Football with a side of sanctimony

The NFL is going through a nightmare.  Its employees are at war with its customers.  The players wouldn't put it that way, of course.  They say they're simply raising awareness of a serious social problem.  But the fans want nothing to do with it.

Starbucks tried something similar.  In 2015, the coffee company encouraged its baristas to engage customers in conversations about race.  This effort was terminated within a week, amid a firestorm of criticism, indignation, and jokes.  Their customers didn't want coffee served with self-righteousness back then, and football fans don't want to watch sanctimonious football players now.

The NFL could stop this anytime it wants.  In July 2016, for example, the league prohibited Dallas players from wearing decals in support of five Dallas policemen who had been killed in an ambush.  But the very next month, when a quarterback refused to respect our anthem and its flag, the NFL did nothing – despite clear language in the NFL manual requiring players to stand respectfully during the playing of the national anthem.

Colin Kaepernick, 49ers quarterback, was asked about his refusal to stand for the National Anthem before the preseason game on August 28.  He said he was not going to "stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color."  Professional football had just become the premier venue for the latest iteration of Black Lives Matter.

On September 1, Kaepernick ramped up his protest by "taking a knee" and was joined by teammate Eric Reid.  That same day, Seattle Seahawks Jeremy Lane sat on the bench during the anthem.  Over the rest of that month, players from Denver, Miami, Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Houston joined the Kaepernick protest.  Some of them also raised fists, à la Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

On September 22, Time Magazine featured Colin Kaepernick on its cover with the title "The Perilous Fight."  The soon to be released 49ers quarterback had become a media sensation.

The virus soon jumped the boundaries of the NFL.  The Oakland Unified School District's "marching" band took a knee while playing the Star-Spangled Banner before an Oakland A's game.  Some members of East Carolina University's band did likewise before a game with the University of Central Florida.  Players with the Indiana Fever and the Phoenix Mercury (WNBA teams) locked arms and "Kaepernicked" during the Anthem.

Kaepernick is gone for the 2017 season, but Kaepernickism is back and bolder than ever, with entire teams joining the protest.  On August 22, President Trump said players who don't respect the flag should be fired.  NFL commissioner Roger Goodell fired back: "Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game, and all of our players[.]"

This prompted the Ravens and the Jaguars to take their lack of respect for our flag overseas.  On September 24 in London, players for those teams kneeled for The Star-Spangled Banner, then stood up for God Save the Queen.  Goodell must be proud, indeed.

Football's social moralizing has gone too far.  The fans are fed up, and ticket sales and viewership are sinking rapidly.  The NFL must realize that if these protests continue, the league will suffer serious and possibly permanent harm.

The best option would be if on one Sunday and on every game day thereafter, without announcement or fanfare, every player on every team simply stood for the National Anthem with his arms at his side, as the NFL charter requires – unless, of course, if a player or two wanted to put his hand on his heart.  That would be a big bonus.

The NFL is going through a nightmare.  Its employees are at war with its customers.  The players wouldn't put it that way, of course.  They say they're simply raising awareness of a serious social problem.  But the fans want nothing to do with it.

Starbucks tried something similar.  In 2015, the coffee company encouraged its baristas to engage customers in conversations about race.  This effort was terminated within a week, amid a firestorm of criticism, indignation, and jokes.  Their customers didn't want coffee served with self-righteousness back then, and football fans don't want to watch sanctimonious football players now.

The NFL could stop this anytime it wants.  In July 2016, for example, the league prohibited Dallas players from wearing decals in support of five Dallas policemen who had been killed in an ambush.  But the very next month, when a quarterback refused to respect our anthem and its flag, the NFL did nothing – despite clear language in the NFL manual requiring players to stand respectfully during the playing of the national anthem.

Colin Kaepernick, 49ers quarterback, was asked about his refusal to stand for the National Anthem before the preseason game on August 28.  He said he was not going to "stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color."  Professional football had just become the premier venue for the latest iteration of Black Lives Matter.

On September 1, Kaepernick ramped up his protest by "taking a knee" and was joined by teammate Eric Reid.  That same day, Seattle Seahawks Jeremy Lane sat on the bench during the anthem.  Over the rest of that month, players from Denver, Miami, Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Houston joined the Kaepernick protest.  Some of them also raised fists, à la Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

On September 22, Time Magazine featured Colin Kaepernick on its cover with the title "The Perilous Fight."  The soon to be released 49ers quarterback had become a media sensation.

The virus soon jumped the boundaries of the NFL.  The Oakland Unified School District's "marching" band took a knee while playing the Star-Spangled Banner before an Oakland A's game.  Some members of East Carolina University's band did likewise before a game with the University of Central Florida.  Players with the Indiana Fever and the Phoenix Mercury (WNBA teams) locked arms and "Kaepernicked" during the Anthem.

Kaepernick is gone for the 2017 season, but Kaepernickism is back and bolder than ever, with entire teams joining the protest.  On August 22, President Trump said players who don't respect the flag should be fired.  NFL commissioner Roger Goodell fired back: "Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game, and all of our players[.]"

This prompted the Ravens and the Jaguars to take their lack of respect for our flag overseas.  On September 24 in London, players for those teams kneeled for The Star-Spangled Banner, then stood up for God Save the Queen.  Goodell must be proud, indeed.

Football's social moralizing has gone too far.  The fans are fed up, and ticket sales and viewership are sinking rapidly.  The NFL must realize that if these protests continue, the league will suffer serious and possibly permanent harm.

The best option would be if on one Sunday and on every game day thereafter, without announcement or fanfare, every player on every team simply stood for the National Anthem with his arms at his side, as the NFL charter requires – unless, of course, if a player or two wanted to put his hand on his heart.  That would be a big bonus.

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