It looks like we’re in for another NFL season surrounded by the “kneeling” controversy.
The NFL thought it had devised a solution: players who want to stand for the national anthem will; the others will wait in the locker room until after the anthem is sung.
This didn’t sit well with the players, who say they are not protesting the national anthem, but using the opportunity to protest the treatment of blacks by law enforcement. The solution robs them of an opportunity to speak out, which they perceive as a violation of their right to free speech as well as a control mechanism.
For the record, I do not support kneeling during the anthem. I understand the desire to use a platform for a cause, but I find kneeling disrespectful and, like many, I don’t want sports with a side of politics. People turn to sports precisely because they want an escape.
The free speech aspect of it makes me chuckle, not only because as employees of a private corporation the players don’t have a constitutional right to free speech, but also, the World Cup just reminded us how different the situation is when it comes to international soccer.
For a long time, Spanish players used to remove their jerseys to reveal a shirt with the face of Dani Jarque, a fellow soccer player who died of a heart attack. They were inevitably fined. In this year’s World Cup, three Swiss players were fined for celebrating with a hand signal perceived by their opponents to be political.
Both cases violated the rules. Simple. No one gave a hoot about their free speech.
That’s what the NFL really has to decide: its rules. Must a player be on the field, standing, for the anthem, or not? Sticking a bunch of players in a locker room was always the coward’s way out.
Shana Goldberg may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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