This past week, the National Football League (NFL) announced that all team members and league personnel on the field “shall stand and show respect for the flag” at the beginning of every game as the national Anthem plays. The new policy threatens to fine teams composed of players who decide to “disrespect” the flag by going against orders. All team owners, minus the San Fransisco 49ers, approved the policy almost immediately. Jed York of the 49ers abstained from voting, stating that he desired to discuss any new policy with the men who make up his team. What exactly does this mean for the state of American football and the state of America itself?
This whole controversy has been drifting in and out of the mainstream media ever since Colin Kaepernick of 49ers fame decided to sit down during the Anthem during the third preseason game of the 2016 season. Kaepernick explained his decision to do so as follows:
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
However, this wasn’t the beginning of African-American athletic protests in sports. One example can be witnessed during the 1968 Olympics, where athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos rose their “black-gloved fists” after winning their gold and bronze medals. Nevertheless, it is nothing new in the entertainment industry that is disguised as American sports.
In September of last year, Donald Trump brought the controversy back into the limelight by referring to the protestors in one of his rallies in Alabama. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these N.F.L. owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, get that son of a bitch off the field right now?” he exclaimed to roaring applause. This, of course, only encouraged football players to continue the protest. On September 24, 2017, over 200 players kneeled in response to Trump’s statement.
Trump later denied his criticism as being race-related, instead pushing that it instead focused on the respect for the American flag. His opinions on the subject have evolved overtime, however. In late 2017, he believed flag-kneelers should be “fired”. Now, in early-mid 2018, he believes that they “shouldn’t be in the country.” Although constitutional rights become muddy when it comes to employees under private institutions, the ethics and morals of the idea presented here still exist.
Does the NFL have any legal authority to force players to stand during the national anthem? Yes. Does the NFL have the so-called ‘right’ to fine or fire football players for going against policy of any kind? Yes. Does that make the policy correct? No. Does that make the policy make any sense on a political or social level? No. By forcing players to go against what Kaepernick referred to two years ago, what exactly does that make the NFL?
One online reader comments, “As [a] Canadian looking from the outside…When did the world superpower become so brittle?” As another comment replied, “When we allowed 24-hour news programs to sensationalize non-issues and stir up partisan bickering all for their own profit.” The answer can be summarized through years of problems within the mainstream news and the evolution (or de-evolution, depending on your opinions) of how the news manages to affect social conflict and consensus. It is also a problem of traditional racism, one that exists on a subtle and not-so-subtle level through social norms, generation gaps, and varying beliefs in America. It’s all been a game of flag-football – nonstop back-and-forth. From Pence walking out of a football game to Trump himself lashing out against teams at the podium and on Twitter, this has been nothing more than two years of political sensationalism.
The protests exist for social awareness and action, but many who do not want or care for such action have made the entire issue into one on patriotism. Patriotism is not forcing people to stand for “The Star Spangled Banner”. It is working hard to create a country that encourages people to stand up in their own right. The NFL’s decision to force the free will and liberty of their players is a perfect example of hypocrisy in its finest. Let it be known – many of the conservative-leaning football fanatics that watch from home do not leave their couch as the rockets red glare across the stadium. An alternative title to this article could easily be “Football Fascism”, but we have not reached that point – yet.
 http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000691077/article/colin-kaepernick-explains-protest-of-national-anthem  https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/22/donald-trump-nfl-national-anthem-protests  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2018/05/24/what-the-nfls-new-rules-for-anthem-protests-really-mean-for-the-first-amendment-according-to-experts/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.92177fdaca97