I don’t know if it will, but the Trump versus the NFL drama needs to end soon. It all started when President Trump expressed his anger toward a few NFL players who kneel instead of standing during the singing of our national anthem. His harsh words were aimed at players like former quarterback Colin Kaepernick who kneeled to protest police brutality and racial injustice in America.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now,’” Trump said to an Alabama audience last week. The following day in Huntsville, Alabama, he referred to the same athletes as “those people.”
Critics argue that Trump’s criticism aimed at the handful of black NFL players was substantially harsher than his criticism of the recent white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. In a show of solidarity last weekend, NFL players and their owners stood with locked arms during the singing of the national anthem. Given the tone of the President’s words, the NFL felt it had to respond in some way to support its players. The result is a Trump versus the NFL contest.
First of all, I don’t agree with our President that quietly kneeling during the singing of the national anthem shows any disrespect to the flag or to our country. Standing on or burning the flag, yes. Being disruptive during the singing of the national anthem, yes. But quietly kneeling, no. Neither do I see kneeling as an affront to our democracy for which many of our soldiers have given their lives. On the contrary; freedom of speech is a bedrock of the democracy for which many have died or suffered permanent bodily damage.
But I also disagree with pro athletes kneeling during the national anthem. I will confess that being a Christian, my view on this is influenced by the biblical guidance that we should “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1Thessalonians 5:22). The key word here is appearance. It does not have to be evil. But if we know it appears to be evil, we should shun it. And to many patriotic Americans, kneeling during the singing our of national anthem is a bad thing, even un-American—especially for a professional athlete.
Let me give you some more general reasons for my position. One, standing during the singing of our national anthem is a tradition deeply embedded in our culture. Many Americans do see the refusal of the able-bodied to stand as disrespectful. The choice to go against the grain of that tradition will not be taken lightly. Two, during the games, players are in a work status, and protesting is not what they are paid to do. And thirdly, making a statement about police brutality and racial injustice is not what the millions of fans pay their money to come and see at the games.
I see no honorable way out for the NFL on this matter. What the President said was disrespectful to the players and concerningly unpresidential. But he can, and often does, use his bully pulpit. He is 71 one years old. I believe in miracles. But Donald Trump will always be Donald Trump. Think about the slew of verbal attacks he leveled against nearly every other candidate during the presidential election campaign. If he was not on his best behavior before being elected, why would we expect it now?
My point is that the Donald will not let up off the NFL. And the NFL can’t afford to perpetuate a contest with the President of the United States. That would be real bad for business. The football field will become political turf. Fans will not pay to come and see a sustained Trump versus the NFL battle. Advertisers will take to the sidelines. Yep, this would be real bad for business.
Going forward, I believe all NFL team members need to stand during the games. Let the President gloat that he won; yeah, he made those “sons of bitches” or “those people” (or whatever) stand. And let the players make their statements about racial injustice and police brutality–or whatever–elsewhere. I welcome your comments or views.
Copyright 2017 by Frank King. All rights reserved.