If you’ve been watching the news, following on Twitter, or are just a fan of the NFL, then you’ve probably seen the absolute meltdown occur between the President of the United States and seemingly every major football team. Essentially, President Trump went on a series of Twitter rants, first disinviting NBA player Steph Curry from visiting the White House for “unpatriotic behavior”, before going on to feud with NFL figures like commissioner Roger Goodell, and player-turned activist Colin Kaepernick. All this fighting led to very divisive comments from the President on Twitter, which in turn led to almost all players today taking a knee or not even coming out onto the field during the National Anthem. The question that should be raised from this isn’t whether Trump should’ve started the debate or not, but rather, does the NFL, an athletic institution rife with controversy and pathetically low ratings, really have the power to fight back against the President?
To be completely honest, I genuinely couldn’t understand the argument of those who supported players like Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the National Anthem in order to, in their mind, protest against social injustice being committed in the U.S. No matter which way I sliced it, none of it made sense to me, that is until earlier today, when I saw Ted Cruz and Evan Smith speak at the Texas Tribune Festival. When asked about his opinion on the topic, Sen. Cruz said that while he supported player’s free speech to take a knee, he would use his free speech in order to criticize how distasteful and misguided the act is. In reaction, Smith told Cruz that he was mistaking the player’s intentions with how it appeared to most Americans. Sen. Cruz rebutted the argument in a great way, essentially claiming that no matter how it’s meant, kneeling during the National Anthem and disrespecting the flag are direct acts of defiance against every single public servant and military member that has put their lives on the line to defend their country.
Of course Cruz’s response was boo-ed by the audience, but I was surprised that Evan Smith ignored this argument and just moved onto the next question. After hearing Smith, who is a major journalist and PBS contributor who prides himself on being neutral, present such a lame and simple argument, I couldn’t help but lose any respect for those who somehow support the players who kneel. When your nation’s anthem plays, the only reason to kneel down and not show the proper respect is to make a political statement, but the only context this statement is done in is one of extreme disrespect and defiance. A better way to protest would be if players stopped showing up to games, refused to contribute normally to the sports press, broke required wardrobe to make a statement, anything else really that didn’t involve directly offending every single person who protected the freedom for those players to kneel. While typically I refrain from specifically saying that one side is objectively right or wrong, I really can’t see the reasoning to support the players in this argument.
While a lot of people involved in politics actually agreed with the sentiments of President Trump, the universal opinion seems to be that Trump wasn’t justified in going on his Twitter tirade as not only was it unprofessional, but it was a politician targeting an entertainment platform, which should be none of his business. On so many levels though, the kneeling situation in the NFL was exactly Trump’s business. Trump’s job as president has and always will be primarily a cultural one. What that means is that former president Obama did so much to indoctrinate the population towards an American-hating political and economic left-leaning, that we desperately needed somebody to correct our course. While it’s important that Trump appoints qualified and balanced judges for the Supreme Court and that he uses his bully pulpit to push legislation that benefits all Americans, Trump’s continual crowning achievement will be the societal course correction that he offers with his Twitter account and controversial speeches.
What nobody seems to recognize is that the massive amount of NFL players taking a knee today in defiance of Trump is exactly what the President wanted. While before, people could create narratives in their heads justifying why certain players would kneel, probably because of racial and socioeconomic factors, now, every single player that kneels will only ever seem to do so in order to spite the President. With a single string of Tweets, Trump managed to turn a smoking oven into a raging inferno, forcing everybody to take action. The fact of the matter is that the NFL has been struggling with their ratings for a while now, as ESPN and sports themselves have gotten way too political and drama-laden for the tastes of the average person. By starting this controversy, Trump further ruined the fun of watching football, driving even more viewers away from the network and also bringing the negative aspects of the NFL, like the massive amounts of head injuries, murder, sexual assault, and suicide, to the front of national conversation again. Looking at it from this perspective then, not only should NFL players not kneel during games, but Trump absolutely should be allowed to Tweet about it without censorship or reproach. Someday folks will recognize that Donald J. Trump is the ultimate troll, but until then we just get sit back and watch him work his magic.