Nike and the NFL 'Just blew it...'
I've been a Dallas Cowboys fan for a half-century, even when my career took me long distances from Texas. All that long time, I've stuck with them through good and bad, through the glory years of multiple Super Bowl victories and the long, disappointing drought since. Living in New Orleans and the Redneck Riviera of the Florida Panhandle for many years, I also became, and still am, a fan of the New Orleans Saints.
Like most NFL fans, my support for both teams has been mostly through television-viewing, with an occasional live game attendance. Nevertheless, for more than five decades, I have been that dedicated viewer so counted on by the NFL and its advertisers, sitting there for hours on Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays, whenever, if either the Cowboys or Saints were playing, soaking up their commercials and even, on occasion, buying their advertised products.
Being now an old man in frail health, I have been reluctant to join the boycott of the NFL over the flag protests because watching football is one of the few pleasures remaining to me. Not being a baseball or basketball fan, I live for football season, both collegiate and professional. The problem is that as a Vietnam combat veteran, I can no longer watch NFL games without a sense of guilt. I am not totally unsympathetic to the complaint of blacks that the justice system is not racially blind. Having lived in the Deep South for more than a decade, I have witnessed firsthand a dual system of justice that favors those with the means to pay their way out with fines, while those without those means go to jail. That said, I do not agree in the least with a sports entertainment venue such as the NFL being exploited by wealthy players as a legitimate setting for social protest.
So my unresolved feelings of guilt were there throughout the season-opening games this week, and they blossomed into a sense of indignation when both the NFL and Nike chose to rub my nose in the issue by running commercials featuring Saint Colin Kaepernick, with his hirsute halo, the instigator of all this heightened racial and social dissension, piously telling me, a veteran of ground combat before he was even born, about moral courage.
I simply could not believe that the NFL was so clueless. Here they had been fairly successful in quelling the demonstrations by black players, of tamping down the outrage of patriotic NFL viewers, and now they chose to give a big middle finger to those millions of fans and slap them and me across the face with that scorning glove of social justice, as if challenging us to a mortal duel. Airing that provocative commercial during these games was stunning in both its arrogance and its total tone-deafness. Clearly NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is both contemptuous and ignorant of his fan base, a fact underscored by the substantial decline in television viewers for the NFL opening games this year.
You can take it to the bank, Roger: your viewing numbers are going to decline even more rapidly if you insist on airing that insulting, confrontational commercial during games. You may think you can project a super-fro'ed, haloed Kaepernick into our homes to lecture us on courage, Roger, but you forget that we hold those tens of millions of all too readily clickable TV controls upon which your advertising revenues depend. As for being sympathetic to your multi-millionaire athlete who claims to have sacrificed all for the cause of social justice, there are millions of Americans who reserve their compassion and respect for those who have truly sacrificed all. As Daniel John Sobieski recently and poignantly summed up that attitude in an essay at American Thinker: "[t]hose who would take a knee to protest the American flag likely have never been handed a folded one."
I would wager that that includes you, commissioner, and the tone-deaf execs at Nike who "Just blew it."