National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell last week said pro football was wrong for not listening to players fighting for racial equality. Goodell encouraged them to peacefully protest.
“It has been a difficult time for our country,” Goodell said in a video the league released Friday. “In particular, [for] black people in our country.” The commissioner offered his condolences “to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and all the families who have endured police brutality.”
“We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people,” Goodell continued. “We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League, believe Black Lives Matter. I personally protest with you and want to be part of the much-needed change in this country.”
Goodell’s message was well-received in the press, insofar as dovetails with the message the media and other large corporations have been broadcasting about the need for greater racial equality and justice. He also recognized that people generally have the right to peacefully protest—a point no American would deny.
But Goodell’s statements went beyond that. It was an invitation to kneel during the national anthem, affirming support for the idea that America is guilty of “systemic racism.” Americans should strongly reject this and tune out the NFL on the grounds that it is un-American and disrespectful to those who have served, to our flag, and to our nation.
In the sports world, many of the players who “kneel” claim that they are doing so in solidarity to protest inequality and injustice around the country. Some take issue with phrases in our national anthem, such as “land of the free,” which they claim is simply not accurate.
The act of kneeling, however, has absolutely nothing to do with rectifying “injustice.” On the contrary, those who kneel show a lack of patriotism and respect for our flag, our country, and for those who fought for the freedoms that we enjoy. As a matter of fact, it is these very freedoms that many of the NFL players enjoy that enables them to make millions of dollars per year.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees seemed to understand this point when he stated:
I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country. Is everything right with our country right now? No, it is not. We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together, we can all do better and that we are all part of the solution.
Sadly, Brees subsequently “changed his mind” and apologized for his comments. President Trump correctly condemned this apology and tweeted, “I am a big fan of Drew Brees. I think he’s truly one of the greatest quarterbacks, but he should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag.”
President Trump is exactly right. Brees said nothing wrong. He indicated that the nation still had a long way to go in order to rectify racial inequality yet opined that disrespecting the American flag was not the way to go about it.
The players who are employed by the NFL—if the NFL expects to be a league respected by Americans—should be governed by a set of rules, one of which should include standing for the anthem. This does not mean that the players cannot protest injustice and inequality. For example, they can stand without reciting the words, hold a peaceful rally at a venue of their choosing, lead a peaceful march, propose legislation to their respective members of Congress, and/or meet with the president and/or their local/national political leaders and discuss their concerns.
Given Goodell’s capitulation, Americans shouldn’t be blamed for tuning out the NFL. Call it a “boycott” or call it consumers exercising their free choice—call it whatever you want. The alternative is to sit back and be insulted week after week by millionaire athletes and their employers cynically piggybacking on a movement that is about far more than simply advocating justice for African Americans.
In a 2016 article in Townhall, John Hawkins perfectly laid out the reasons for boycotting the league, stating:
Know what the penalty for putting America down in the NFL is right now? Nothing. The same NFL that banned pro-cop helmet decals and stopped Titans linebacker Avery Williamson from wearing cleats that honored the victims of 9/11, supports players who refuse to stand for the Pledge. Moreover, spoiled mediocre quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s jersey became a bestseller after he held the flag in contempt. On a personal note, I wouldn’t even shake someone’s hand who is wearing a Kaepernick jersey, much less hire him. But, when people who hate America will reward you for doing the wrong thing, while the good people just shrug their shoulders, you shouldn’t be surprised when NFL players keep flipping off the whole country.
The only effective way for Americans to express their displeasure with pro football’s “woke” turn is to stop watching games, buying merchandise, and supporting players. It’s as simple as that.
If the NFL chooses to promote kneeling over American patriotism, the American public should choose patriotism and love of country over the NFL.