When leftists see a masculine meritocracy, they have the same instinctive reponse we have to campus snowflake culture: “You shall not pass.” That’s why the National Football League, probably the most successful masculine-driven enterprise remaining in the country today, is squarely in the Left’s crosshairs.
Anything that acknowledges, let alone affirms, traditional gender roles — while at the same time rewarding excellence at the expense of victimology — is not tolerated by the hive mind of progressivism.
Four years ago, I was tasked with writing the response to USA Today’s editorial on the eve of the Super Bowl calling football too dangerous. Here’s part of what I wrote back then, which is even more applicable today:
I believe we’re so passionate about football because it embodies everything we love about American exceptionalism. Merit is rewarded, not punished. Masculinity is celebrated, not feminized. People of various beliefs and backgrounds — a melting pot, if you will — must unify for a common goal for the team to be successful. In football, fortune favors the bold, just as it once did in the American frontier.
Yes, football is a dangerous sport. That’s why they wear pads and helmets, and of course we should do everything possible to minimize the risk. But a lot of the work men do on behalf of others is dangerous. And, in many cases, the men voluntarily playing football are not just providing an income for themselves but also for thousands of families whose livelihoods depend on the sport’s success.
It is ironic that many of the same people saying football may be too dangerous for our sons, just last week celebrated the prospect of our daughters potentially getting slaughtered in combat. Makes you wonder if this is really about safety, or if it’s really about political correctness tearing down another masculine meritocracy.
I believe that last part there in bold is what’s driving the encouragement of these national anthem protests that continue to plague the NFL.
Of course, I’m sure there are players who are doing this out of sincere conviction. I respect that even if I don’t agree. I also don’t believe the national anthem of a football game, which millions of Americans of many backgrounds look forward to as a “safe space” to escape our toxic politics, is the time and place for it.
In fact, those players who have sincere convictions are alienating people from their cause by going this route, which brings us to the danger to the NFL here as well.
A month ago, ESPN, the primary vehicle the Left uses to promote and encourage the protest culture in the NFL, ran a story that actually told the truth. According to a survey by J.D. Power, the number one reason NFL television ratings dropped 12 percent in 2016 was that fans grew increasingly fed up with national anthem protests. Sadly predictable, the Social Justice Wannabes in the sports media — who are all the obnoxious, but twice the dumb of those we have in the news media — began attacking ESPN from the left for daring to run this story. They claimed the poll didn’t actually say what it actually said.
ESPN is already hemorrhaging subscribers due to its antiquated business model and its curious decision to merge live sporting events with the Young Turks. So in theory, no one is more aware of the price to be paid for politicizing sports than the network.
Are Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL paying attention?
Neither the concussion problem, players’ criminal behavior off the field, or cheating scandals on the field have put a dent in the NFL’s sporting dominance. Its logo is appropriately a shield, for the NFL’s brand has been impenetrable. For 20 years the league didn’t have a franchise in Los Angeles, the country’s second largest market, and flourished nevertheless. No other American pro sports league could survive that void, let alone grow regardless.
But if the NFL continues to permit the SJW invasion of its sport, that shield could be tested, as last year’s ratings decline indicates. See, there are numerous anthem protests happening during college football games as well, but that’s different. Most Americans assume college players are on a liberal campus and/or exploring their own voice for the first time. Plus, they’re not paid, at least not above the table.
However, the average NFL salary is about $2 million per season. Meanwhile, only 1 out of 4 fans of the NFL make over $100,000 per year. Which means 75 percent of NFL fans don’t even make 5 percent of what the average NFL player makes in a year. These are people largely living paycheck to paycheck, who look forward to their NFL Sundays as a release from and a reward for a hard week of work.
Thus, the last thing they’re going to tolerate is someone making the gross domestic product of third world country lecturing them that America sucks and everyone’s a racist. They go to the NFL for refuge from societal problems they don’t have the luxury of whining about, not to be lectured to. Granted, those protesting would say their message is more nuanced than that, but that also displays arrogance in that they don’t even know their own audience.
These are roofers, data entry clerks, construction workers, service workers, etc., who would give parts of their anatomy to be paid that kind of money to play a game for a living and to receive the cheers, accolades, and perks of such stardom on top of the riches. Therefore, the players doing the protesting come off as pampered celebrities to them. More profit than prophet, if you know what I mean, and it’s backfiring as a result.
If these players truly believe they have something meaningful to say, then they should use a leftist tool like ESPN to say it, but say it away from the field instead of turning the field itself into a political platform. The NFL is violating the first two rules of business — the customer is always right and don’t crap where you live — and has already suffered financially as a result. If it continues to go down this road, we may find out that shield isn’t as impenetrable as we once thought.
Steve Deace is broadcast nationally every day on BlazeTV. He is the author of the book “Truth Bombs: Confronting the Lies Conservatives Believe (To Our Own Demise).”