Yesterday, the NFL announced that it is implementing a new policy that will require players to stand and be respectful during the National Anthem. Players that choose to do so are allowed to remain in the locker room, but those who remain on the field and do not show respect to the flag will be fined.
As a veteran, I could not be more proud of the way the NFL has decided to handle this. I was one of many football fans outraged at the way Goodell and individual owners were handling the kneeling controversy last season. This move actually took me by surprise, because I was honestly expecting the owners to come out with a policy that either encouraged kneeling or one that would protect the kneelers from any kind of League backlash. Instead what happened was a win for America and patriots everywhere, millions and millions of Americans who are sick and tired of seeing everything that this great nation has always stood for shit on and disgraced.
I posted my feelings on Facebook, and as usual the backlash started coming through immediately. I keep getting asked how I, a “former” Marine, could allow suppression of the 1st Amendment and the silencing of free speech and freedom of expression. I was actually really glad those questions came up, and I want to address them here because there are a couple of things critics of the new policy seem to forget that should not be forgotten.
First and foremost, the 1st Amendment is not a free pass to do whatever you want, when you want to do it. Many, many court cases over the years have helped create boundaries and clarify what is and what is not acceptable under free speech. Everyone knows that you can’t shout “FIRE!” in a crowded theater. Spray painting graffiti is vandalism and destruction of property. The vast majority of businesses will deny service to customers who come in not dressed appropriately. It is unacceptable to run up and down a quiet street at night singing through a loud speaker, and being nude in public is an easy way to land someone on a sex offender’s registry. At the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, being loud and disrespectful will incur a sharp and swift reprimand from the sentry. These are just a few of countless examples I can give, but it just goes to show that just because a new rule appears to violate the Constitution on the surface, doesn’t mean that it isn’t warranted as it has happened many times before.
Another major factor to remember is that the NFL is a business. The players, coaches, and supporting staff are all employees of that business. Businesses have always had the right to impose regulations and policies for employees in order to protect the integrity and image of the organization. A prime example is the government contractor that employed the woman who flipped off President Trump’s motorcade, and was terminated as a result. While the employee was off-duty during the time of the incident, she was still an employee of an employer with a government contract, and flipping off the Chief Executive is a sure fire way for that company to lose the current and any future contract had it been traced back to the employee. One can’t expect McDonald’s to tolerate an employee wearing a “F*** McDonald’s!” shirt when on company property, or going on social media making fun of and insulting their boss while identifying themselves as employees of such and such employer. All of these things—the obscene gesture, the message on the shirt, and the social media attacks—are protected under normal circumstances by the 1st Amendment, but when it comes to businesses protecting their employees, customers, clients, and products from bad publicity, those rights go out the window.
It is no different with the NFL. Professional football has always been a strong pastime for Americans, with a strong military, police, and veteran fan base. We hold that flag with high honor and the deepest of respect. Naturally, when we started to see entire teams and scores of players kneeling during the National Anthem and refusing to even look at the flag, we were upset. And we expressed our outrage in every way we could. As a result, even if they do not come out and admit it, the NFL was hurt by the backlash. That flag is saluted by every single service member all the time, and it is draped over the caskets of those who have laid down their lives so that this nation could be free. Pro ball is essentially an American sport, and too many of us the anti-American statements by many of the players were not right. The NFL heard our complaints and have acted on it, the way any business would. The bottom line is the players are on company time being paid money most of us will bust our asses off our entire lives and never see unless we won the lottery. If the NFL decided to make it a rule that teams need to stand or not be seen, that’s not an infringement on their rights. They are on the clock, representing not only the NFL and their teams but the entire nation on national TV and radio. They need to show respect.