There has been speculation that the statue protests would expand from Robert E. Lee, Columbus, et. al., to include Jefferson and Washington. Worse, however, it’s escalated to treating the Stars and Stripes as equivalent to the Stars and Bars: Both are apparently racist to a certain subset of NFL players.
On the other side we have the President injecting comments in his inimitable, distempered fashion. Despite my distaste for President Trump’s gratuitous bullying, I would boycott NFL games. If I watched any in the first place. As the player protests against the National Anthem continue, I suspect my indifference is a better outcome than the NFL might expect from its fans.
A third party, NFL owners, is looking clueless. One is reminded of ESPN’s descent into political activism. Professional football is supposed to be entertaining. Not any more.
Multi-millionaire, has-been quarterbacks have a Constitutional right to publicly protest, but let us not pretend that they must be allowed to promote Black Lives Matter on someone else’s stage; acting as if they were marching from Selma to Montgomery. The league has control over the “take a knee” Kaepernicki (emphasis mine):
2017 NFL RULEBOOK
…RULE 5. PLAYERS, SUBSTITUTES, EQUIPMENT, GENERAL RULES…
ARTICLE 8. PERSONAL MESSAGES
Throughout the period on game-day that a player is visible to the stadium and television audience (including in pregame warm-ups, in the bench area, and during postgame interviews in the locker room or on the field), players are prohibited from wearing, displaying, or otherwise conveying personal messages either in writing or illustration, unless such message has been approved in advance by the League office. Items to celebrate anniversaries or memorable events, or to honor or commemorate individuals, such as helmet decals, and arm bands and jersey patches on players’ uniforms, are prohibited unless approved in advance by the League office. All such items approved by the League office, if any, must relate to team or League events or personages. The League will not grant permission for any club or player to wear, display, or otherwise convey messages, through helmet decals, arm bands, jersey patches, or other items affixed to game uniforms or equipment, which relate to political activities or causes, other non-football events, causes or campaigns, or charitable causes or campaigns. Further, any such approved items must be modest in size, tasteful, non-commercial, and non-controversial; must not be worn for more than one football season; and if approved for use by a specific team, must not be worn by players on other teams in the League.
I conclude that player protests during the National Anthem are either expressly approved by the NFL, or the NFL is ignoring them.
The owners are making a statement here, and they’ve made some in the recent past which should cause you to wonder about their commitment to their entertainment product.
Tennessee Titans linebacker Avery Williamson earlier in the week said he would wear specially-designed patriotic cleats when he lines up against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.The special red, white and blue cleats include stars, an American flag-inspired Nike logo and the words “Never Forget” printed on the heel, according to photographs posted on Williamson’s verified Twitter account.
But that would violate NFL rules, which stipulate each player’s shoes must be either black or white, with team colors serving as allowable dominant or secondary colors on the shoes.
The NFL rule book says unapproved shoes are allowable only if “the player tapes over the entire shoe to conform to his team’s selected dominant base color
This took place shortly after the league ignored Kaepernick’s decision to practice in socks depicting police officers as pigs.
In addition to the 220 words of Rule 5, Article 8, of the 2017 NFL Rulebook; the league has another 3,231 words proscribing how players may express themselves through how they appear, including a prohibition on being seen smoking and “facial makeup”. So, any appeal to free speech is governed by the rules of employment. How those rules are enforced is obviously a decision made by the league, and the owners are aligned with Kaepernick: A player they refuse to employ.
Further, while contractual language is subject to modification, here is language from a generic NFL contract:
4. PUBLICITY AND NFLPA GROUP LICENSING PROGRAM.
…Notwithstanding anything to the contrary, the fore- going grant does not confer, during or after the term of this Agreement, any right or authority to use Player’s Publicity Rights in a manner that constitutes any endorsement by Player of a third-party brand, product or service (“Endorsement”)…
So, yes, Mr. President, the NFL are a bunch of hypocrites who are damaging their brand with their core constituency. While your puerile provocations do lead them to ever more outrageous behavior, you’re damaging the brand of the Presidency.
They are making a mistake. Let them do it without your assistance. Just like John McCain should keep his prissy nose out of baseball and boxing, you should practice a touch of discretion.