New NFL Anthem Policy Is A Profile In Cowardice

The first amendment of our constitution is clear:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

So what to do when the Football Commissioner, Roger Goodell, strikes a deal with team owners, unilaterally deciding with team owners that players must now stand during the playing of the national anthem, or stand in the locker room until the anthem is played? This especially when Mr. Trump acting in capacity as President, made such disparaging comments against those who used this forum for protesting real or perceived social injustice?

According to the National Football League Player’s Association:

“The vote by NFL club CEO’S contradicts statements made to our leadership by Commissioner Roger Goodell, and the Chairman of the NFL’s Management Council John Mara about the principles, values and patriotism of our league.”

The NFLPA has stated that they will “review the new ‘policy’ and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.”

With the newly negotiated “compromise” between Goodell, team owners and Mara, players can now “be fined” should they fail to stand during the playing of the Anthem.

According to the New York Times, when San Francisco Quarterback, Colin Kaepernick decided to kneel “during the national anthem to protest police violence against minorities, and economic inequality, Mr. Trump decided to weigh in on the matter, expressing his dissatisfaction at one of his rallies. From The Times:

“Yet even with emotions running hot on both sides, the controversy had largely quieted by the beginning of last season, when only a dozen or so players were still kneeling or raising a fist during the anthem. Then, at a rally on a Friday night in Alabama in September, Mr. Trump moved the debate back to the fore, rousing the crowd by imploring N.F.L. owners to fire any player who refused to stand and referring to protesting players using an epithet.”

Mr. Trump then took to Twitter, according to The Times, writing the following:

“Sports fans should never condone players that do not stand proud for their national anthem or their Country. NFL should change policy!”

Whether Mr. Trump brought about the change in policy due to his commentary, or whether due to the stated reason of lower television ratings, several points emerge here:

First, while the National Football League states their television ratings have decreased by approximately twenty-percent, due to the conflict which surfaced over these symbolic protests,  just because two events occur simultaneously – correlation – does not mean one event is causing the other.

For example, viewers who normally watch football on television may have been discouraged from further viewing given Mr. Trump’s commentary. In addition, it may very well be the case that the two events – Trump’s comments and low viewership – were caused by a third factor.

After all, how many of viewers witnessed Vice-President Mike Pence’s staged  ‘walkout‘ from an Indianapolis game directed ban y none other than Mr. Trump just two weeks after Trump’s Tweet?

And, there very well may be other contributing factors to the decreased viewership, but to determine precisely what has caused the decrease requires extensive data analysis; something the League did not conduct.

Second, what Commissioner Goodell sees as a good ‘compromise,’ between the parties of this heated debate others see as cowardice. Read Sports Columnist, Rob Woodfork’s column on the matter here.

Woodfork points out how 49ers Owner, Jed York “abstained from the vote,” noting how his team will refrain from concession sales during the anthem, stating:

“I don’t think we should be profiting if we’re going to put this type of attention and focus on the field and on the flag.”

York’s statement demonstrates the real issue here: the controversy has little to do with the flag, and everything to do with the flag being conveniently used by Mr. Trunp, Mr. Pence and the administration to silence dissent.

As Woodfork also makes clear: “The league is confronting a host of other pressing issues such as player safety, concussions and player misconduct.” And what to make out of the fact that New York Giants Quaterback, Eli Manning’s “involvement in a fraud scheme,” with no charges being filed against him, or league punishment?

In other words, the league has a great deal on its plate, and Goodell’s insistence on resolving an issue where minorities protested real or perceived social injustice, just because it makes those who do not see this injustice, perhaps even making others uncomfortable, leads one to believe that the Commissioner actually took this action due to Mr. Trump’s dissatisfaction over those protesting.

But according to 18 US Code 227, no public official, including Trump can “wrongfully influence a private entity’s employment policies or decisions.” And this is precisely what seems to have taken place here. When the supposed leader of our nation calls one of the leading protesters – Colin Kaepernick – a “son-of-a-bitch” because he exercises his first amendment right, no amount of “right-wing spin” can explain this away.

Third, even if the League’s intent is to make those playing the game more respectful towards all, it is a hypocritical move. Consider Pittsburgh Steelers running back, DeAngelo Williams asking the league if he could wear pink on his uniform throughout the season to honor his mother who died of breast cancer. His request was denied. Yes, the NFL is a private entity entitled to make these rules and that is just the point.

Make no mistake: This controversy is far from over. The Supreme Court has precedent supporting one’s first amendment right when it comes to the flag.

Watch the video below where Trump calls Kaepernick a son-of-a-bitch.

This morning, Mr. Trump said the following on Fox News, regarding the new policy:

“I don’t think people should be staying in the locker rooms, but still I think it’s good. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem. You shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe they shouldn’t be in the country,” Trump said.”

Mr. Trump will learn sooner or later that this is not a dictatorial nation where he gets his way all the time.