What the Left and the Right Get Wrong About the NFL Protests


Donald Trump has changed American politics forever, so in a sense, it is unsurprising that his recent election would also fundamentally transform not merely politics, but American society and all of its facets as well. Enter…the National Football League, which has seen its first month marred by political protests in stadiums, falling viewership and advertising revenue, and trademark “Trump style” social media attack on protesting NFL players.

Trump views the “taking a knee” trend during the national anthem as disparaging to America, the flag, and its values, and has not minced his words regarding what he thinks about the NFL malcontents. But Trump, despite his legions of adoring followers in the heartland who hinge on his every tweet, often fails to pick his battles sagaciously. Taking on NFL players is counter-productive, by and large…and generally adds fuel to the fire.

Taking a knee is hardly an assault on the flag, the nation, or its values. These NFL players are seeking to call attention to current pressing social issues, and while a NFL stadium may or may not be an appropriate venue for such sentiments, it would be incorrect to construe their actions as attacks on patriotism.

Both the left and the right should realize that in addition to being a First Amendment issue, it is also a workplace issue, pitting the rights of employers against employees. Where do the rights of NFL players end and the rights of team owners’ begin? Players have First Amendment rights in public, but employees lose some of their First Amendment rights when they enter the workplace.

Fundamentally, from a libertarian standpoint, it should be the owners and coaches who set team policy, and instruct their players regarding appropriate behavior, both on and off the field.

The NFL seeks to be apolitical, but, if anything, probably veers more to the political left. Regardless of NFL executives’ personal feelings on the topic, economic pressure may soon force the NFL to take action against the player protests, as advertisers walk, ratings drop, and the American heartland (red America if you will) begins to desert the league.

Finally, the American Left is inaccurate in suggesting that their is a “national epidemic” of police shooting unarmed black men. The Washington Post has extensively studied the topic. In 2016, 16 unarmed black men were killed by police, out of a total of slightly more than 1,000 fatal shootings by police. That is hardly a national epidemic.

The left and BLM raise some reasonable points. The police need better training. They need some degree of civilian oversight. But for them to exploit police shootings for political expediency is counter-productive.

When the topic of police brutality and police shootings arises, every case, independently of race, must be judge on its individual merits.

Additionally, by and large, Americans do not look to athletes, musicians, and Hollywood actors to be informed as to their political views: they watch sporting events, concerts, and movies for entertainment value, not to be preached to or indoctrinated. Thus, the notion of using professional sporting venues as forums for political protest may prove to be short-lived.

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