The NFL, The Owners & Kneeling

The NFL still has a problem.  Players continue to kneel while some are not participating at all. Others have added raising their fists in protest.  At first, the owners did nothing as the repercussions were minimal. However, once President Trump came down strongly on the side that players should stand, the whole topic moved center stage.

I find it fascinating that it was President Trump’s comments that spawned subsequent action by the American public. After all, the “controversy” had started a year prior without any real decline in ratings. Fans had neither boycotted nor expressed their displeasure over the kneeling. But when the President said out loud what many people had been thinking and feeling, it provided the impetus to finally turn off the television sets and stop going to the games.

The NFL has shifted into damage-control mode and is doing everything it can to make this story go away. Their attempts  now include allowing players to remain in the locker room instead of protesting on the sidelines.

The owners’ positions fell apart and turned around once they realized that a majority of paying customers opposed the players antics. The operative words in that last sentence were “paying customers.”  These owners are billionaires and know perfectly well how to finance deals; however, most of these stadiums are funded by public financing.  The casual fan has no idea that it’s his money paying for the stadium. Fans not only get charged for attending the game, they also gets taxed at work for the stadium they build. Adding insult to injury, they have to sit and watch the country they love be disrespected by the owners’ employees (a/k/a/ players)!

Given that it is 1) a public stadium; 2) funded by taxpayer dollars and 3) a public event, there should be no issue for the participants to engage and show proper respect for the public ceremony. Some may argue that going to the NFL is a private event; but, Congress created the NFL monopoly. Such legislation allows NFL members huge advantages, including taxpayer funded stadiums. Therefore, they are public events. Common decency toward the nation via the flag is a reasonable expectation under the circumstances.

There are two major points that have been obfuscated.

  1. The players do not have a right to protest. This is not a First Amendment free speech issue;
  2. A property owner has the right to do what he/she desires to do with his/her property.

I have worked at plenty of companies, and in situations, where I was bound by applicable rules. For example, in the military, it is prohibited to speak to the media about politics. Such commentary has the potential to undermine the system. I could express my misgivings personally but not in a public forum. Having taken civics in the sixth grade, I knew that property owners’ rights are virtually unlimited as long as they do not violate the Constitutional rights of one’s employees.

Demanding that your employee-players not take a knee isn’t a violation of anybody’s Constitutional rights.

Admittedly, workers have rights as well. In a free society, a worker has the right to quit his job any time he wishes to do so. In my own case, I could have subsequently left the military, started a magazine bashing the military and nobody would or could have stopped me. Personal opinion expressed publicly on my own time.

If NFL players feel so repressed, or oppressed, they can quit and take another job any time they so choose.

What I think the protests are really about is attacking the culture. At the heart of every culture is a generally accepted code of conduct without which no culture can survive. This is why the NFL protests are a big deal. In previous generations, there were manners and ways to address your concerns while heeding the culture’s code of conduct, protocol, symbolism, and traditions.  Those used to include respecting the flag.

Our Founding Fathers established a culture that made the “experiment” called America the greatest and most liberty-focused society on earth. There are countless benefits to being born here. These benefits are memorialized within our founding documents and have been maintained, in no small measure, by the sacrifices of life made by prior generations. Take a look at the citation for a Medal of Honor Winner. You will come away with profound insight into the depth of anger felt by so many Americans towards NFL players and owners who perpetuate and allow this behavior.

Nobody wants to see the rights of the players infringed upon; but the venue they are choosing is neither the time nor the place to exercise those rights. Discretion is the better part of valor.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com