Professional football players, along with coaches and franchise owners, are locking arms together during the national anthem. It’s to show unity against perceived police brutality, and at least they’re on their feet.
It’s a strange thing, though, for the average football enthusiast to witness. It gives the impression that an arm lock is necessary in order to prevent a player from bolting from the group and kneeling or sitting during the anthem—an act that, for many in the country, is seen as disrespectful to the flag and our country.
That’s a lot of faux bravado to tough through a 60-second song that simply honors our country. It needn’t be so difficult and complicated.
If a player wants to kneel, let him kneel. If players choose to disrespect our flag on foreign soil, let them humiliate us. If the entire team wants to hide in the locker room, let them hide. None of these employees have been disciplined for this behavior. As long as their employers approve, it is the players’ right and choice to protest this way.
Professional football is a for-profit and private business enterprise. No matter how upsetting it is for some fans to witness this disrespect of our flag, they have no direct decision-making in the matter. If they don’t like it, they can purchase their own football franchise and call the shots.
Then there’s the indirect method.
If the issue is that important to fans, they can boycott the sport and the industry will lose revenue. If enough taxpayers say “no” to subsidizing football stadiums, no new ones will be built. If the money flow stops, management will make a correction. On the other hand, if fans decide that the love of the game of football supersedes the anthem debate, it will be business as usual at the NFL.
In the end, it will come down to money and the will of the people. Will enough fans care enough to withhold their hard-earned entertainment dollars? The outcome of the anthem debate will be on us—the fans.
Together, we call the United States of America our home. It may not always be the perfect residence. There may be work that can be done yet on racial injustice. But this land and our flag are always worth defending.
Former President John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Imagine a mythical meeting between Colin Kaepernick, the first kneeler, and Kennedy, where Kaepernick explains that he had no other way to problem solve than to refuse to stand for the national anthem. I can’t imagine Kennedy publicly swearing, as our current president does, but I doubt he’d be a supporter of this spectacle.
It won’t be until next season when we see the true fallout from the anthem debate. Right now, too many people have season tickets. Too many taxpayers are already on the hook for subsidizing stadiums. Too many fantasy football leagues are up and running. Too many already have travel plans to watch their favorite team play football.
Next year, though, could be different.
Until then if a player wants to kneel, let him kneel. And let athletes who want to respect the flag do so by allowing them to stand on their own two feet, without having to hold up others who don’t want to be there. No more babysitting of grown men through arm locks.
Then, in time, money—or the lack of it—will sort this whole thing out.