The NFL and the National Anthem

So it started last year, this third-string quarterback on the edge of being cut makes a big production out of not standing for the National Athem because “oppression.” (Dammit, can somebody oppress me with an $11 million contract?)

Suddenly, the fact that nobody wants this third string quarterback is political.  He’s not being cut because he’s bad, oh no.  He’s being cut because…racism.  And other teams don’t want to hire him, not because he’s bad but because, again, racism. (70% of professional football players are black compared with 13.3% of the US population in general.)

And the story grows.  Other players begin to not only not stand but to expressly kneel as further protest.

What they’re protesting?  Um, that’s a good one.  Aside from a general “America bad” and “Trump bad” this isn’t particularly clear.  And the usual suspects in the media cheer their “courage”.

And the result of this?  People are attending fewer games.  Fewer people are tuning in on television.  And fewer people are buying less NFL merchandise (with some notable exceptions which I’ll get to).

You see, they forgot one thing.  The people who are impressed by this protest, in the vast majority don’t. watch. football. games.  They couldn’t care less about the sport except now to point to the protesters on “their side.” But the thing is, that care, that pointing and saying “see, they agree with us”, doesn’t translate into actual sales.  These protests aren’t pulling those people into stadiums.  They aren’t getting them to buy player jerseys or NFL logo apparel or, really anything.

The folk applauding the logo aren’t becoming football fans.

The actual fans, on the other hand, are annoyed, offended, and insulted.  And. they’re. staying. away.  Sales are tanking.

So what are the teams, and the NFL administration doing?

The coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers decides they’re not going out on the field until after the anthem.  Only one player, Alejandro Villanueva, defied that decision, Villaneuva, a combat veteran, stood alone on his side of the field for the National Anthem.  Of course since then, he’s been “convinced” into apologies for doing so.

I made coach (Mike) Tomlin look bad, and that is my fault and my fault only. I made my teammates look bad, and that is my fault.

No, Mr. Villaneuva.  They made themselves look bad.

As for the fans, Mr. Villaneuva’s jersey is the best seller in the NFL.  People are voting with their wallets.

And there you have it.  While I’d be the last person to say that players don’t have the right to peacefully protest as they see fit, I would say that fans also have the right to not buy tickets to games.  That they have the right to not order pay-per-view showings of games.  That they have the right to not buy merchandise.

And if these protests cost the owners of these teams money (and it’s not just the team the individual players play for.  There’s some complicated rules on how income is distributed among teams that means it hurts everyone in the league) then the owners (within the limits of existing contracts) have the right to replace them with players that don’t cost them money.

I mean, come on, this is the league that fined a player for twerking in the end zone.  You think it’s not within their purview to speak out against politicking on the field, particularly when it’s driving away their fanbase?

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23 thoughts on “The NFL and the National Anthem”

    1. the numbers are even more impressive when you realize that only 6% f the population are black males and, of course, there are no black woman in NFL>

  1. In their duplicity, the NFL recognizes, yet avoids and still tries to profit. At NFL.com/…team wares/Pittsburg Steelers, Villaneuva’s jersey is all over the front page. At $99.

    I thought of buying one. But not at that price, and not from NFL.

  2. Your post isn’t an honest argument. Kaepernick didn’t make a big production out of his kneeling, and the reason for his action is specifically to protest the injustice of Blacks being killed by police without justification. You’re free to disparage him and the others who support him, but you should at least not make stuff up when doing so.

    1. You mean like he did with this “Blacks being killed by police without justification”? Pretty much every time they make a big protest out of some police use of force it turnes out that the little turd that was killed brought it on himself. And the numbers show that the police are actually more likely to kill white suspects than black ones.

      And funny coincidence, isn’t it. That now his being released is political rather than because he sucked as a quarterback. Amazing how that worked. I didn’t make up his performance stats. I didn’t make up the results. I simply drew a different conclusion from what you apparently did.

      1. I want to focus on a specific question, so I won’t argue about whether Blacks are, in fact, the victim of unjustified police shootings more than whites. I also won’t argue that protesters often make bad choices about where to draw a line – the Ferguson situation and the Trayvon Martin matter are good examples of picking the wrong set of facts to argue.

        However, it’s undeniable that police commit unjustified killings of Blacks (as well as whites). Two examples off the top of my head are the 12-year-old kid in Cleveland with the toy gun and the young guy with a toy gun in WalMart in Ohio. Both completely unjustified, and both situations where the police overreacted with deadly force for no good reason.

        Your and many others have decided to focus on Kaepernick’s supposed “disrespect” of the national anthem or perhaps his selection of the wrong cases to protest, but in doing so you’re making a choice to ignore the fact that there is a problem with police in this country. It might not be limited to treatment of Blacks – in my view, it’s more a function of increasing militarization and a mindset that police would rather see an innocent person killed than be killed themselves.

        I don’t know your particular viewpoint, but it’s very interesting that President Trump can look at people protesting the removal of Confederate statues and say that there are “good people on both sides,” while labeling football players kneeling during the national anthem as sons-of-bitches who should be fired.

        1. Hi,

          I agree with your focus and comment! Author Radly Balko wrote a great book on the militarization of the US Police: “Rise of the Warrior Cop”(https://www.amazon.com/Rise-Warrior-Cop-Militarization-Americas/dp/1610394577).

          I am not happy with the President re-authorizing the selling / gifting of military equipment to local police. I realize we need to be able to respond to a terrorist attack, and that is the intent. But I think things there have ratcheted up in the same way these kneeling protests have.

          jon

        2. Actually, Trump said that there was wrong on both sides of the statue issue. And generally speaking the folk at those other protests weren’t using their employment as a forum for their protest.

          What’s happening here, though, is that these players are using their employment as such a forum. And they’re doing it in a way that’s alienating the “customers” for the business–people are turning off football game broadcasts (lower ratings and therefore less ad revenue) , not ordering Pay Per View (lower revenue), not attending games (lower revenue), not buying licensed merchandise (lower revenue).

          And the vast majority of people “supporting” the protests are folk who have never watched a football game and never will.

          They are costing the business money. Pretty much everywhere, that’s a firing offense.

          One the one hand, people on their own time protesting in ways that do not directly reflect the places they work. On the other you have people using “company time” and directly tying themselves and their protest to their place of employment. Is that really not a clear difference?

          And it does reflect on the NFL itself. After all, the NFL has seen fit to fine players for dancing in the end zone after a touchdown, for wearing 9/11 commemorative decorated shoes, for wearing flags on their uniforms in a show of patriotism, and other such things and yet remains silent on protesting the National Anthem? Anything the NFL does, including doing nothing, is going to be making as statement. The players and coaches engaging in such protests have forced that on them. The only question is what statement they choose to make.

          The fans will act as they see fit based on that statement.

          1. Well stated. I disconnected from satellite/cable (cabal?) last year because I was tired of the politicization of, well everything. I am an ardent fan of the Denver Broncos but I no longer watch, nor attend any of their games. I dont go to sports bars to watch either. Unintended consequences (repercussions) of, as you say, the NFL doing nothing.

            I will start reading your books, and as I like to read things in proper sequence, where should I start.

          2. The shorts that are in connected worlds are stand-alone. There’s no particular order to them. The three novels I have out so far, Big Blue, The Hordes of Chanakra, and Survival Test are each in separate worlds. I currently have a sequel to The Hordes of Chanakra underway as well as another novel in the world of Survival Test (far enough down in the story’s future that you can’t really call it a direct sequel). I’ve just got a few vague ideas of something I might do as a follow-up to Big Blue.

            As “entry points” I set both EMT (same world as Survival Test, although it takes place some years later) and Treva’s Children (same world as The Hordes of Chanakra) at Amazon’s minimum $0.99 to use as “first taste is cheap” entry points.

            Hope you enjoy them.

        3. Nope. Doesn’t make sense. I’d go so far as to say red herring.

          The NFL’s teams didn’t protest their police protection, they didn’t replace the local PD with private security, they didn’t, show up at the local PD or do any number of things directed at the police, with whom they are supposedly upset.

          They did however, choose to show disrespect to the symbols of the nation.

          The target of their disrespect wasn’t police, it was they symbols of The United States. It seems reasonable to me that their problem is with America, not the police. Their claim appears to be “The United States of America is not worthy of respect”.

          As an American, I, and many others, object.

    2. Kaepernick was rumored to be cut soon when he started his “protest”. But, just like when the then St. Louis Rams came out for introductions with “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” after Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, the facts don’t mesh with what they’re protesting.

      From 2005-2015 blacks accounted for anywhere from 36-39% of violent crime. That’s actually down from the mid-90’s, when they accounted for nearly half of violent crime (In 1995 43.7% of all violent crime was by blacks, and 49.3% of violent crime by juveniles was by blacks). So if one group is disproportionately committing violent crimes, might it be reasonable to think they will also be disproportionately be reflected in violent police encounters?

      Are there problems in America? Certainly, because it’s not a perfect world. Are there racist cops? Certainly, because any group of people that’s large enough will end up with some that are racist. Or misogynist. Or homophobic. Or anti-Semitic. Is the problem systemic? Doesn’t appear to be from the statistics.

      Sports is entertainment. It’s the very embodiment of discretionary spending. If the entertainment value isn’t there, the fans will find something else. Getting lectured before every game about how horrid the US is because of X problem is likely piss off those fans. They put their money down (and it’s not exactly a cheap expedition to a game) to forget the trials and tribulations of their lives for few hours. Not to be told they are what’s wrong with the country. And the flag is the symbol of the country. Protesting the flag is basically giving a big middle finger to everyone in it.

      So taking a piss on the fans probably isn’t a wise business practice. They are the ones with the money (no, it’s not the owners or the league, they just get a cut of what the fans spend). And for football fans it’s not like outside of the NFL there aren’t any choices for football. The NCAA has hundreds of teams playing every weekend as well. For professional there is Arena Football and the Canadian Football League. Beyond there there are a myriad of other sports, professional and amateur, that football fans could migrate to.

  3. A few decades back major league baseball had a problem with streakers running across the outfield naked. Their simple solution was to stop showing them on camera. Problem solved. The players have the right to free speech, but the NFL doesn’t have to provide them a forum. The NFL should direct the networks to no longer show images of players during the national anthem and further inform any still photographers that anyone shooting images of players during the anthem will lose their press pass for the season. I suspect if no one sees these guys on TV, and there are no images to discuss, the problem will solve itself.

  4. Trump’s target is leftist journalism specifically, sports journalism which is the left flank of leftist journalism.

    Not that his approach was rational or well thought out or thought out at all. He is an actor, an artist and as such reacts intuitively to “what is in the air,” as Arthur Miller put it.

    The NFL is a soft target because his constituency overlaps considerably with the NFL’s core consumers and the Kaepernick thing really bothered those guys. Kaepernick left the scene and, it seemed, life could go on. NFL Sundays without knee-bends.

    PDJT wouldn’t let that happen. In Alabama, where they could give a crap about pro football he re-energized the issue in classic Alinski-ite fashion, freezing his opposition, on their knees as it turned out, creating massive cognitive dissonance in his enemies. I imagine Subaru driving, liberal, soccer mom’s are buying crisp new NFL sweat shirts for their un-athletic sons in violation of principles they held dear only a week ago: pro football is militaristic, misogynist and so forth.

    Some number of hard-core pro football fans are exploring theor own cognitive dissonance: football free Sundays. How many of them are discovering new possibilities, going shooting, raking leaves, family time or whatever and learning that a guilty side-long glance at the scores on their phones suffices. It doesn’t take that many doing that to be an earthquake for vendors like ESPN and the networks.

    I wonder if it is a coincidence that PDJT did this the same week the revelation of Aaron Hernandez’ injuries came out. I doubt that a lot of thought went into what seemed like an off the cuff remark in Alabama. But it was a gut shot to the left, sportif and otherwise.

    1. You have to admire President Trump for 3 things – immediately recognizing an issue that cuts against his domestic enemies in every way, knowing they would bite hard with laughably over-the-top reactions & having the cojones to throw the BS Flag.

  5. They will never fire those players, because the regime elite wants things exactly the way they are. You cannot talk about these issues without talking about who is Inner Party and who isn’t.

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