by John Eberhard
By now everyone has heard about national anthem protests at football games, started last season by then San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Since then, more players have joined in, staying seated or taking a knee during the national anthem.
Then a few weeks ago President Trump ramped things up by criticizing players taking part in the protests and saying team owners should fire them. The next week, hundreds of players took part in the protests, including the entire player roster of several teams. The entire team of the Pittsburgh Steelers even stayed in their locker room during the national anthem.
Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, had been quoted prior to this as saying that anyone who did not stand for the anthem would be fired from his team. But that week, he went out on the field and joined arms with players and took a knee. Some accounts said this was prior to the national anthem and that they all stood for the anthem.
Owners of other teams have been generally supportive of the player protests, and the league leadership has been supportive of the protests.
Since that week the protests have decreased somewhat, but not gone away. And attendance at games and ratings for watching the games on TV have gone down, down, and further down.
Then this past week Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner, sent a letter to all team owners encouraging them to get their players to stand for the national anthem, saying that the protests are “threatening to erode the unifying power of our game.”. But he then stated on a radio show the next day that the league policies on the matter had not changed.
After Goodell’s letter went out, Tennessee Titans player Rishard Matthews tweeted Thursday that he’ll quit the NFL if the league implements a rule forcing players to stand during the anthem.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy told ESPN “If you take (protesting the anthem) away from them, there’s gonna be an uproar. I don’t think guys are gonna like it. I think it’s gonna be an uproar if that is to happen because you’re basically taking away a constitutional right to freedom of speech.”
So what is this all about and what does it mean?
Well Colin Kaepernick who started all this, said he was protesting police brutality and the oppression of people of color.
There’s no doubt in my mind that many of the players who joined the protests after the President made his remarks, interpreted his comments as anti-black. So black players felt they had to respond to that. And white players and team owners felt they had to show unity with the black players.
But fans have not been amused. The day after the big protest involving hundreds of players, I saw four different videos on Facebook of fans actually burning their team jerseys, hats, pennants, even expensive leather jackets.
And game TV ratings have been dropping every week. The ratings for Thursday Night Football this week were the lowest of the season. And ratings in general have been down every single week.
Just last week there was a survey showing that football is now the least favorite sport in America, whereas it was formerly the most popular sport for years.
At last Thursday night’s game, the networks didn’t televise the anthem, which is an attempt to avoid the controversy. But that isn’t going to work, because fans and media will still take pictures and videos of the protests and post them online.
It’s hard to know exactly why fans are reacting so badly to the protests, but here are some factors that are probably involved:
- The protests are widely interpreted to be anti-American, anti-military and anti-police.
- They started at a time when we were seeing violent protests by Black Lives Matter and Antifa, and riots in Ferguson and Baltimore, and fans equate the anthem protests with player sympathy for these movements.
- The protests are widely interpreted to be liberal, and anti-Trump. So they tend to rub half the audience the wrong way.
- NFL fans tend to be very patriotic, supportive of the military, supportive of the police, etc.
- Fans note the fact that NFL players make millions, in a league that is 75% black, yet are complaining about oppression of blacks.
- Fans don’t want to deal with politics on game day, especially with a message that alienates half the fans or more.
What’s Behind All This?
So we have Kaepernick, who said the thing he was protesting was police brutality and oppression of people of color.
The narrative being pushed heavily at the time surrounding the Ferguson and Baltimore events and riots was that police targeted black men in shootings, more than white or Hispanics. Let’s just debunk that false narrative right now with the information in this video from Heather McDonald and Prager University.
So one of my objections to Colin Kaepernick and the whole national anthem protests is that IF they are all protesting the same thing that Kaepernick was, police treatment of black men, they are protesting something that isn’t even true. They are forwarding a narrative that is false and invented to purposely inflame racial tensions.
Now you look at liberals – and make no mistake that this is a liberal protest – and what do liberals think about football anyway? Rush Limbaugh states:
“The left, remember, is totalitarian and authoritarian; they’re not democratic. And they cannot tolerate people being permitted to make up their mind which side of any issue they agree with. And so the NFL is the most popular sport in the country. It’s the wealthiest sport in the country. As such, it is a humongous target, and that’s all they need to know. Then they look at who loves it, and they hate the people who love the NFL. To the left, the people who love NFL are the same people that love NASCAR. They’re a bunch of Deliverance types.
“They’re Southern, they’re hay-seed, they’re hicks, they’re gross, they’re not sophisticated. They engage in all of these activities the left finds reprehensible. You won’t find metrosexuals in the bunch, for example. You won’t find any transgenders in the bunch. There’s just blatant, toxic masculinity. There is rugged individualism confined in a team sport. There are routine acknowledgments of the military. Gigantic American flags are on display before every game.
“Now, some in this group don’t want to totally destroy the NFL. They want to keep it just big enough to fleece, shake down, what have you. Others on the left want to totally obliterate it because it represents a significant portion of America that will never ever cower and cave to what they believe. Except now the league is. Now the league is beginning to cower and cave. The league is allowing itself to become corrupted.
“And the league and the game have been hijacked. It’s the players that have hijacked the game in the process of it, and this is what has fans so upset.”
So liberals have no love of football. They hate football. Toxic masculinity.
So now they have managed to get players, who make millions of dollars, 75% of whom are black, to protest something that isn’t even real, and specifically in doing so to disrespect the flag and country – things that most of their fans love.
So the pushback against the protests unfortunately is making the players just double down and say that it is their Constitutional right to do this on the playing field, and they’re going to keep on doing it.
If it stopped tomorrow, would that undo the damage to the NFL? No. Liberals have sunk their teeth into it, and unfortunately, it will never be the same.