Football season is starting. Not the high school variety, although that too, but, the pros. The Seahawks and the Patriots. The Eagles and the Raiders. The Cowboys and the Redskins. And along with the start of the games will come the National Anthem. And along with the National Anthem will come protests.
This will mark the third year that players have protested during the National Anthem.
First let’s be clear, the players are not protesting the National Anthem. They are not protesting the flag. They are not protesting the military. They are also not protesting the NFL. They are protesting police brutality against black men.
The problem is that not everyone understands the protest. In fact, to a lot of people it looks like the players are protesting the National Anthem, or the flag, or the troops, or the NFL.
An additional problem is that the NFL is losing viewership. It would be simplistic to say that the NFL problems begin and end with the kneeling protesters. But, it would also be incorrect to say that the protesters haven’t had any effect.
The NFL has decided they are tired of the negative press associated with the protesters. In the off season they implemented a policy that teams could either keep their players in the locker room during the anthem, or teams could choose to fine their players if they protest.
The plan has been adopted with mixed results. The owner of the NY Jets announced that he was not going to fine his players if they protest. The owner of the Cowboys said he would fine players, or possibly even fire them. The Super Bowl champion Philidelphia Eagles players announced they plan to continue to protest.
This post isn’t about how effective it is for multimillionaire athletes to protest at a professional sporting event.
It’s not an issue of first amendment rights being potentially violated. The NFL is a private organization. As a private organization the NFL can set requirements for their employees. The players are represented by a union, of course, the NFL Players Association. But, there is nothing in the collective bargaining agreement to prevent the teams from punishing protesters.
Despite the fact that the NFL has the right to fine, or censure, or even fire the players for protesting, there are people who feel strongly that the NFL is violating the players’ rights. Even understanding that it’s a private organization. There are people who blame the NFL for not allowing the players to protest, even if it hurts the brand a little.
Here’s the thing. Many of those same people think it was 100% correct for googleapplefacebook (GAF) to ban right wing provocateur Alex Jones, of the website InfoWars from their platforms.
Those who support the NFL protesters but hate Alex Jones will tell you the situations are nowhere near the same. People who support Alex Jones, but think the NFL protesters are disrespecting the flag also think it’s not at all the same thing.
It’s the same thing. You either support free speech, or you don’t. You don’t get to support free speech when it’s a cause you agree with and then vote to suppress it when it’s a cause you disagree with.
Freedoms aren’t really freedoms if they don’t apply to people you disagree with.
Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.
(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved