I love football and I hate what is happening. I’m a New England Patriots fan…have been for years. I hate what these protests have done to the game. Sports used to be a place where political persuasions of all types could set aside differences and root for the same team.
Here are my adulterated thoughts, without all of the media hysteria. First, NFL players, like any American, have the right to peaceably protest, on the field if they choose. Don’t get mad–or agree–just yet. There’s more.
Owners of NFL teams, as private citizens and owners of private businesses, have the right to allow the players to continue the protests, or not continue the protests, so long as they are willing to accept the consequences that result from that decision. I believe the fans will settle the dispute, one way of the other.
NFL fans–and this includes President Donald Trump–also have a right to disagree with the protests. If NFL fans disagree with the protests, for whatever reason, they have the right to express that view–by “protesting the protests”–by demanding that individual team owners not allow them, and hold players accountable for their actions if they continue (fines, suspensions, termination of contracts, etc.), as a condition for their continued support. If the owners refuse, these fans can justifiably withhold their support from those teams–and the NFL–as the free expression of their disapproval.
NFL fans also have the right to agree with those protests. They can demand owners embrace the “cause” and allow the players to express themselves during the National Anthem, in the locker room, or on the field, without the threat of sanctions. These fans have the right to increase their support of NFL teams and the league if the owners do this, and withdraw their support if they don’t.
NFL fans hold the power in this situation. The players know it. The owners know it. The fans know it. They buy the tickets, the merchandise, the concessions, and the cable TV packages. They drive the cost of advertising by turning on the television to watch the game. They boost the revenues of all products marketed and sold to a football audience. Or not. Empty stadiums and blank TV screens don’t pay the bills.
This is the center of the discussion. Whether the protests continue or not will be determined by whether or not the players, owners, and fans are willing to pay the price for which side they take. Are the fans willing to walk away from football? Are the players who want to continue protesting willing to let those fans walk, taking their money with them? Are they willing to accept a shrinking fan base, loss of revenue, and loss of public esteem? Are the owners? After all, no one can be compelled to support the NFL.
There is going to be a price to pay regardless of which side you choose. If you are a person of conviction, you will pay it. Maybe you agree with the protests and maybe you don’t, but none of us has the right to choose for anyone else. We only have the right to express our own convictions. The NFL will makes its choice based on what it thinks is best for the NFL. The NFL owners will make whatever decision they think is best for the team. The players will make whatever choice they believe is best for them. The fans will decide whether or not they want to continue watching.
That’s America. That’s the 1st Amendment. So, pick a side and let the chips fall where they may. For myself? That flag and that anthem mean something to me. They always have and they always will. I stand on the shoulders of those fought, bled, and died for my freedom. Their symbols and sacrifice are not props to be used for anyone’s “cause.” You have a cause? Find your own symbol and make it worthy of your cause. Maybe then I’ll listen. As long as you dishonor America’s dead and ideals while trying to get my attention, I’m simply tuning you out. I think America will, too.
I’ve made my decision. You’re free to make yours.
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