The NFL's New Anthem Protest Rule: Good or Bad?
The NFL’s new anthem policy is here, and it is going to continue, if not worsen the controversy it was aimed at ending. Players and staff may choose to “sit out” during the national anthem, opting to remain in the locker room during the pregame anthem performance. If they are on the field during the anthem, however, they must stand and “respect” the anthem. Players or staff who decide to kneel for the anthem, while on the field, prompt the League to fine their team. Teams, in turn, have the right to fine the players of staff who involve themselves in anthem protests.
What is a logical conclusion that can be drawn from this change in policy? My fear is that nothing good will come of this. While many on the Right are hailing this move as a “win” for those who are opposed to the anthem protests, I’m not so quick to rejoice. Let’s analyze the possibilities, based on what we know about the radicalism that has taken hold of the social justice warriors within the entertainment and sports world.
Even if all goes as planned, and all of the players participate in respecting the anthem, there will still be those who continue to loudly criticize the NFL’s handling of the situation. The leaders of these movements against police brutality have already classified the NFL’s owners as racist bigots, interested only in lining their pockets. That was before the new rule came down. Now the noise will only get louder and harsher.
The next level of issues will come when players or staff begin to stay in the locker room, as the rule allows. What does League Commissioner Roger Goodell think will happen, immediately following that type of action? Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms will be ablaze with supporters and objectors arguing over the meaning of the individual’s absence. All of the major news networks, as well as the 24 hour cable news channels, will be stacking their sets with panels, engaging in fiery debates over the apparent protest. The narrative will be set before the player or staff member has the opportunity to even explain themselves.
Which, of course, brings me to my next point: The postgame press conference. Who really believes the media will leave the situation alone? The moment one of these guys decides to sit out the anthem, every reporter with a microphone and half a brain will be salivating at the opportunity to ask why they remained in the locker room during the national anthem. Will the League fine the team, if the player tells the truth in their postgame interview? If the player sat out for political reasons, that will come out eventually. What if a player preemptively proclaims they will stay in the locker room, solely to protest the national anthem, and goes on to explain exactly what they are protesting for? That would put the League back in the exact same situation they were in before.
Another interesting wrinkle has to do with the nature of the fine itself. The League’s owners decided to fine the team as opposed to fining the individual who kneels on the field. This actually passes the onus onto the organization, rather than force the NFL to actually bear the burden of penalizing the individual player or staffer. Many have expressed doubts that the teams will uphold the spirit of the rule, by passing the fine onto the player, which the rule explicitly grants the team the right to do. Instead, the conventional wisdom assumes that the team owners will cave to pressures from the loudest voices—most likely social justice warriors—leading them to ignore the spirit of the rule, and let individuals protest without consequences. Again, landing the NFL back in the exact same situation they were attempting to dig themselves out of.
If the League wanted to stop the ability of any employee to stump for their partisan political belief or opinion, all they had to do was follow the MLB’s model on anti-doping. The first offense would warrant an eight game suspension without pay (similar to baseball’s 80-game suspension). The next offense? One full 16-game season. Third offense? Lifetime ban. Too harsh? The point here is to ensure that the game, which is what fans pay to watch, is not sullied by partisan hacks masquerading as football players. If they want to virtue signal about their chosen issue, they have the other six days of the week when they aren’t on the field of play. There are 24 hours in a day, and the last time I checked, most NFL games last around 3-4 hours. Add two hours before and after, for pre and postgame activities, and there are still 16 hours remaining for all of the social justice warrioring a person can dream of.
The workplace is not inherently a platform for voicing one’s political views, as many pro-anthem protestors have claimed. The employer chooses was the employee is allowed to proclaim from the employer’s platform. Outside of that platform? The players are free to opine as they wish, according to their personal beliefs, as an individual American citizen. No one has the right to speak out about issues as an employee of a private business. At least, without being subject to the discretion of that employer, according to their company policy.
You see, what those who are clamoring over the players’ supposed “right to utilize their on-field platform” for social issues are missing, is that EVERY social issue is being banned from the field during the national anthem. If a player wants to kneel, due to their belief that religious liberties are being threatened, that player’s team is subject to the exact same fine. If a player wanted to protest the gun-control movement that is being pushed by liberals within sports media, they will open their team to the same consequences as those protesting police brutality. There is no “picking and choosing” here. The NFL doesn’t frown upon individuals stumping for what they believe in. They are simply saying, “Not here.”
The NFL is not a place for that. The NFL is a place fans come to unite around their love for the game. It’s certainly not a place for blatant protests of the flag and anthem, which also unites us. It’s definitely not a place where you can BYOSI (Bring Your Own Social Issue) and virtue signal to the world about it. You show up, check your problems and concerns at the door, and play the game respectfully and tenaciously. That’s all anyone is asking. Leave that stuff outside the stadium, court, or field. We’ll gladly debate you, as soon as we’re done watching our team demolish yours.