|Sgt. Alex Rogers with Battle Flag, 83rd Pennsylvania Volunteers (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
On one hand, the National Football League is a business, like any other. Olive Garden would not let your server plug syndicalist revolution along with the surf and turf. Ford wouldn't let a designer push though the Agrarian Reform F-150 Pick-Up.
So why should the NFL allow its highly paid employees to use the global stage it has put them on to register a private protest, even one concerning as important an issue as police brutality? The NFL is in a business relationship with the Department of Defense. It gets money for those patriotic displays, soldier re-unions and such, or at least did. Why bite mindless patriotism, the hand that feeds it?
Pro football isn't the government. Free speech ends at the stadium gate.
That wasn't my immediate thought on hearing Wednesday's news, however.
My immediate thought was "Fuck the NFL." Forcing players to stand for the national anthem. That or cower in the locker room. Or pay a hefty fine. After two seasons of certain players taking a knee to draw attention to police brutality, which was re-purposed by the Right, in their favorite Pretend My Foe Believes Something Stupid Gambit, into a protest against the flag.
Which we are all for. Or at least better be, now, or else.
Some kind of fine, to be determined, for those who go to one knee.
That's their solution. Stand or else.
Don't they realize? Coerced respect means nothing. Every tinpot dictatorship forces its enslaved populations to stand rigid during whatever wheezing ditty passes as their national anthem. Doesn't make them a great country.
The United States, which actually is a great country, or was, before it was delivered into the hands of treasonous morons by some near-majority of voters either terrified of the future or fixated on some point in the past, or both, does not need to force tribute.
Now I'm not so sure. I still stand for the pledge. But if someone else wants to respond by raising a middle finger of one hand and grabbing their crotch with the other, well, I know where you're coming from, brother. Those thundering loudest for respect are always the ones who least deserve it.
No 2nd grader is forced to say the pledge of allegiance, because school administrators know that students are a diverse group. Some students are Jehovah’s Witnesses and don't believe in saluting anyone but God. Some students are familiar enough with the checkered history of this country to not feel obligated.
But schools are part of government, a key distinction. It's a free country, or was. And to honor that freedom, the National Football League—some private, cash-stuffed business—is not compelling its employees to earn their pay, in part, by expressing a respect that maybe they feel, maybe they don't.
How to tell?
The expressions on their faces might be a give away. Their postures. There are ways to register dissent short of falling to a knee. Will those be fined next? A sneer? A shake of the head? How much for a bored expression?
This policy, like most misguided censures, will only highlight what it means to efface.
I'm not going to join those predicting doom for pro-football. I don't watch the games, I'm not their target audience. But between the concussion scandal, the Right pushed away by the protest, and the Left pushed away by this snap of the overseer's whip on the backs of protesting players, you wonder.