What a difference a couple of weeks has made in the National Football League regarding pre-game protests by players during the performing of the anthem and presentation of the colors — acts now being banished to the locker room.
But as is the case when your favorite team defeats the Little Sisters of the Poor jayvee squad by a score of 50-0, it’s a hollow victory for the true patriots of America — and I ain’t talking about the ones up in New England.
Most of you will recall how players coast-to-coast engaged in kneel-athons and locking arm-athons before the NFL games on the weekend of Sept. 24 during the national anthem. This was meant as a show of unity against comments by President Donald Trump two days before criticizing players for dissing the anthem and flag in such a manner, including his infamous S.O.B. remark.
Also, the players were continuing a stand initiated last season by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the anthem in protest of alleged police brutality and general oppression of African-Americans in this country.
Even Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was there locking arms with his team during a Monday night contest on Sept. 25.
Supposedly, with all this unity, momentum was being built among citizens as a whole against our bad ole USA and especially Trump. But just like John Brown’s ill-fated raid on Harpers Ferry was meant to elicit a rebellion among the populace, there was a gross miscalculation.
The majority of Americans were turned off by the protests they considered disrespectful to the nation and especially its veterans.
While our Constitution did afford players the right to protest, citizens overall just couldn’t get past what they perceived as a slap in the face to the country. This obscured any message the players were trying to get across regarding the reasons for their actions.
Those positions also somehow seemed woefully out of place coming from a bunch of pampered millionaire athletes the U.S. has done pretty right by, in most people’s estimation.
Not only has there been a fan backlash, the fast-forwarding of events up to now has produced a 180-degree turnaround by team owners and the league’s top official.
This has included Jerry Jones recently issuing a mandate that those on his team must stand for the national anthem and show proper respect or else they won’t play.
Meanwhile, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo this week to all 32 teams in the league saying “everyone should stand” during the anthem. “We want to honor our flag and our country and our fans expect that of us,” Goodell added.
So just like a deflating football, the air seems to be rushing out of the kneel-athon movement — and on the surface I guess I should be glad about that, as an early critic of players’ actions.
Yet it is a hollow victory, because the motivation for respecting our nation’s proud heritage is financial in nature and not from the heart: honoring the flag and anthem simply because it’s the right thing to do.
The Cowboys’ owner reportedly made reference to that during a closed-door meeting with his players this week, when he sought to ensure they saw the bigger picture regarding the business side of the situation. This included his concerns over sagging TV ratings and dissatisfaction among sponsors, with threats also coming from Trump to eliminate tax breaks for the NFL.
No doubt players will react like sheep and engage in forced pre-game behavior that as a result will be an empty, go-through-the-motions gesture with no sincerity attached.
Despite their commitments to the various social causes they’ve highlighted, you can just about guarantee that few if any of them will be willing to sacrifice playing time, money to pay fines or game checks from suspensions in the name of said causes.
The NFL protest saga proves once again that the guiding force behind just about everything in America is money, plain and simple. You can profess to have all the principles in the world, but that means nothing if you’re willing to sell them for a few pieces of silver.
Along with revealing the true color$ of the ugly business side of our most popular sport, the recent controversy is showing how truly greedy the players are at the end of the day.
They’ve illustrated this previously with concussions, a major concern in football in recent years. And while it’s all well and good that steps have been taken to reduce concussions, the truth is that even if NFL players were told there was a risk of being decapitated during a game they would still play.
Just $how me the money, they $ay.
Tom Joyce is a staff writer for The Mount Airy News. He may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.