That’s the bottom line.
President Trump says that NFL owners should fire players who refuse to stand for the national anthem:
If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!
The NFL as an organization claims it’s all about free speech.
And the number of players who kneel or otherwise protest during the anthem, transforming this act from some sort of generalized protest against America into an anti-Trump protest, climbs. Blogger Ann Althouse raises the issue of CTE, recently again in the news, and observes that liberals were all set to crusade against football due to the brain damage it is causing, but are now caught in the position of defending football instead:
So, watch the liberal media endeavor to save football from bad old President Trump. He’s a racist. This is his racism once again, stirring up the stupid people who voted for him. . . .
Let the brain damage continue. We’ve got a culture war to fight.
And in the meantime, the NFL is losing viewers — a “fact check” rating as false Trump’s claim that ratings are “way down” admits that they are have declined, though, necessarily, the data is incomplete for 2017, and quibbles over what it means to be “way down” and whether this is demonstrably caused by the kneeling fracas or other reasons. Attendance at games is also down, in some cases, very visibly so.
Mollie Hemmingway at The Federalist has a nice piece on “5 Problems With The NFL’s National Anthem Protest,” in which she observes, among other things, that the NFL has also been woefully inconsistent, defending this protest but prohibiting players who wished to take other actions, such as wearing helmet decals in support of police.Now, for the most part, I don’t have a dog in this fight. I didn’t grow up in a football-watching family, and don’t have a particular NFL team allegiance now. I can see that there is a certain art to football, in the strategy of its plays, the narrative of the 4 downs, the elegance of a Hail Mary pass or a touchdown in which the player shakes off one would-be tackler after another. And I do hope that they can figure out how to fix helmets, tackling methods, or whatever is needed to end the head injuries.
But it is entertainment.
People watch it to be entertained. They don’t want politics in their entertainment — the purpose of entertainment is to escape politics, as well as all of one’s other cares.
And I suspect that the players themselves, have lost this awareness. After all, to them, football is work. They get paid for it, and they get paid an extraordinary amount of money. The luckiest ones have a charmed career, moving from start high school player to college standout to professional. They may, in the end, struggle to find a team that won’t cut them, but in the meantime, they are recipients of adulation from their first high school touchdown. For too many of them, this adulation leads them to believe that they are privileged, and can do what they choose on the field and off (hence, reports of domestic violence and drunken misbehavior).
But if the NFL, and its players, forget that they’re providing an entertainment service, then its customers will find their entertainment elsewhere.
Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AArian_Foster_fumble.jpg; By AJ Guel (originally posted to Flickr as Fumble) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons