By David Codrea
That’s the hashtag being used on the Twitter social media platform to express support for National Football League players refusing to stand for the national anthem.
“It’s not about the flag, it’s about the First Amendment,” they argue, ignorantly or disingenuously. Because it’s not about free speech, and Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who started the “movement” in 2016 while playing for the San Francisco 49ers, made it clear his “social justice” protest centered on the flag.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick announced to NFL Media after a preseason game. Niners’ coach Chip Kelly followed up on that, telling the press this was Kaepernick’s “right as a citizen,” adding “it’s not my right to tell him not to do something.”
“Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem, the NFL equivocated through a spokesflack. The excuse-makers were desperately trying to keep the controversy and growing fan anger from blowing back on them, and they weren’t being straight.
“The National Anthem must be played prior to every NFL game, and all players must be on the sideline for the National Anthem,” league policy in the Game Operations Manual, in effect since 1978, states. “During the playing of the National Anthem, players on the field should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking. Players in the bench areas should do the same, and should line themselves up evenly along the sidelines.”
Oh, but that’s a “policy,” not a “rule” like pass interference or holding, excuse-makers counter. It’s “voluntary.”
That must be why the policy also says “Failure to be on the field by the start of the National Anthem may result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses.”
OK, but what does any of this have to do with guns? Well, there’s another NFL policy involving another right recognized by the Constitution that’s not optional.
“Possession of a gun or other weapon in any workplace setting, including but not limited to stadiums, team facilities, training camp, locker rooms, team planes, buses, parking lots, etc., or unlawful possession of a weapon outside of the workplace” is considered “conduct detrimental and subject to discipline,” the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy standard declares. “This requirement applies to players, coaches, other team employees, owners, game officials and all others privileged to work in the National Football League.”
League policy also doesn’t turn a blind eye to those “privileged” to buy tickets to NFL games. Fans are subjected to perimeter screening before entering stadiums to “enhance public safety.” That includes prohibiting purses and tote bags and requiring that all such “[b]ags… are clear plastic, vinyl or PVC and do not exceed 12x6x12 inches. They’ll even be happy to sell you one with your favorite team’s logo.
It doesn’t end with players and fans. As previously noted in “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” (“Rights Watch,” May 2016), the league has allowed its symbols to be appropriated to advance the gun-grab agenda on us all. A 2013 Super Bowl commercial featured then-New York and Boston Mayors Michael Bloomberg and Thomas Menino wearing Giants and Patriots jerseys and team hats, stumping for more citizen disarmament edicts to be imposed on everyone living in the land of “shall not be infringed.”
As for the lie that player protests are their protected right under the First Amendment, that’s demonstrable hogwash. The league imposes all kinds of limits on freedom of expression on the field—otherwise we’d see no end to spiking and twerking in the end zone. Per CBS Sports, NFL put the kibosh on Dallas Cowboys players wearing “Arm in Arm” helmet decals as a tribute to five police officers killed and seven injured in a sniper ambush. In a press conference, Chief David Brown told reporters “The suspect said he was upset with white people and wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.”
Besides, at games, wearing uniforms with team names and logos, players are representing an organization. The forum they are privileged to participate in is not about them and what they want. It would be like if I tried to use this column or conducted myself in my personal life in a manner that is not in the interests of this magazine—sure, it may be my right, but it would also be the editor and publisher’s right to tell me to get lost.
And that’s where those attacking President Donald Trump—not so much for his trademark bluntness, but for speaking out against players refusing to honor the anthem and the flag—are all wet. He’s supposed to stand up for America, its traditions and its symbols. Imagine a president who would not.
“I think it’s deeply troubling that the president would be attacking black athletes for expressing their opinions peacefully,” the opportunity-seizing Hillary Clinton proclaimed. “I just couldn’t help thinking that he has attacked these black athletes for peacefully protesting, but he doesn’t really attack white supremacists, neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klanners, or Vladimir Putin, who interfered in our election.”
As long as we’re trotting out allegations of keeping bad company (and using the old demonizing trick of conflating “deplorable” extremists with good Americans who believe in a limited government and the Bill of Rights), it hardly seems unfair to bring up a report that’s getting practically no major media play aside from a few outlets.
“The Colin Kaepernick Foundation donated in April $25,000 to Assata’s Daughters, a Chicago “direct action” resistance organization honoring Assata Shakur, who escaped prison and fled to Cuba after being found guilty in the 1973 murder of Officer Werner Foerster,” The Washington Times reported. “The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback also has close ties to the Women’s March…”
And more radicals are piling on. Refuse Fascism is a well-financed and organized effort proving its collectivist bona fides through its association with prominent names like communist bomber and Obama mentor Bill Ayers, and “celebrities” like Rosie O’Donnell.
“No! In the name of humanity we refuse to accept a fascist America!” the group declares. “Take a knee against Trump’s white supremacy… the Trump Pence Regime Must Go!”
As for the useful idiot “peacefully protesting athletes” they’re egging on and exploiting?
“Decades of woman beating, rapes, illegal drug use, gambling, dogfighting, and all of a sudden the NFL cares about social justice,” a poster making the rounds on the internet notes. USA Today maintains an NFL Arrest Database giving credence to the meme-maker’s wry observation. Especially when you consider the large number of internecine killings no one is taking a knee for.
In the ongoing struggle for which vision of America will prevail, the NFL is on the offense, and worse, is offside. There’s another hashtag those playing defense and those who stand could direct their way. It’s one those who “love wealth better than liberty” will pick right up on if enough of us decide we can find other things to do with our free time and with our dollars:
As this article is going to press, news of the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay hotel killings is just unfolding. I plan to discuss it in next month’s “Rights Watch” column, when enough is known to do more than speculate.
News of the Las Vegas killings was just breaking when this month’s “Rights Watch” column was submitted. What’s known at this writing is that 59 people, including the identified murderer, are dead, and another 489 people were injured. True to form, Democrats were quick to seize an opportunity to push for more “gun control” laws, including a bill to ban bump fire stocks, and renewed efforts to ban semi-autos and magazine, end private sales, and rescind protections against manufacturer/dealer lawsuits. For their part, establishment Republicans are signaling receptiveness to bump stock regulations and bans as well as other measures, and momentum to advance nationwide concealed carry reciprocity and deregulate suppressor ownership have been indefinitely stalled. Even the NRA has declared “that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations,” causing no small amount of controversy within the gun owner rights advocacy community.
I plan to discuss this in next month’s “Rights Watch” column, when more is known.