People on both sides of the political spectrum are losing their collective minds about the recent rash of NFL players refusing to stand during the National Anthem. With football season in full swing, instead of focusing on the game itself, fans are preoccupied with the pregame behavior of players, and it’s all anyone seems to want to talk about.
For me, it’s a little puzzling why this is news at all. Football players are paid to do a specific job. They’re paid to run fast while holding a ball, get knocked down, and sustain brain damage for our amusement. They are not paid to think. They are not paid to opine about politics or the state of modern America. Their opinions are no more informed or important than those of anyone else in the country.
When Matt Damon and Tim Robbins spout off about their views on politics, we dismiss them as ignorant, overpaid blowhards who have no idea what they’re talking about. It’s not their job to know what they’re talking about. The same is true for football players. Is it disrespectful to kneel during the anthem? Sure, I guess. But we’re talking about a profession that is plagued with domestic abuse scandals. Why would anyone expect these guys to be respectful in the first place?
If accountants, rather than professional athletes, were disrespecting America, no one would care. No one would even hear about it, probably. No one has any interest in what accountants think as long as they do their job competently. Why isn’t the same true for sports?
Perhaps my confusion over this is because, as a libertarian, I’m used to having the minority.opinion on everything. Every band I listen to, every actor I watch on the screen, has opinions I regard as wrong, if not outright despicable. But I still buy records, and I still watch movies, because I don’t expect entertainers to be informed or thoughtful about politics. It’s not what I pay them for.
I’ve heard some people make the argument that the message itself isn’t the problem; they just want to keep politics out of football so they can enjoy the game. That’s fair enough, but if kneeling during the national anthem is a political statement, isn’t standing during the song equally political? The only difference is that fans agree with one position and disagree with the other.
By all means, I am in favor of consumers voting with their dollars. If viewers find that players kneeling during the national anthem ruins their enjoyment of the game, I am happy for them to stop watching, stop buying tickets, and stop supporting the offending teams. But it’s a mystery to me why we are treating players as though their opinions on politics, America, the president, or the police have any relevance to anything real.
At the end of the day, this, like so many things, is more a problem of the 24-hour news cycle than of the players themselves. The constant news coverage is far more disruptive to the game than whether a particular player stands or kneels or jumps up and down. Like giving oxygen to a fire, these protests only persist if people pay attention to them. I suggest we stop worrying what players think about America and instead just watch the game.
Logan Albright is a researcher for Conservative Review and director of research for Free the People. You can follow him on Twitter @loganalbright73.