Trump escalates NFL anthem protest crackdown

Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images/File

Let’s fully understand what yesterday’s decision by NFL owners to crack down on employee protest is.

The owners, under pressure from the government in the form of the President of the United States, agreed to modify their players’ speech to please that government.

The government made no law restricting that speech, of course. And clearly there is a question of whether players even had the right to speak in their role as employees and, true, there are any number of ways you can contort these events to assure yourself that there’s nothing happening here.

There’s something happening here, and if you believe otherwise, then consider what the head of the government said this morning about the freedom to speak and protest.

“I don’t think people should be staying in locker rooms,” Trump told Fox and Friends this morning. “You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing. You shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem.”

Say what?

Let’s keep in mind the president’s oath of office requires him to preserve and defend the Constitution. Let’s also remember that we are presently accepting the slaughter of schoolchildren on a regular basis, allegedly as the burden we must bear to protect one of its cherished amendments.

And let’s just spitball a bit here and suggest that forcing people to stand for a national anthem — anywhere — or face a loss of citizenship or its alleged rights is a subversion of the founding document.

Trump’s original focus on the players — who, for the record, are protesting racial inequity in the land of the free — was a political gambit and appeal to the beer-chugging bubbas who can be whipped into a frenzy by the verbal diarrhea of cable TV and radio talk shows. It worked. So why stop at NFL players?

“I think we have the greatest country in the world,” Vikings defensive end Brian Robison tells the Pioneer Press’ Brian Murphy. “I’m going to go out there and stand up for that flag. But at the same time, our military has fought for those freedoms to allow those guys to have that decision. Whether we agree or disagree with what their decision is, that’s not part of it. That’s their freedom to do what they want to do.”

“I think it’s important we stand for the anthem,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer told Murphy. “I think it’s important we respect our country the right way. A lot of people have died for that flag. That flag represents our country and what we stand for.”

One question: What is it we stand for?

“Forced patriotism is the opposite of freedom,” former Viking quarterback Sage Rosenfels tweeted.

Freedom? Increasingly, a mere concept.

“NFL owners will never say this, because they hardly ever say what they actually mean on this issue, but they did not want to be attacked any further by the president, New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica writes today. “Some of the most prominent and powerful business people in this country choose to buck and scrape, while trying to act as if they are the ones standing tall and proud for everything American that is virtuous, in a league that in the past took money from the United States government with both hands for some of those red-white-and-blue tributes to the military that you occasionally saw at NFL games.

“You tell me what’s worse today, and more dangerous to our values: A young football player taking a knee on a football field, or a player who is good enough to quarterback his team to within one pass of winning a Super Bowl being blackballed in America in 2018 for his political beliefs?” he said.

Yesterday’s decision was about football and appeasing a president, who, by the way, appeared to not even know the words to the national anthem when he appeared at a game last year.

Today’s appearance on his chosen state media was much more than football: a disturbing piece of red meat, thrown to an insatiable appetite to demonize dissenters.

What could possibly be a bigger threat to a free nation?

There’s something happening here.