The National Football League (NFL) is taking much heat this season because of the protests of some of its black athletes during the playing of the National anthem, the Star Spangled Banner. Rather than stand during the anthem as most players and fans do, these athletes are dropping to one knee in protest against injustice and racism in America.
These protests have drawn a lot of criticism in print and online. More importantly, TV ratings, the lifeblood of the NFL, are down significantly. Viewers are tuning out and some are vowing never to watch again. Sponsors who shell out big bucks to advertise are obviously also taking notice. Some commentators even question whether the NFL can survive.
Personally, I do not object to the protests. I’m not a big NFL fan and rarely watch the games on TV mainly because they have become almost unwatchable because of the constant commercial interruptions. Nevertheless, one of the great things about the USA is that people have a right to protest.
Of course, even if the NFL cannot force its employees to desist, it also has the right to pan away from the protesting athletes and not give them center stage on its broadcasts. For a long time now, it has been squeamish about keeping the cameras on players who drop to their knees and make the sign of the cross after scoring a touchdown. In fact, most the media refuse to cover the annual Right to Life march on Washington every January even though almost a million show up to protest the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision on abortion.
While I think that the athletes have a right to protest, it does seem ironic that these modern day gladiators feel downtrodden. They all make more money than most of us will ever dream of. Most wear gold chains, drive fancy cars, and seem to attract beautiful women.
Even before they turned pro, they were pampered, fed, and lionized all through high school and college. I know that they were not paid while in college but they did have an opportunity to get a free education. That education was worth in excess of $60000 per year tax-free. In addition, they lived in special dorms, ate special meals in special dining halls, and got to travel all over the country.
This year at Thanksgiving it would be really fitting if all these protesting athletes got down on both knees and gave thanks for all they owe to living in the USA. The United States has been around for only 228 years but there is no guarantee that it will be around forever.
Shortly after the Nation’s founding, it was engaged in the War of 1812, a war that seems insignificant now but people at the time thought that the very existence of the new nation was at stake. Enemy ships had entered Baltimore harbor and were bombarding Fort Mc Henry. The stubborn resistance of the men in the fort led Francis Scott Key to pen the lyrics of what would become our National anthem.
We usually only sing the first verse but I reproduce it as well as the fourth and concluding verse below.
O say can you see by the dawn's early light What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming.
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there
O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto — "In God is our trust"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
If there ever comes a time when that star-spangled does not wave, then protests of any kind will not be allowed. When people kneel in other parts of the world today, it is only to be driven into slavery or even have their heads cut off.
I don’t want to end on a sour note. Yesterday, Yale won the Ivy League title with a resounding victory over arch-rival Harvard. The newspaper report indicated that the Yale program had made a remarkable turnaround since the hiring of head coach Tony Reno in 2012. It was remarkable not only because of the victory but also because of the way that Reno and his staff did it. Reno said
“he and his staff worked hard since he arrived to change the culture of the program through a set of core values which went beyond football, starting with accountability. From always being on time, to putting others first, to cleaning the space around one’s locker and making sure hotel rooms were cleaner than when the players arrived. But most importantly, believing in each other.
After the game one of the Yale seniors told the coach that he would forever be indebted to him. “He taught me how to live life, how to sacrifice. I thanked him for all he did for me, and not just me, but everyone on Team 145.”
Boola, Boola to Yale, its coach and its team!