Whether you agree with them or not, the NFL players and the executives that run the National Football League have really stepped in it, damaging their brand and alienating millions of fans and potential fans for no real good reason. It was a classic mistake.
Like it or not, and whether it’s fair or not, many Americans feel that professional athletes as a whole lead a privileged existence, working only part of the year and earning millions for their efforts. When they’re seen leading “protests” by disrespecting the flag and the national anthem â€” and all the high ideals and sacrifice those symbols represent â€” it’s too much. …
An estimated 200 players knelt during the protests this weekend, some joined by team owners. Others, such as the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks, simply didn’t come out of their locker rooms for the anthem. …
When the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars played over the weekend in London, they protested there too. Yet, as Nate Jackson of the Patriot Post reminds us, “they stood for the U.K.’s anthem, ‘God Save the Queen.’ God save the one who can’t see why that’s outrageous.”
The NFL’s official response was pathetically tone-deaf and could have been written by the NFL players union. Heck, maybe it was.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell castigated Trump for his “divisive comments” and “an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL.”
Lack of respect for the NFL? What about respect for the nation’s flag and its anthem, and for those who died defending them and what they stand for? What about respect for your own fans, many of whom still believe that America, though not perfect, is the greatest country on Earth? It’s no wonder that many of the protests were met with a chorus of boos.
Nor is this, as many self-righteously claim, a matter of “free speech.” NFL football players have the right to express what they believe, however odious or wrong it may be. But businesses have a right not to employ those who intentionally damage their businesses by reckless behavior and comments. The idea that NFL millionaires have special rights, unlike the rest of us, that let them ruin the very businesses that employ them tells you how out of touch they are with basic civics and responsibility.
Pittsburgher Saleno Zito reports that the Steeler nation in particular is unhappy.
PITTSBURGH â€” Since the 1970s, nothing has more defined the identity of this city than its scrappy hometown football team. The Steelers rose at the same time the cityâ€™s economy sank, becoming a symbol of underdog hope.
They still had their Steelers even though the factories, mills and coal mines shuttered. They still had their Steelers as families were ripped apart, children forced to move away in search of opportunity.
â€œWe bleed black and gold here,â€ said Sean Parnell, a Pittsburgh native and former US Army Airborne Ranger who served in the legendary 10th Mountain Division for six years, retiring as a captain.
â€œThe Steelers are who we looked to as an example of achievement in the face of adversity, they were the ones who brought families and friends together every Sunday. They symbolized all that is good in us and it is hard to imagine a city in this country whose heart and soul is not more identified with their team than Pittsburghers are with the Steelers,â€ he said of what is affectionately called â€œSteeler Nation.â€
But after the Steelersâ€™ decision to not participate in the national anthem last Sunday, Parnell is not so sure about the strength of that nation.
â€œAs a Pittsburgher, the team abstaining from taking the field during the national anthem was crushing to me for a few reasons. I come from a family that is Pittsburgh through and through â€” three generations. My grandfather worked as an usher at Forbes Field, Three Rivers and PNC Park. Loyalty to Pittsburgh sports, well, it is not just a hobby and we arenâ€™t simply fans. Itâ€™s a way of life around these parts. We hold our athletes and owners to a high standard. And on Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers failed to meet that standard. And not just one or two players, but the entire franchise, from owner on down.â€
This would be a great time for the Koch Brother to start a new league with a bunch of new franchises and for the Republican Congress to strip the NFL of special accommodations like tax-exempt municipal funded stadiums and immunity from monopoly laws.