The NFL has spent the last two seasons allowing their players to shamelessly disrespect the flag in the misguided “protest” started by former 49er Colin Kaepernick who made waves in 2016 by kneeling during the national anthem.
In the eyes of Kaepernick, his supporters, and the dozens of athletes across the NFL and other sporting organizations, this dramatic move was a protest against police shootings and general racial inequality in the United States.
To most fans, however, it was a slap in the face to everything this nation stands for, particularly the brave patriots who fought, bled, and died to ensure that Kaepernick and all his wealthy sport star cohorts could have the right to kneel during the national anthem.
So when the NFL announced they’d be fining teams whose players chose to kneel during the anthem, many Americans felt it was an ideological victory for patriotic football fans everywhere.
There’s only one problem.
The players will still be allowed to remain in the locker room for the anthem without being fined. This might seem like a fine compromise, but does it really address the underlying problem of the anthem protests to begin with?
Think about it: the protests were offensive in the first place because they went far beyond a simple critique of police practices and “racial inequality”. Whatever the original intention of the players who chose to kneel during the anthem (some kept their hands on their hearts, others claimed to be praying), the general appearance of this particular style of protest was undeniable: it was blatantly anti-American.
Anti-Americanism has become a common sentiment among the left, and it is one that tends to repeal their ideological opponents who think it is absolutely insane to equate the freest and most equal nation in the history of this planet with tyranny and oppression, particularly in an era where we enjoy unprecedented liberty and equality.
So if players can now simply remain in the locker room, when the NFL, as a private company, could easily require them to be on the field and stand for the anthem, this, in a way, undermines the National Anthem even more. The lines in the sand are just that much greater, as more players will choose to stay in the locker room either in protest or in solidarity with their teammates, with whom it is their job to behave as a team.
Others will, of course, choose to kneel as their wealthy, virtue-signaling owners happily pay the fine.
I’m not saying that the policy is bad, or that the players should necessarily be made to do anything; it almost seems as if we’re past the point of any comfortable compromise to this incredibly divisive issue.
But this is exactly the problem with this form of protest: it forces Americans to decide if they’re opposed to racial inequality, or if they’re patriotic. There is no middle ground, and the NFL has, as one of the most celebrated institutions in our cultural heritage, successfully divided Americans and inadvertently made anti-Americanism even more acceptable, and their new policy will most likely do nothing more than revive this messy, conflicting issue every single Sunday for yet another NFL season.
Oh well. I guess they tried.