Today numerous NFL players refused to stand for the National Anthem at various venues, from the U.S. to the UK. (All but one Steeler remained in the locker room during the salute to the flag.)
Fans booed. If Twitter and Facebook are any indication, a widespread boycott of the 2017-2018 season is a real possibility.
The NFL players claimed to be protesting Donald Trump, or urban police tactics, or…maybe something else this week. Does it matter anymore? Look at your personal social media feed. Everyone—on the right as well as on the left—is angry about something. This is the Age of Outrage.
This is why we need a few corners of American life to remain free of political grandstanding and self-serving soapboxing. For a long time, spectator sports was one such politics-free area, until a second-string QB named Colin Kaepernick changed all that last season.
There are a few factors that the posturing players are overlooking. In recent years, the NFL has been plagued with any number of scandals related to the personal conduct of these men: Players have been charged with a laundry list of crimes—from sexual assault and spousal abuse, to first-degree homicide. These are not exactly paragons of virtue. In fact, there is a case to be made that the NFL is little more than an overpaid gaggle of overrated hoodlums.
I also understand that from a certain political perspective, any act, gesture, or movement that opposes Donald Trump (no matter how indirectly) will be seen as justifiable. Because it’s all about the Resistance!
But the overlap between the Resistance! and football fans is a sliver-sized demographic. Be honest, now: How many latte-sipping, Keith Olberman-watching metrosexuals are also attending football games?
Not too many. Pro football is a red-state obsession. Blue-state left-coasters spend their Sunday afternoons doing things like….watching performances of Hamilton on Broadway, and attending Jonathan Franzen book signings. Whatever they’re doing, the leftwing crowd is probably not mixing with the unwashed hoi polloi at the local football stadium.
Even before the current controversy, attendance at NFL games was down, as were the television ratings. This is the last thing that the game needed. The prima donnas of the gridiron may yet become victims of their own hubris.