By Steve Hunley
For six months I live without NFL football and I reckon I can live without it for the other six months. Evidently I’m not alone.
Attendance is down and so are viewers. Perhaps more disturbing to team owners, so is revenue. Clearly, folks are unhappy about something and it is impossible to ignore the growing movement by players to “take the knee” while our national anthem is being played. Players, most of them millionaires, have had every opportunity to attract attention to themselves and could easily call a press conference to state their own political beliefs or the like, which, to my knowledge, none of them have done. Most of the mainstream media, realizing folks are not happy about the disrespect for our flag, anthem and country, have tried to rewrite the narrative into something more appealing. Unfortunately for them, folks have already caught on and are mad about it.
The simple fact is football is supposed to be entertainment, pure and simple. Most of the people watching football don’t give a hoot about the players’ political views and I imagine most don’t want to know their views. Hollywood actors regularly pop off about their own political beliefs and views, but if that happened in the middle of a George Clooney movie, I doubt it would go over any too well.
Colin Kaepernick started this mess and perhaps we should revisit precisely what he said at the time he refused to stand for the national anthem. “I’m not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he told one interviewer immediately after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”
That statement pretty well demolishes the argument the refusal to stand for the anthem is about love and unity, although Aaron Rogers has said, “This is about equality. This is about unity and love and growing together as a society, and starting a conversation around something that may be a little bit uncomfortable for people.”
Well, the conversation is off to a rollicking start and for the life of me I cannot understand how this is supposed to bring people together, to unify this nation or show love of country. Most of these people have the same views as those who cry President Donald Trump is dividing our country. That has been said with the President’s own remarks about taking the knee. Really? Do you suppose they believe President Hillary Clinton could unite this country? Perhaps President Elizabeth Warren or President Bernie Sanders? Of course they do. Yet the last presidential election shows this country is sharply divided, almost evenly divided, and it would remain divided irrespective of who sat in the Oval Office.
Players say they aren’t disrespecting America, the national anthem or the military, but the majority of people in this country don’t believe it. Neither do I. After all, the inference is this is a terrible country with a horrific past. Every country on the face of the earth has a portion of its own history with horrific incidents and periods and I don’t see tens of thousands of people boarding planes going elsewhere to live. Where else on God’s green earth would these people have become millionaires for merely playing football?
Saying President Trump’s comments are “inflammatory” is baloney. Trump didn’t start this conversation and he has just as much a right to speak his mind as the players. That’s the fundamental problem here, as the players and their allies only like one-sided conversations.
There really are some places where politics needs to be put aside. People want to enjoy football as a game, not a political rally or a forum for individuals to express their political beliefs. Football players, by and large, are personalities who command attention and have ready access to the media and social media. I can only imagine the reaction of the mainstream media if a billionaire team owner spouted off conservative views before the game began and the audience and those at home had to listen to it. I don’t think the media would be raising the issue of free speech. In fact, I know they wouldn’t, as they never have when conservatives speak at college campuses or much of anywhere else. They simply label it as offensive and try and change the narrative. If you don’t believe it, take the case of the hypocritical New York Times who not surprisingly came out in support of the NFL players and their right to exercise free speech. Michael Ciepi, who worked for the New York Times, noted the restrictions on the Times’ own employees was far more restrictive when it came to free speech. The Times handbook stated, “Staff members may not march or rally in support of public causes or movements, sign ads taking a position on public issues, or lend their names to public campaigns, benefit dinners or similar events if doing so might reasonably raise doubts about their ability or The Times’s ability to function as neutral observers in covering the news.” At least in recent years, when has the New York Times ever been neutral, much less fair and actually covered the news rather than coloring it?
The left-leaning media only believes in free speech when they happen to agree with what is being said. If the players insist upon the right to protest in an entertainment venue, I have the right not to watch.
The bottom line is NFL football is a big business, producing $14 billion annually, and the solidarity shown by some team owners with players may very well be short-lived. As ratings and revenue fall, salaries and contracts will likely be reduced. Many of the billionaire owners and millionaire players have benefitted significantly from state and local tax breaks and subsidies. The NFL people may also be misreading their audience; for instance look at the biggest advertisers for football games: Ford, selling its F1-50 truck and beer companies. Not exactly the cheese nibbling and white wine sipping crowd.
Right and left have strong opinions about what’s taking place and neither side is going to agree. Ultimately, the owners and players may put themselves out of business.
In the meantime, I’ll just take a break from watching NFL football.