before they start asserting any moral authority over the people who watch (and pay for) them.

Your servant,

Lord Karth

#6 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On October 2, 2017 @ 10:51 pm

The NFL and the players thereof should pay a little more attention to the criminals, fathers of multiple children out of wedlock and perpetrators of domestic violence in their ranks before they start asserting any moral authority over the people who watch (and pay for) them.

Actually, a prime criticism I have seen from highly literate and moral Americans of African descent is that the NFL has accepted all of that, but has effectively blackballed Colin Kaepernick.

If I cancel my cable TV and explain why (no sports – no need for cable), will I be called racist?

No. But its very difficult to know what lower attendance and revenues mean. When Colin Kaepernick was left without a contract, many football fans of African descent (there are many, and fiercely devoted to their teams), a call went out to boycott the NFL until he was signed by a team. Then, as teams began to align with Kaepernick and increasing numbers of players emulated his example, those who disagreed (some of whom probably are racist, but not all, and not ipso facto) began selling off their season tickets and burning their jerseys.

So what does it mean when NFL revenues decline? Who is “winning”? Anyone, a lot of slobs who denigrate the players protesting spend every week-end slouching in their couches and lounge cheers guzzling beer and munching chips while the Star Spangled Banner is playing.

#7 Comment By Elijah On October 5, 2017 @ 8:43 am

“…the NFL has accepted all of that, but has effectively blackballed Colin Kaepernick.”

On the contrary – the NFL has not blackballed Kaepernick at all. Individual teams, however, who answer pretty directly to fans, don’t seem to want any part of Kaepernick for a lot of reasons, some of which are almost certainly related to his protests. No team is under any sort of obligation to hire a player who is underperforming and better known for his protests than his play.

And my oh my Siarlys, you do like to stereotype NFL fans, don’t you? As an aside, the protests seem to be diminishing every week and most NFL owners know that BLM activists will never replace their, ah, ‘beer guzzling’ fan base.