I respect the decisions of those with the fortitude to follow through boycotting the National Football League. It really doesn’t matter why. What matters is that individuals have the liberty to choose “[p]rinciples over pleasure” (as J.D. Rucker discusses his perspective here), boycotting the NFL. Like Mr. Rucker, football players have the liberty to speak on issues and protest in a peaceful manner. The difference between the two forms of protest is the stage upon which the protest is made. Football players are viewed live by 60k to 90k fans in stadiums and by millions on television. Mr. Rucker’s protest, and others like him, is a private protest. Boycotting the NFL has been effective and noticed by ultra-liberal ESPN. Personally, I haven’t felt the conviction to boycott the NFL, and that is my liberty. That said, I was surprised by President Trump’s tirade railing against individuals for asserting their freedom of speech.
The perception is that when football players gather to play their games, they are in business mode – that is, on the clock. Although it is entertainment, NFL players are independent contractors paid to perform a specific role. For that work, they get paid, the NFL gets paid and the teams’ personnel and owners get paid. I can fully understand and be sympathetic, then, toward those who find it distasteful for protests during the National Anthem on this stage. Athletes, while on the clock, are not paid for their personal beliefs. Fans attend games for a break from political and ideological differences and they would like that break honored. Given any other business, private or public, it would be unacceptable for employees, while on the clock, publicly demonstrate personal ideologies that remove focus from the product.
I do not agree with the form of protest that NFL players have been demonstrating – taking a knee or holding up a fist during the National Anthem. First, I don’t think the demonstration fits the purpose of the cause. Second, I cannot help but think, “Is this the best you can do?” In other words: 1) if you just turned on a football game and saw a player kneeling during the National Anthem, would you know why, and, 2) a millionaire athlete demonstrates his protest with as little effort as possible. As an aside, I have some difficulty taking seriously a millionaire athlete’s protest against inequality. Wrapped in all of this, there are three points I am going to address.
Problems with President Trump’s message
I cannot express more contempt for the divisiveness and vulgarity of Trump’s message. This is personal for me because I chose to vote for him in order to vote against Hillary Clinton. Thank you, Mr. President for pouring more salt in that wound. Please, focus on NorKo, Iran, China and Russia.
“Son of a bitch” is derogatory towards two individuals, one of whom may not agree with her son. The mother of Colin Kaepernick is rightfully upset. The President should know better than create publicity that supports negative perceptions. If I were in his cabinet, I would resign. If I could rescind my vote, I would. Trump’s message is based on emotion intended to resound with a portion of his base. There are some things that, given one’s title and position, should remain unsaid. He should not, as POTUS, rail against (much less call for firing) a private citizen demonstrating a peaceful protest.
Vagueness of athletes’ message
The message of the protest is inequality. Or is it injustice? Well, depending on whom you ask, you may get a different answer. That is part of the problem. Inequality is too vague in that there are multiple contexts in which we can discuss equality – financial, ethnic, liberty and constitutional to name a few. Likewise, injustice is vague. The point is that the message is lost in connecting the speech with the cause. My perception – subject to correction, of course – of the core issue is an inequality of justice. The perception on one side is that persons are not held to the same degree of judgment as others due to skin color (ethnicity) or financial status.
Protest as a form of speech is protected
“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech …”
Both protests – Trump’s and the athletes’ – are protected forms of speech by our Constitution. I don’t agree with the athletes’ chosen demonstration of protest for the reasons I mention above. I detest President Trump’s hateful message although he has the Constitutional right to say it. It’s okay to have certain convictions that motivate you to protest – either through boycott, peaceful demonstration or picketing.
The millionaire athletes should be able to find a way to publicize a unified message (without employing divisive tactics or groups) through a unified movement with a public relations team. But they need to articulate the message so that we all get it and it needs to be on their own time.
Trump needs to stick to refining his political acumen. Right now, he stinks and his verbal filter, if one exists, is broken. In spite of his divisive message, a great unity appeared in Sunday’s games during the performances of the National Anthem. I saw players standing side by side, arms locked. If anything, that is more unity than I have observed since Trump’s election.
There are inequalities in our justice system. The appropriate thing to do involves root-cause analysis. Following due diligence through analysis, they should develop a message. As educated millionaires, they should then have the tools to formulate appropriate actions to rectify the problem. One suggestion might be finding individuals who agree with and support challenging the current legal culture to fix the issues. Another might be programs to help minorities understand the roles of and become upstanding members of law enforcement, driving cultural change from within rather than rioting.
I am hoping that something good will come out of Trump’s ignorance – arguably, his stupidity. On the subject of inequalities within our justice system: I am unified with those who properly challenge culture and stand determined to seek an appropriate course of action to rectify the system.