Culture

The NFL's Latest Offensive National Anthem Fumble

NFL national anthem protests expanded Sunday after Trump criticized players for disrespecting our country.

Nate Jackson · Sep. 25, 2017

President Donald Trump tapped into the sentiment of the vast majority of Americans over the weekend, and the Leftmedia elites hate him for it. “Trump turns sports into a political battleground,” headlined The Washington Post, as if athletes, coaches, owners and commentators hadn’t already politicized sports. What Trump did was give voice from the most powerful bully pulpit in the land to what many Americans already think: High-paid athlete entertainers should not spit in the face of our great nation by disrespecting the national anthem or our flag on the field of play. Sports fans don’t want to subsidize the political defamation of our nation.

On Friday, Trump said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b—h off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’ You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it [but] they’ll be the most popular person in this country.” Trump voice similar objections throughout the weekend.

In response, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, with an apparent complete lack of self-awareness, said: “Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.”

We would change one word in Goodell’s statement: “Divisive [protests] like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.” It is the NFL that is allowing divisiveness and “an unfortunate lack of respect” for our country to be showcased by a few of celebrity malcontents every Sunday.

Trump fired back, “Roger Goodell of NFL just put out a statement trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country. Tell them to stand!”

Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who has been heralded as a “supporter of Trump,” but who actually was Barack Obama’s biggest NFL donor in 2012 and a major supporter of Hillary Clinton and Democrat PACs in the run-up to 2016, echoed Goodell’s remarks: “There is no greater unifier in this country than sports, and unfortunately, nothing more divisive than politics.” Kraft added that he was “deeply disappointed with the tone” of Trump’s comments. Patriots fans were “deeply disappointed” by the political charade, and loudly booed the players who would not stand for our anthem.

“This kind of thing is why he’s president,” mused National Review’s Rich Lowry. “He takes a commonly held sentiment — most people don’t like the NFL protests — and states it in an inflammatory way guaranteed to get everyone’s attention and generate outrage among his critics. When those critics lash back at him, Trump is put in the position of getting attacked for a fairly commonsensical view.”

The reaction from some NFL payers was predictable. Many more players joined the anthem protests on the field, in effect warning the owners they better not take Trump’s advice and fire anyone.

But in one case, a lone Pittsburgh Steeler, offensive tackle and former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva, showed due respect, while the rest of his team didn’t take the field at all until after the national anthem. “This We’ll Defend” is the U.S. Army motto, and he upheld it with honor. However, coach Mike Tomlin, who had decided that he would hold his entire team off the field rather than allow a few players display their disrespect, was critical of Villanueva. “I was looking for 100 percent participation.” We’ll bet his Rust Belt fan base sees it differently, as Villanueva was applauded nationwide.

After the fact, Villanueva explained that he regretted the implication that none of the other Steelers would have stood with him honoring the anthem: “When everybody sees an image of me standing by myself, everybody thinks that the team and Steelers are not behind me, and that’s absolutely wrong. It’s quite the opposite. Actually, the entire team would’ve been out there with me, even the ones that wanted to take a knee.”

Tomlin should have just told his Steeler kneelers to stay off the field. The same goes for the Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks, who skipped the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Worse, the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars took their protest to London, where they disrespected our nation and flag on foreign soil. Yet they stood for the UK’s anthem, “God Save the Queen.” God save the one who can’t see why that’s outrageous.

Of course, it all started last year when Colin Kaepernick, who was abandoned by his black parents, then adopted and raised by a loving white couple, complained, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Leftists made Kaepernick a hero for his “knee,” and then a martyr when no team would pick him up following the media circus.

And let’s be clear about this fake “knee” farce. Some are suggesting the players are “praying for our country” while taking a knee. This is about protest, not prayer. The last NFL player to take a knee in genuine prayer was Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, and he was skewered for it. Recall in 2015 how NBC’s Matt Lauer called Tebow “one of the most popular and polarizing quarterbacks in NFL history.” Tebow, who is now a New York Mets outfielder, is credited or a resurgence in attendance at the Mets’ minor league affiliate team games.

Further, the NFL has threatened fines for 9/11 tributes and denied requests by Dallas Cowboys to wear a tribute emblem after five Dallas police officers were assassinated. But the “hands up, don’t shoot” charade by players in St. Louis, and the anthem protests on the field around the nation, are “acceptable”?

Two weeks ago, ahead of the 9/11 attack observance, former Cleveland Browns Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown criticized the Browns team and Kaepernick for disrespecting our country: “I’m going to give you the real deal. I’m an American. I don’t desecrate my flag and my national anthem. I’m not gonna do anything against the flag and the national anthem. … This is my country, and I’ll work out the problems, but I’ll do it in an intelligent manner.”

That is the “real deal,” and the Browns got off their knees, but apparently there are still a lot of petulant overpaid adolescent athletes who think NFL fans are buying their fake celebrity indignation.

As The Wall Street Journal put it, “Americans don’t begrudge athletes their free-speech rights — see the popularity of Charles Barkley — but disrespecting the national anthem puts partisanship above a symbol of nationhood that thousands have died for. Players who chose to kneel shouldn’t be surprised that fans around the country booed them on Sunday.” Millions more aren’t booing — they’re just tuning out.

In the wake of all the AWOL NFL players last weekend, NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart says, “There will be no discipline handed down this week for anyone who was not there.”

Memo to Joe: According to the NFL’s game operations manual, “The National Anthem must be played prior to every NFL game, and all players must be on the sideline for the National Anthem. During the National Anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking. The home team should ensure that the American flag is in good condition. It should be pointed out to players and coaches that we continue to be judged by the public in this area of respect for the flag and our country. Failure to be on the field by the start of the National Anthem may result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses.”

(Updated.)

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