SEABROOK – I vividly remember watching Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones leading his team onto the field before a regular season match against the Arizona Cardinals as his team walked toward the middle of the field at the University of Phoenix Stadium on Sept. 27, 2017.
Jones dropped down to one knee in unity with his players arm-in-arm and had a smug look on his face as he stared deeply into the camera before the National Anthem was performed. What many people saw as a step forward for one of the most prominent owners in the league taking a stance on police brutality against people of color sparked by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016 proved to be just a ruse.
You see, the POTUS made a brash statement of how he felt about the players in the NFL for “disrespecting our flag” and Jones had an ulterior motive.
“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, out, he's fired. He's fired,” Donald Trump said. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He's going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he's fired.’ And that owner, they don't know it (but) they'll be the most popular person in this country.”
Jones was not kneeling for a player to express his unalienable right to peacefully protest oppression, but to metaphorically stick his middle finger up in the air at Trump for disrespecting his players and being told what to do. To many fans’ dismay, Jones then mandated that all of his players had to stand during the National Anthem. It proved that an unpopular decision not to stand which ranged from differing reasons from disrespecting the flag, not supporting our military or simply hurting owners pockets.
However, instead of addressing what was happening, the league decided to point fingers at players and organizations justifying why everyone should stand for the National Anthem, but as fans and sponsors continued to threaten that they would not support the NFL monetarily if the protests continued (I.e. former Papa John’s founder, chairman and CEO John Schnatter), a decision had to be made to protect their bottom line.
Instead of openly saying that he “wanted players to stand” in 2017, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell took swift action recently by forcing players and personnel to stand during the National Anthem while on the field this upcoming season or they will have to remain in their respective locker rooms. Each organization will be fined by the league if players and personnel do not follow the rule.
“The policy adopted was approved in concert with the NFL’s ongoing commitment to local communities and our country — one that is extraordinary in its scope, resources, and alignment with our players,” Goodell said about the policy in a statement. “We are dedicated to continuing our collaboration with players to advance the goals of justice and fairness in all corners of our society.
“The 32 member clubs of the National Football League have reaffirmed their strong commitment to work alongside our players to strengthen our communities and advance social justice.”
However, the move to force players to stand for the anthem is not only unpatriotic but unlawful.
Goodell failed to speak with the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) before making the decision earlier last week.
Members of the NFLPA were flabbergasted by the erroneous actions that the league took establishing the new policy and did not confer with them, which is a clear breach of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
“The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new ‘policy.’ NFL players have shown their patriotism through their social activism, their community service, in support of our military and law enforcement and yes, through their protests to raise awareness about the issues they care about.
The vote by NFL club CEOs today contradicts the statements made to our player leadership by Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Chairman of the NFL’s Management Council John Mara about the principles, values and patriotism of our League.
“Our union will review the new ‘policy’ and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement,” the NFLPA said in a statement.
Depending on your stance to stand or not, we must first go back in history and look at why the issue is so polarising and if the NFL has disrespected the flag more than knees hitting the ground up to this point.
Other than displaying the flag draped over an NFL field for special events after 9/11 such as the Super Bowl, players, and personnel standing in unison before a game is a fairly new practice. In fact, it was not a regular occurrence to have players on the field for the National Anthem until 2009. If the NFL truly believes in America, they would also know that people have fought and died for our country to allow a person the right to peacefully protest and fulfill their First Amendment right to kneel or stand whether you agree or disagree with the subject matter.
The American Flag code clearly says that you should stand, but it is merely a guideline and is not mandatory.
“During rendition of the national anthem when the flag is displayed, all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart,” the code states. Men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should render the military salute at the first note of the anthem and retain this position until the last note. When the flag is not displayed, those present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed there.”
Also, the beautiful American Flag that you see flowing across the field from time to time before games is an illegal practice by the NFL and the league continues to break several federal laws disrespecting the flag. Before the flag is brought onto the field, you can see it snaked and lying on the ground in the tunnel before games at many venues. Then, the flag is brought onto the field and displayed horizontally breaking the American Flag Code (The United States Code: Title 4, Chapter 1: “the flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.” which completely defies how the American flag should be treated. If anything, that flag by law should have to be burned and never used again because it was laying on the ground in the bowels of the stadium as "the flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise,” (which includes using the flag on a uniform) and “the flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored so that it might be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way,” the flag code clearly reads.
At no point did NFL players say that they wanted to disrespect the flag, our military or anything that it represents publically despite an uproar from certain fans who dislike the kneeling phenomena. With the NFL losing ratings over the years, Goodell made a stern decision of mandating a rule that utterly contradicts what the players union represents and more importantly, a person’s right to peacefully protest at their workplace on the gridiron.
Forcing anyone to stand for the anthem, in my opinion, could not be any more of a strongarm technique and that way of thinking resembles the authority of a communist country. Veterans and public figures such as former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura ‘salute’ those individuals who decide to stand for the anthem or not.
“I salute Colin Kaepernick, Ventura said. “That is why I served my country so that you have the freedom to protest. If we don't like protesting, what's next?
I don't have to agree with him, but I'll respect his right to do it and everyone should respect that. When I was governor in Minnesota the Dems and the Repubs tried to nail me. You know what they did? They passed a law requiring the Pledge of Allegiance for all public school children. I immediately vetoed it. You know why? Governments should not mandate patriotism, governments earn patriotism. You earned that.”
As a “military brat,” I have always been a strong supporter of the military and those who protect our nation day in and day out, so I choose to stand. However, there is no way that you can tell me that anyone should have their voices or actions silenced in this great country by stripping away the true values that have stood the test of time.
One word that comes to mind is freedom. For players who do not decide to stand with their brothers on the field, this upcoming season I understand your decision, but I would advise that you watch your step before walking toward the locker room as the American flag lying on the floor can be a tripping hazard.