Why The Protests Are Bad For The Sport And Bad For The Country
Since the 1880s, when Walter Camp, the great rugby player from Yale, pioneered rule changes that slowly transformed rugby into the new game of American Football, Football has been at the epicenter of American culture. As the primary sporting focus of homecoming and holiday celebrations, Football is the link that brings together people across America of all ages and political persuasions to celebrate local, regional, ethnic, and collegiate identities. The sport also serves as stage for corporate giants to promote themselves and their brands to millions of viewers. The much-anticipated “Super Bowl” commercials are exhibits of the pomp and pageantry of American capitalism.
So how did this American sport become politicized? The Football field where the actions of the players inspired camaraderie and regional pride from fans now is the battlefield where the politics of patriotism and right to protest is splitting the Football fan-base down party lines. How did this controversy start? This all started when Colin Kaepernick, who was with the San Francisco 49ers at the time, took a knee during the national anthem. President Trump via Twitter eventually slammed this type of protest where he lambasted those players that took a knee during the national anthem. A firestorm of controversy ensued where political pundits criticized the President for suggesting on his Twitter post that kneeling during the national was an offense that merited dismissal.
The media’s angle on this story focused on the first amendment right of the players to protest the national anthem and the White House pushed back with the argument that the President has a responsibility to protect and advocate respect for symbols of our democracy such as the American flag and the national anthem. Furthermore, the White House countered that the President’s first amendment rights do not disappear the moment he takes the oath of office. Just like the players had a right to protest, the President has the right to voice his disapproval.
The effect of this firestorm has resulted in the politicization of this great American sport. Ultimately, the last crevice of American culture that was not contaminated by American politics has fallen victim to the culture of political correctness and the media’s vendetta against President Trump. Apparently a United States president who expresses and encourages respect for the national anthem is an affront to the Bill of Rights. I think the media’s hatred for Trump is undermining their ability to think rationally.
One thing is the opinions of the political and media elite, but how are regular folks reacting to the controversy? Partisans on each side seem eager to demonstrate their contribution to the cause, with tensions and tempers high. Fans have taken to social media to share their opinion on the controversy. According to ABC NEWS, NFL fans have posted videos on social media of themselves burning season tickets and team paraphernalia in response to football players taking a knee in protest. Cable TV providers, usually notorious for their unwillingness to adjust TV cable packages, have decided to take part in this controversy. DirecTV will allow some customers to cancel subscriptions to its Sunday Ticket package of NFL games and obtain refunds if customers cite the players’ national anthem protests for the reasons of the cancellation, according to The Wallstreet Journal.
As an American and attorney in training, I believe the best remedy for free speech is more free speech, not less. With that said, it is important to keep in mind that there are times where there are limitations on the 1st amendment. For example, a person cannot shout fire in a crowded movie theater or engage in hate speech towards a specific group because as a society we perceive the safety of others to take precedence at certain times over our right to freedom of speech.
I would also like to point out that the first amendment is a limitation on the GOVERNMENT’S ability to regulate freedom of speech not a limitation on another individual’s or private entity freedom of speech. Nor does the first amendment limit what type of speech a private employer can forbid in the workplace. A counterargument to this point would be that the Donald Trump as President of the United States attempted to circumvent the football players’ 1st amendment rights by suggesting that such protests were inappropriate and that such displays were grounds for terminating the players employment. This argument would have some merit if the President tried to use the formal powers of the executive branch to coerce the players to stop protesting or dispatched the military to prevent or stop the protests, but President Trump only tweeted out his opinion.
Much to the chagrin of the left and media oligarchs, President Trump’s right to freedom of speech is not shackled by his unpopularity among their ranks. To refresh the memory of the left, this type of commentary on the part of United States President is not unprecedented. Going back to March 2012, President Obama exercised his first amendment right when he commented on the death of Trayvon Martin. Instead of lampooning the President’s decision to comment on a criminal case, the media applauded Obama for his sensitivity and “beautiful tribute.” Again in July 2009, Obama said the police “acted stupidly” when Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested at his Cambridge, Massachusetts home by a local police officer. Where was the media outrage for that comment?
Just like President Obama and President Trump have a right to express their views so do the millions of Football fans across the country that were disappointed and enraged by the protests. To most Americans, they take refuge in Football to escape the daily grind and turn down the volume on the political dividedness. To these same Americans, the singing of the national anthem at a Football game is a symbol of national unity not a time to push a political agenda. Alas, to the political zealots nothing is sacred anymore. Just look of the coverage of the Las Vegas massacre, but I will leave that topic for another article.
I do take comfort knowing that the kneeling protest controversy will quickly blow over which is a good thing because the controversy is not good for the sport or the country. How do I know? Simple, this controversy is affecting the bottom line of the NFL and Football team owners. Unhappy fans are not paying fans. The NFL wants this to go away a.s.a.p! After all, the almighty dollar is still the most powerful force in America even more powerful than politics.