Trump, Football, and Natural Right(s)

Sunday was a rough day for the NFL and for football fans.

U.S. Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), never one to miss an opportunity to oppose President Trump, made sure to tweet his guidance to the adults of America: “NFL players: You have the right to protest Trump.”

The problem for Sasse is this controversy has nothing to do with anyone’s rights; and even less to do with Trump.

Trump’s battle with the NFL about anthem protests is about what is right, not one’s rights. The whole affair is not about what one can do, but about what one should do.

To start, Trump has made as appropriate an argument as one can make about public displays of disrespect for one’s country. It was entirely based on freedom of association and the free market. Players, as private employees, can protest America by kneeling during the National Anthem. Likewise, owners can, as Trump suggested, say “get that son of a bitch off the field. He’s fired!” Nowhere has Trump argued that it should be against the law to kneel, or that the force of government should be used to make men stand. Instead, the president has argued that economic pressures from a boycott would correct the disrespectful behavior.

Trump’s comments serve an immediate tactical purpose; they follow the same communications strategy Trump has used for years. With every comment by Trump, the elites respond by driving a wedge even deeper between themselves and common Americans. It’s clarifying. This division benefits Trump because it frames the issue in a way that will mobilize voters. Even Rich Lowry and Ben Sasse have started to figure this out.

But what the NeverTrumpers of the world have not grasped is that the battle is not just about tactical gains; it is about something fundamental to our survival as a nation: educating our young people to respect their country.

Just last week, a bunch of 8 year-olds were led to take a knee by a coach in St. Louis. What started as a desperate move by a sub-par player on his way out the door has already transformed into a destructive fad. How long should we expect to have a country if our young people are trained to hate and despise it in this way?

Truth is, if we do not work to instill patriotism and love of country in our children, this country will not last long. People with modern sensibilities may disagree, but the fact remains. A civil religion is not idolatry or empty rituals; it is a necessary component of free, republican life.

In his Lyceum Address, President Lincoln explained civil religion. He said,

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap—let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs;—let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

In his famous letter to Mrs. Bixby, Lincoln used the same religious language for the other end of life. Using the words of our civil religion, he sought to comfort a grieving mother who had lost five sons in the Civil War, praying that she be left with “the solemn pride . . . to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”

Lincoln understood that preserving our republic requires that citizens be willing to make great sacrifices. This willingness does not come from nothing, but is born from a proper education of children.

Melania Trump echoed this sentiment in a wonderful speech recently at the United Nations. There she said:

If you look at the present state of children in any society, we will see the future that our world can expect tomorrow. Show me your civic lessons of today and I will show you your civic leaders of tomorrow. Show me your history lessons of today and I will show you your political leaders of tomorrow. Show me the loving bonds between your families today and I will show you the patriotism and moral clarity of your nation tomorrow. Our choices on how we raise and educate our children will in fact provide the blueprint for the next generation.

Like Lincoln before, the first lady points to the same connection between morality, patriotism, education, and a free government as extolled in Article III of the Northwest Ordinance.

And President Trump has made it clear that he understands patriotism to be the linchpin of our nation. In nearly every public speech, he echoes what he said in his inaugural address:

At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.

Unity, necessary for the existence of these United States, comes from patriotism. Patriotism, in turn, comes from a proper civic education. This education is the thing at stake in Trump’s battle with the NFL.

How do we know? Trump said so himself when he started this fight in Alabama. Our shared values and our respect for our country, he said, unify us. That is why it is important to call out these destructive protests for what they are. The tragic irony in all of this is that President Trump has correctly identified the one thing—a national unity rooted in real patriotism—that will solve the problems that the original kneeling protest was meant to highlight. The elites, including the “principled conservatives” who oppose Trump, are just too blind to realize it.

The common sense of regular Americans who are capable of ruling themselves is here opposed to the befuddled sense of entitled elites who wish to rule everyone else. Elites think liberty is license and they confuse the issue with talk of rights and the 1st Amendment, as if this is a question of what one is allowed to do. The rest of America understands that liberty requires self-government, and the anthem protest question is about what one ought to do. Trump’s quarrel with the NFL is a necessary fight, not about rights, but about what is right.


About Bill Kilgore

Bill Kilgore is the pseudonym of a writer serving in the United States military. It should go without saying that the views expressed in his articles are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense or the U.S. government.

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33 responses to “Trump, Football, and Natural Right(s)”

  1. “The tragic irony in all of this is that President Trump has correctly identified the one thing—a national unity rooted in real patriotism—that will solve the problems that the original kneeling protest was meant to highlight.”

    What is the problem being protested? You say nowhere in the piece, and so we’re not able to weigh the relative harm being done by, say, cops getting away with infringing endlessly on the civil rights of blacks — lives lost and injured — and the harm done by kneeling, respectfully, before a symbol.

    What would be a preferable protest?

    The right is much better able to demagogue this stuff, it’s true. In the short term, people who care about what’s being protested will probably lose politically. I’m not at all sure that’s the most important thing.

    • Do you have a link to the fact that cops are getting away with infringing endlessly on the civil rights of blacks?

    • Oh please. Not that tired old trope.

      Let us consider the facts (for a refreshing change):
      There are approximately 850K police officers (law enforcement officials — capable of making an arrest) in the United States. Annually they invest ~1.7B labor hours ensuring that 300M of us are safe, are protected, and that the crimes we suffer are investigated, the criminals apprehended & prosecuted. They confront about 3000 violent crimes every single day, nationwide. That would be ~1M violent crimes committed annually…of which ~467K (46%) involve guns.

      And yet — of those 1M violent incidents … we find only ~ 1.2K fatal shootings, committed by police. That is a fatal shooting rate (per violent crime) of only .11%. This means that 99%+ of all the violent crimes committed do NOT end with a police shooting. If we then consider the shooting rate as a percent of the labor hours invested….then we arrive at the equally amazing fact that we experience a police shooting in only .0001% of the time police spend ‘protecting & serving’. And if we consider how many of those shootings are defined as officially ‘questionable’ — meaning the evidence is mixed as to how justified or unjustified the shooting might have been, the number shrinks ever further.

      But let us put aside the truth about ‘police violence’ and look exclusively at the assertion that “cops are getting away with infringing endlessly on the civil rights of Blacks”. Of course to begin we must first consider the Black vs. White crime rates. There we discover that in every major crime category, Black crime significantly outpaces White crime when measured in comparison to their general population demographic balance. In murder, for instance, where we might expect to find that only 13% of all murders are committed by Blacks, we discover instead that the real number runs at approximately 49% (or 269% higher than the ‘expected’ demographic rate). Rape — 141% higher. Robbery — 317% higher. Illegal weapons possession — 204% higher. The list goes on. In the end we discover the arithmetic inevitability that the odds of encountering a violent Black criminal are significantly higher than the odds of encountering a violent White criminal. Considering murder alone, the stats would indicate that any given police officer is 400%+ more likely to find himself in a confrontation with a Black killer than a White killer.

      So… Given these violent realities…and those probabilities….as a police officer would we be more apprehensive? more alert? more primed to react quickly & decisively if/when a confrontation turns violent?

      Of course we would; who wouldn’t?

      But even when a police shooting does occur, the analysis by the Washington Post reveals that about 50% of the victims are White and only 26% Black.

      Even if we examine the data associated with something as mundane as traffic stops, what we discover (per an extensive analysis performed by the Rand Corporation) is that “the data yield little evidence of racial profiling in traffic stops”

      So are the police “gettnig away with infringing enlessly on the civil rights of Blacks”? No, of course not. Even a cursory examination of the data available tells us that is not happening.

      But let us consider just the fact of the protest (even given the miniscule number of Black/Police shooting incidents which are ‘questionable’)… do we lay the responsibility for those few truly wrong, racist, & illegal acts at the foot of the American flag? Is it our nation … our creed… our American vision and dedication to the rights of Man which caused this particular bad thing to occcur? Or — like most bad things — is it / was it the responsibility of the man who performed the act?

      Truly — should we protest the American flag and everything ti stands for every time some American does us wrong? Or should we exercise some reason and logic and understanding that the State is not responsible for everything which happens to us?

      You ask, “what would be a preferable protest?” A preferable protest would begin, first, with a a basic understanding of the Truth. Sadly & obviously we’re a long way away from that.

      • So you’re saying police don’t kill blacks that often.

        But if they do it’s justified.

        And anyway, protesting it makes you feel bad.

        There are different ways of reading the shooting stats, for what it’s worth.

        From WaPo:

        • According to the most recent census data, there are nearly 160 million more white people in America than there are black people. White people make up roughly 62 percent of the U.S. population but only about 49 percent of those who are killed by police officers. African Americans, however, account for 24 percent of those fatally shot and killed by the police despite being just 13 percent of the U.S. population. As The Post noted in a new analysis published last week, that means black Americans are 2.5 times as likely as white Americans to be shot and killed by police officers.

        • IS THIS A FUNCTION OF CRIMINALITY: Not necessarily: “U.S. police officers have shot and killed the exact same number of unarmed white people as they have unarmed black people: 50 each. But because the white population is approximately five times larger than the black population, that means unarmed black Americans were five times as likely as unarmed white Americans to be shot and killed by a police officer.”

        • IN FACT: “Of all of the unarmed people shot and killed by police in 2015, 40 percent of them were black men, even though black men make up just 6 percent of the nation’s population.”

        • A 2015 study by a University of California at Davis researcher concluded there was “no relationship” between crime rates by race and racial bias in police killings. A report released last week by the Center for Policing Equity, which reviewed arrest and use-of-force data from 12 police departments, concluded that black residents were more often targeted for use of police force than white residents, even when adjusting for whether the person was a violent criminal.

        One additional note: Black criminality numbers can often be exacerbated by a system that creates that criminality as much as responds to it. The DOJ report on Ferguson found, for example….

        ” Ferguson’s law enforcement practices are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs. This emphasis on revenue has compromised the institutional character of Ferguson’s police department, contributing to a pattern of unconstitutional policing, and has also shaped its municipal court, leading to procedures that raise due process concerns and inflict unnecessary harm on members of the Ferguson community. Further, Ferguson’s police and municipal court practices both reflect and exacerbate existing racial bias, including racial stereotypes. Ferguson’s own data establish clear racial disparities that adversely impact African Americans. The evidence shows that discriminatory intent is part of the reason for these disparities. Over time, Ferguson’s police and municipal court practices have sown deep mistrust between parts of the community and the police department, undermining law enforcement legitimacy among African Americans in particular.”

        Truth? There’s plenty of it on the protesters’ side.

      • Obviously police killings are VERY VERY VERY INFREQUENT. They are very infrequent when measured as a percent of violent crime incidents. They are very infrequent when measured as a percent of police labor hours. The data is plain for all of us to see.

        Further, If we determine the significance of a problem by its arithmetic weight, obviously the count of unjustified police killings of Black men is very, very tiny, microscopically small. Such incidents, by that measure, are not any kind of significant national problem. By count, instead, we might say that the killing of Black men by other Black men IS a national/cultural problem (we see it in every major American city every weekend)….but that’s a separate issue, one which is clearly NOT being protested

        Still, of course, even one unjustified police killing is one too many.

        Equally obviously I’m not saying that every killing which does occur is justified. Why would you say such a silly thing? Obviously there are any number of cases (past & present) of unjustified police shootings…and when convicted of those crimes those particular individuals go to jail, as they should.

        But please, let us look at the realities themselves The Black violent crime rate is significantly disproportionate to the Black demographic balance. Further, most of the violent crime perpetrated by the disproportionately Black criminals occurs in a disproportionately Black neighborhood. This reality prompts (as it logically should) a disproportionate police presence & response which yields demographically disproportionate arrests & convictions. All of this flows logically & inevitably from the reality that the Black crime rate is significantly & consistently disproportionate.

        So given this raw imbalance, complicated by the ‘fog’ of conflict and high-risk interaction, in high-risk neighborhoods, which contain more per capita violent criminals than anywhere else….the question of who is and is not armed…and the violent potential inherent in any so-called unarmed (but violent? angry? high?) suspect … makes an examination of such issues highly problematic. What is, in fact, critical to such an examination, is context. And the behavior displayed within that context. Obviously we can’t speak to any of that in our superficial review of the raw totals….save to say, that most police killings in such circumstances have been evaluated & validated as justified. As we would normally expect.

        But all that leads us, once again, back to the beginning and the question of protest.
        Before we bless any ‘protest’, first we must understand it (what triggers it). And if , in fact, the protesters feel, as you do, that “police are getting away with infringing endlessly on the civil rights of Blacks”, then we must point out (as we’ve done here) that there is no real truth to that blind assertion. As noted, even a cursory examination of the data tells us that such “endless infringement of civil rights” is simply not occurring .. not to any degree of significance whatsoever..

        But beyond the lack of substance there… it is the mechanism and focus of the protest which is even more disturbing. The Flag and the Anthem (the vision & purpose of America that such symbols represent) are not to blame for an unjustified police shooting. They are not to blame for a Black murder rate which is 269% higher than ‘normal’; they are not to blame for a Black rape rate which is 141% higher…or a robbery rate which is 317% higher. The people who commit those crimes are to blame (perhaps they should be protested??), not the symbolic representations of the nation in which they live.

        More importantly, both the flag and the anthem represent in a very real way the sacrifice made by more than a million Americans (many of them Black) to protect and preserve the American promise of liberty and justice. To refuse to honor that sacrifice and that promise in a misguided attempt to protest a problem which is not real… is to fail completely to recognize the truths upon which those protesting stand. And that is truly a shame.

    • What I find interesting and inexcusable is that these black players, like their pals in BLM care not a whit about the dozens and dozens of blacks killed by other blacks every weekend in democrat run cities. If they really want to do something helpful they should be using their positions as celebrities to go into their communities and convince their brothers to quit killing each other.

      • First, how do you know they’re not?

        Second, if if you judge their actions insufficient why does that mean they shouldn’t speak up about other problems affecting their community? If they’re concerned about black people being killed, why shouldn’t they be concerned about black people being killed by police?

        Third, do you live by that standard? I assume that if you’ve got time to complain about football players, you must live in a community where there are no problems, right?

      • I know they’re not because, if they were, we would have heard about it.

        Thousands of blacks have been killed by other blacks in the last couple of years. Only a handful have been killed by the police and they were heroin dealers, robbers and thugs who resisted arrest or assaulted police officers.

        I live in the middle of nowhere but it is only 45 miles from Washington, DC so I see what happens in cities that have been run by democrats for the last 50 years.

    • “What is the problem being protested?”

      Irrelevant. The players can do all their protesting about whatever they want outside the stadium but once they step into that place of business they should do their jobs and leave their politics outside. That is, by the way, the rule for tens of millions of ordinary employees in this country.

      “kneeling, respectfully, before a symbol”

      Oh bullshit. They are kneeling precisely in order to disrespect the flag, the anthem, and the country. Fans understand this, and there is no point in pretending otherwise.

      • I’m sure you’d find the protests precisely to your liking if they took some other form.

    • If you don’t know, and don’t know that it is based on lies, then you are not paying attention.

  2. If fans disrespect teams by burning their paraphernalia, then the players should start burning flags.

    • Only if they want to wind up unemployed. Ultimately, the fans pay the player’s salaries.

    • it’s not surprising that you have things backwards, considering your head is up your ass.

  3. Sen. Sasse: You have the right to resign your position in the United States Senate, since you have abdicated the duty of representing the people of Nebraska.

    • Google is paying 97$ per hour,with weekly payouts.You can also avail this.
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  4. It all boils down to this – you’re either for the flag, the national anthem and the veterans who made and keep this country free or you’re not. The NFL is not.

  5. I now take a knee every time an NFL football game comes on TV, and turn it off.
    Then I go to American Greatness to see what’s new and intellectually stimulating.
    I’m never disappointed, and always enlightened.

    • Cybergeezer, I respectfully point out that flying your flag is similar to the mexican flag, antifa flag, swastika or other symbol that signifies a group that fought and lost to the true Americans. I think you might be doing yourself a disservice. I say this in kindness and yes, you have free speech also.

      • You have the right to remain misinformed and gullible your entire life.
        Looks like I’m at least 2x, maybe even 3x or 4x your age.
        Some earnest research into the background of The Navy Jack would help.
        Best of luck on your journey to maturation.

      • So you’re 240 years old?……no I was not insulting you, just trying to have a conversation… brave, tell me you are a civil war veteran.

      • Then why is the navy jack “top rung” on your profile?

      • You should read CharlieM response to your flag stance…..much more intelligent.

  6. I am very glad that I gave up on professional sports 18 years ago this month. Back then it was the steroid scandal(s), strikes and threatened strikes that caused my departure from watching or supporting professional sports. Now, the fans have even more cause to stop watching and going to games. There is a lot of great athletic talent out there, but that does not give them Carte Blanche to say and do whatever they want without consequences. Say goodbye to those multimillion dollar salaries and start learning to say, “would you like fries with that…”

  7. Bill Kilgore’s work above is the first good writing I’ve read on the Internet that isn’t my own in more than a decade.

  8. If anyone wants to disrespect our great nation, they have the free speech right, BUT to do it at a venue (like Berkeley) you have to pay for your platform. NFL should charge players Advertising airtime costs, just as anyone else does. OR I SHOULD get free airtime to express MY free speech opinion.