Everyone's Wrong About NFL Kneelgate, Which Will Now Never Go Away

It's not about free speech, or employment, or respect for the flag.

As Mrs. Banks sung in Mary Poppins: "Though we adore men individually, We agree that as a group they're rather stupid!" This perfectly describes the NFL and its owners. It also describes the players.

Here we have a group of billionaires deciding if their millionaire employees should stand during the National Anthem, which is played at the start of every NFL game. That this argument even exists is infantile in the extreme. It's not about free speech, because that's a right the First Amendment guarantees to every citizen, that the government won't infringe. The NFL is not the government.

It's not about the flag, because only members of the U.S. military and other services subject to the UCMJ are under any threat of penalty for not honoring the flag.

It's not about people being oppressed, because (heaving sigh) the millionaire players of the NFL can't, in anyone's view, be oppressed by their billionaire employers.

That means everyone is wrong, despite their very valid feelings on the topic. No, it's not political to be required by your employer to respect the National Anthem when part of your job is to attend events where it's played.

It's also wrong to compare oppressive attacks on free speech on campus and at other workplaces to the NFL.

In one of the rare times where I'm convinced David French is wrong, he wrote in the New York Times.

This isn’t a “middle ground,” as the N.F.L. claims. It’s not a compromise. It’s corporate censorship backed up with a promise of corporate punishment. It’s every bit as oppressive as the campus or corporate attacks on expression that conservatives rightly decry.

He's missing the point. It's not about the flag (if it were, yes the censorship would be worse). It is, however, about respect.

Not for the flag, but for the fans. The paying customers.

It's legitimately free speech for Olympic athletes to raise their fists in a Black Power salute during the National Anthem. But it's obnoxious and insulting to boo another team's anthem when you're not the winner. That doesn't only disrespect their flag and anthem, it also disrespects the fans and the winners.

In the case of the NFL, players who kneel during the National Anthem disrespect the fans, who have the right to either sit, stand, kneel, be silent, or boo during the song's playing. But since we're in America and the fans paid their good green American dollars to be there at the stadium for the game, or to watch it on television, the players need to show respect for those fans.

And the owners need to show respect for those fans. What the owners did last week was reprehensible. They solved nothing. There will still be kneelers, and there will be teams, parts of teams, individuals, and squads, who notably take themselves off the field for the anthem, which implies kneeling. There will be those who stand proudly on the field. There will be those who kneel on the field and incur fines on their team.

There will be team owners who pay the fines. And some who fine the players.

The owners got together and collectively displayed a shocking level of stupidity. Instead of putting Kneelgate behind them and focusing on football, they guaranteed another year of protests, boycotts, media circuses and disrespect of fans.

If they all had any respect for the fans, they'd make a consistent policy: teams stay off the field during the anthem, or teams all must stand during the anthem. Pick one. Either one is fine. Then what happens when a player decides to do something different? That's really the issue here. I say a millionaire player should do what the billionaire owners say, or not play. Don't fine them, suspend them. If suspension is okay for a deflated football (which had zero influence on the outcome of a lopsided game), then it's okay for flouting league rules on decorum.

There are probably 612,396 reasons a fan can get kicked out of an NFL game. Everything from throwing your beer, to yelling profanities, to jumping on the field will get you ejected, and your $200 ticket will be for naught. But the fans are the least respected part of the game that exists solely for their entertainment. If the NFL had any respect for those who are taken for granted and treated as the teats of so many cash cows, they'd stop players from making their games into political events.

If the NFL really cared about the fans, they'd suspend players who didn't honor the fans, and that means keeping teams off the field for the anthem, or making them stand. What the owners did is neither; they engaged in mealy-mouthed idiocy.

Now they all deserve what they will certainly get.

No. 1-20

Exactly..........you are totally correct. I applaud your common sense and pithy observation. Thank you and God Bless.


@Paul1719 Bravo! I couldn't agree more. And thank you (and your wife) for your dedicated service to the USA.


First, my bona fides: From 29 December 1970 to 31 December 1990, I served in the United States Air Force. My wife is also retired Air Force, so to all of you out there who are offended by the NFL's policy, which I believe is rather lame AND dumb, and are about to be offended by what I write: Too bad. The real solution to this mess is for the NFL to revert to the pre-2009 policy, in which, except for certain nationally televised games - today, Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights, Thanksgiving Day, and those Saturday games in December - the teams came out for pregame warm ups, then returned to their locker rooms. After the Anthem, they returned to the field for the kickoff. Simple, no? The players may be offended that they don't get to flaunt their nonexistent right to protest while on the job against the wishes of their employer - The National Labor Relations Act specifically grants employers the right to limit such activity by employees while on the job - so the law's not on their side, so that is that. In 2009, the NFL, which made an estimated $14 BILLION in revenues in 2017, signed an agreement with my former employer, the Department of Defense, to turn the pre-game ceremonies into their present status as garish and unnecessary displays of patriotic fervor. I proudly stand at attention for the National Anthem, and as I am allowed to do as a military retiree, render a sharp hand salute while doing so. It isn't as if the NFL needs the additional money; revenues continue to increase, and will reach an estimated $25 billion by 2025. The players won't get paid any less, either. The solution is for the NFL to stop sucking up every bit of loose change if finds in the fans' couch cushions, continue to work with the DoD on outreach to active duty Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines as well as those wounded warriors who NEED it, AND worry hard about what will happen in 2020, when its present sweetheart deal with the players expires. Roger Goodell, please stop this charade now; we're all the worse for it.


Hmm I think I will just continue to watch football because I enjoy it. Although I do find it disgusting that a draft dodger has the nerve to think he gets to decide what is patriotic. Not that it matters, this is 2018 everyone knows the only patriots are those who agree with me 100% of the time. Everyone else is either a nazi racist or a communist anarchist.


To JaneMiller: What a close minded person you are. I am one of those Trump base you call racist. I'm not racist, but I know a nut job when I read your drivel.