OPINION COLUMNS

New anthem policy isn’t about patriotism

By Reece Waddell | Published Saturday, May 26, 2018
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For many, Sunday afternoons in the fall are usually spent in front of a TV watching NFL football.

In the United States – and especially in Texas – football is an institution. A pastime.

So, it’s no surprise the NFL is a revenue machine. In 2015 alone, the NFL made $13 billion, according to MarketWatch.com.

Reece Waddell

In 2015, games from the first half of the season averaged 18.17 million viewers, according to Forbes.com. Last year in 2017, games from the first half of the season averaged 14.78 million viewers.

Why the nearly four million viewer dip in two years? Look no further than national anthem protests.

Sparked by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, many players across the league have kneeled, sat or raised fists in solidarity during the national anthem to protest racial injustice. Make no mistake about it – racial injustice is a problem in this country.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at the grisly video of a Taser being used on Milwaukee Bucks guard Sterling Brown and him being wrestled to the ground by a group of Milwaukee police officers. Brown parked illegally across two parking spaces in a Walgreens parking lot in the middle of the night.

Apparently in this day and age, that warrants the use of a Taser and being tackled by several police officers. What’s worse is this has become an alarming trend across America – and is exactly what NFL players are protesting.

And on Wednesday, NFL owners approved a new policy that requires players and personnel to stand for the national anthem. The policy subjects teams to a fine if players and personnel do not show respect for the anthem. They are allowed to stay in the locker room during the anthem.

The NFL is a business, and players are its employees. The league can enforce whatever rules they want for its employees to abide by. But this is not about patriotism or showing respect for the flag.

It’s about money.

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long said it best on Twitter earlier this week: “This is a fear of a diminished bottom line. It’s also fear of a president turning his base against a corporation. This is not patriotism. Don’t get it confused.”

You want to force players and personnel to stand during the anthem? Fine. The NBA does.

The difference is the NBA understands why players are protesting. The Bucks released a statement immediately after video of Brown was released and condemned the incident. It read, in part, “The abuse and intimidation that Sterling experienced at the hands of Milwaukee Police was shameful and inexcusable.”

NBA players know their organizations support them. The NFL, meanwhile, has an owner in Houston’s Bob McNair who said last October the NFL should avoid “having inmates running the prison” in reference to the anthem protests.

The NFL has bungled the anthem issue for the better part of two years. Owners have tried to re-invent the wheel coming up with a solution.

Wednesday’s new policy was no different.

What the NFL and its owners continue to fail to realize is none of these players are protesting the flag or the anthem. It has never been about that.

The root of these protests remains unaddressed while owners look out for one thing – their wallet.

Reece Waddell is the sports editor of the Messenger.

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