Right Opinion

The New Unpatriotic NFL

Guest Commentary · Sep. 25, 2017

By Robert Steven Ingebo

President Trump held a campaign rally in Huntsville, Alabama, on Friday night to support the election of fellow Republican Luther Strange to the U.S. Senate. During the speech, Trump brought up a few points regarding the NFL and the unpatriotic statements made by them and the football players’ union.

Without mentioning his name, Trump alluded to Colin Rand Kaepernick, an American football quarterback, and his protest against injustice toward African Americans by taking a knee instead of standing before the American flag during the national anthem at several NFL football games throughout the 2016 season.

Trump made a general statement regarding the players and the owners, saying, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out. He’s fired. He’s fired!”

Trump also said such an owner would “be the most popular person in this country. Because that’s a total disrespect of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect for everything we stand for." 

Early Saturday morning, DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, responded on Twitter with: "We (the football players’ union) will never back down. We no longer can afford to stick to sports.”

Additionally, Smith said, “The peaceful demonstrations by some of our players have generated a wide array of responses. Those opinions are protected speech and a freedom that has been paid for by the sacrifice of men and women throughout history. This expression of speech has generated thoughtful discussions in our locker rooms and in board rooms. However, the line that marks the balance between the rights of every citizen in our great country gets crossed when someone is told to just ‘shut up and play.’

"NFL players do incredible things to contribute to their communities. NFL players are a part of a legacy of athletes in all sports who throughout history chose to be informed about the issues that impact them and their communities. They chose — and still choose today — to do something about those issues rather than comfortably living in the bubble of sports. Their decision is no different from the one made by countless others who refused to let ‘what they do’ define or restrict ‘who they are’ as Americans.

"No man or woman should ever have to choose a job that forces them to surrender their rights. No worker nor any athlete, professional or not, should be forced to become less than human when it comes to protecting their basic health and safety. We understand that our job as a Union is not to win a popularity contest and it comes with a duty to protect the rights of our members. For that we make no apologies and never will.”

Later Saturday morning, Roger Goodell, the head of the NFL, said, “The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month. 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.”

When Maurice said, “We will never back down,” the question becomes: What is he afraid of backing down from? When he says, “We no longer can afford to stick to sports,” he is stating unequivocally that he feels that politics is at least of equal value to the players union as sports, therefore it is no longer enough for players just to be players. Now, in order to toe the union line, they must become political activists.

Smith is correct that the players have the First Amendment right to make their political views public. The point he is making, which is incorrect, is that the NFL doesn’t have the right to silence their political opinions and make them just play football. The NFL team owners actually do have that right and, on top of that, are paying outlandish sums of money to the players who play on their respective teams.

Smith also brings up the point that NFL players do much to contribute to their respective communities and this gives them right to become activists in the politics of these communities.

His final point is that no one should ever have to choose a job that forces them to give up their rights.

Smith, as their union leader, is giving justification to all the players who disagree with the conservative values of democracy and can stand against them because, after all, they do so much for their communities.

Smith’s final point is that no employer should ever force an employee to give up their rights.

No one is forcing these players to join the NFL. Whatever rules the NFL owner decides, as their employer, he has every right to decide how the players should behave and what ethical standards they should abide by. The football players’ union cannot dictate that.

Fortunately for the National Football League Players Association and players like Colin Kaepernick, Roger Goodell is backing them in their stubborn decision to mix politics with football.

Like DeMaurice Smith, Roger Goodell rationalizes their lack of patriotism by pointing out all the good works the NFL and their players are doing. He cites the most recent example of the response from the clubs and players who helped those affected by the two hurricanes the Gulf Coast has experienced over the last month.

Unfortunately, all the good works of the NFL and the players doesn’t exempt those players who refused to stand for the American flag at the beginning of the game from their public displays of un-patriotism.

Because they have not been fired, and from the statements of Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith, we can safely assume that the NFL leaders are backing these players in their opposition to patriotism because they feel the same way.

This is a huge slap in the face to every soldier in our military and every widow and family of every slain soldier who has given their life in the name of American freedom and democracy.

How many Americans are tolerating this blatant un-patriotism of the NFL?

Here are the average viewership ratings of the NFL in 2017:

Week 1: Minus 13%
Week 2: Minus 4%

Here are the average viewership ratings of the NFL in 2016:

Week 1: Minus 10%
Week 2: Minus 12%
Week 3: Minus 11%
Week 4: Minus 21%
Week 5: Minus 16%
Week 6: Minus 18%
Week 7: Minus 14%
Week 8: Minus 20%
Week 9: Minus 17%
Week 10: Minus 10%
Week 11: Plus 11%
Week 12: Minus 4%
Week 13: Minus 10%
Week 14: Plus 15%
Week 15: Plus 17%
Week 16: Plus 15%
Week 17: Minus 10%
Wild Card Round: Minus 9%
Divisional Round: Minus 5%
Conference Championships: Minus 7%
Pro Bowl: Minus 7%
Super Bowl: Minus 3%

One would think that Goodell, after analyzing the viewership ratings, would attempt to modify his policies regarding the players to stem the financial losses the NFL is sustaining as a consequence of his current policies combined with his unpatriotic statements and the actions of many of his players.

Robert Steven Ingebo is president of FRI Corporation.

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