The NFL season hasn’t started, but the league is doing its best to make sure they still have fans when it does! After a year-long controversy that cost him fans, advertisers, and ratings, Commissioner Roger Goodell finally decided to step in and stop the bleeding. A new anthem policy will take effect when the NFL kicks off in September — and not a moment too soon.
Patriotism, the kind quarterback Colin Kaepernick flouted when he took a knee during the Star Spangled Banner, is no longer optional. “This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem. Personnel who choose not to stand for the Anthem may stay in the locker room until after the Anthem has been performed,” Goodell said in a statement Wednesday. After a bruising year for the NFL brand, Goodell did what fans had been clamoring for: put an end to the political protests that were rocking his sport.
Teams that don’t comply, NFL officials say, will be hit where it hurts — in the wallet. “A club will be fined by the League if its personnel are on the field and do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem,” the NFL warns. Like most Americans, President Trump has watched this year-long controversy unfold with disdain. Last September, he asked fans to send the League a message by turning off the game. “Things will stop,” he predicted. “Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave. Not the same game anymore anyway…”
Trump got the League’s attention alright. Millions of fans changed channels, ended their subscriptions, or stopped buying tickets altogether. At games, boos rained down where cheers once were. And suddenly, the biggest storyline on NFL Sunday had nothing to do with the scores. “Today’s decision by the @NFL is a win for the fans, a win for @POTUS, and a win for America,” tweeted Vice President Mike Pence. “Americans can once again come together around what unites us — our flag, our military, and our National Anthem. Thank you NFL. #ProudToStand.”
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President Trump, who scored the biggest victory in America’s showdown with the $14 billion league, agreed that NFL owners did the right thing. But, like a lot us, doesn’t think people should have to be prodded into showing their nation respect. “I don’t think people should be staying in the locker rooms, but still I think it’s good,” he said in an exclusive interview on Fox News. “You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”
FRC’s Lt. General Jerry Boykin, who knows plenty of soldiers who wished they could stand for anything again, said, “I think it’s sad that any American today is not willing to stand in honor of the flag,” but, he went on, “I’m glad to see the NFL addressing the issue.” The American Legion, whose veterans served so that these players had the freedom to disrespect their country, applauded the NFL’s move — wishing, like most Americans, that it had never been necessary. “While the issues that led to the controversy remain and deserve continued national dialogue, we hope that all Americans would stand united as one under our national symbol. Our flag and anthem belong to all Americans. While our country is not perfect, it remains the world’s greatest beacon of freedom. We all have to work together to resolve our differences.”
Whether the NFL has learned its lesson about wading into the culture wars remains to be seen. What it has learned is not to tangle with proud Americans — and the man working to make their country great again, Donald Trump. “This is a notable win for conservatives,” Axios insisted, one that will hopefully make businesses think twice about mocking our values. “Trump outsmarted the Resistance,” the Federalist pointed out, “but that doesn’t seem to take much work. The Resistance has framed the issue so cleverly that they are on one side and Trump is on the other — along with the national anthem, the flag, and military veterans.” That’s a fight no smart entrepreneur wants to pick.
Meanwhile, if there is a bright side to this controversy, it’s that Americans reminded the corporate elite just how painful their extremist politics can be. In business — as in elections — your choices matter. There’s no downside to speaking up — or, in this case, standing up and tuning out. Even one person can make a powerful difference.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.