As a sports-politics journalist, I’ve taken a particular interest in the President’s comments on the NFL. In fact, I’ve spent the entire weekend thinking about it.
When I first heard the ‘Fire the SOBs!’ line, I half laughed and half guffawed. I wasn’t so offended by the language as I was by the fact that he would touch on the subject. Bill O’Reilly had pressed Trump on his feelings when Colin Kaepernick first took a knee last summer, and the candidate wisely dodged the incredibly touchy matter. After all, it directly involves both patriotism and our First Amendment. However, as Friday night wore on, I realized the reason President Trump was willing to go there while candidate Trump was not. Like a recovering gambler in a Vegas casino, he couldn’t get enough of the high — which for Trump is being adored and praised, especially at a rally in dark red Alabama.
In the process of achieving that high, the President used language that New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is correct to categorize as “unbecoming” of the office. Furthermore, President Trump seemed more concerned over pleasing Americans with an already-popular opinion, that the kneeling during the Anthem should stop, rather than address pressing issues such as the entire island of Puerto Rico being without power, or how healthcare reform keeps stalling under his watch. President Trump involved himself in the business of a private entity and its employees, and let’s face it, that’s not a good look on any president.
Fast forward to Sunday; it became quickly apparent why the MAGA forces are winning the sports-culture war that ESPN, and quite honestly, the Obama administration threw the nation into. As the third Sunday of the NFL season began in the UK, the Ravens and Jaguars predictably either took a knee or locked arms…yet stood at attention for God Save the Queen! Never mind that THAT anthem has stuck around since 1745, during some possible colonization and slave trades (no biggie!).
For the rest of the day, sports fans were forced to watch the action on the field through a thick, political haze. Patriots fans booed, a Steeler fan since 1966 burned his T-shirt, and many other diehards proclaimed that they would never watch the game again. The NFL has backed itself into a corner for two major reasons.
First, as a sport that has branded itself heavily around patriotism and the military for 50 years, they cannot expect fans to flip their inner “woke switch” to on and roundly applaud the kneeling crew.
Second, the league itself (which more than likely blackballed Kaepernick because he is logically bad for business) can’t pull a 180 on intelligent fans and suddenly say they’re for the free expression of all their employees within the private league. If that were the case, Mr. Kaepernick would be the backup for the Ravens or the starter for the Dolphins. It’s not racist to admit that business is business, and when there’s an X-factor driving customers away, that has to be dealt with.
By Monday, I’ve realized that we have two, very vocal fringes on either side of the argument and in the middle, the vast majority is crying for something, anything that they can simply relax to and enjoy.
Why do you think the ratings for the Hallmark Channel have skyrocketed? As corny and traditional as Hallmark movies can get, Americans will watch a snail slither on a sidewalk as long as the escargot remains apolitical.
If any Yinzer (Pittsburgh native) wants to donate an Alejandro Villanueva jersey before they burn all their highly priced fashion pieces, please contact me. Villanueva’s jersey is the one piece of NFL gear I’ll allow on my body these days. Like many other fans, I’ll debating whether to sit out this season.