WASHINGTON – The National Football League has wisely chosen to take the course of least resistance to the players’ protests during the national anthem – with no help whatsoever from the president and vice president of the U.S.
Hats off to anyone who can accurately track how this unfortunate mess started. Some correctly blame it on President Trump for lighting the fuse to a smoldering fire, with his tweets urging owners to fire any “son of a bitch” who kneels. Perhaps President Barack Obama and his attorney general, Eric Holder, should be in there someplace.
More likely it is the radical change in who is actually taking the field on Sundays (and Thursdays), and probably the collection of stories some of these players heard from their parents and grandparents about Jim Crow, lynchings and school segregation.
Perhaps some of these players heard stories from their educated uncles and aunts about how they had to sue cities, counties and states all over the country to be allowed to serve the red, white and blue on their local police and fire departments.
The white NFL owners and overwhelmingly white stadium audiences are now served up with a huge cultural challenge. The teams are predominantly African-American. Somebody told these young men they don’t have to take it anymore. Exactly what it is they don’t have to take is unclear.
Comments from the players as to why they don’t stand for the anthem are varied. Most, like former Bills running back, Thurman Thomas, adhere to the 2016 statements of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He said he was kneeling to protest white oppression by police and others. The players’ reasons change from day to day, but Kaepernick’s is the prevailing one.
When pressed, some say it is about the 2014 shooting in Ferguson, Mo., of Michael Brown by a white police officer. The left likens it to homicide. Never mind that a grand jury found Officer Darren Wilson innocent of wrongdoing.
The fiction that Wilson murdered Brown in a scuffle for Wilson’s gun was aggravated when Holder ordered 40 FBI agents to Ferguson to see whether Wilson or others committed violations of federal civil rights laws. The agents found none.
Obama afterward said acidly that Brown should be remembered through “reflection and understanding.” Obama added he would be watching to see if National Guard troops ordered to quell violence after Brown’s death “would be helping or hindering the situation.” As in Trump’s case, it can be called “building your base.”
Brown’s death was clearly the result of his resisting lawful arrest. Edward C. Cosgrove, former Erie County district attorney and a onetime FBI agent, said there has been a virtual epidemic of cases of resisting arrest in urban America. The left treats the practice of resisting arrest, or of obstructing justice, to be a new civil right. It isn’t. In every state it is a low-grade felony or a misdemeanor. No matter what you call it, resisting arrest often results in unnecessary injury or death to the suspect and police.
Confession: As a Bills fan in the 1970s, I never paid much attention to whether the anthem was being played. To many, it was a signal to find your seat, pass out the drinks and the food, and nothing more.
About eight years ago, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., discovered the federal government was doling out tens of millions to the NFL to stage anthem pageants, with giant flags, honor guards, twirling batons, professional singers, the works. The payments stopped, but the pageants continued.
After a meeting of NFL players and owners last week, league president Roger Goodell agreed to do nothing. There is not much one can do when revolt, and the rubbing raw of ancient and real grievances by angry and newly empowered young men, is in the air. It’s now a clash of cultures, and those are the very worst kind of clashes.