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 by Jon Burras
What's Wrong With The NFL National Anthem Protests

     You do not have to be a sports fanatic to know that there is an ongoing controversy in the ranks of professional football. Over the last two years or so the nation has been mired in a political skirmish about what to do with protesting your "cause" during work hours. It seems that everyone has a say in this matter and we are once again a divided nation.

    Professional football player Colin Kaepernick began this movement by first sitting down and then kneeling when the national anthem was being played before each sporting event. This was his way of protesting against issues that had nothing to do with football but were very personal to him. Others soon followed this protest movement and soon entire teams were engaged in similar protests during the national anthem.

     Here is why I do not agree with the protest movement.

     If you allow one person to protest then you must allow everyone to protest. If a professional football team has fifty-three players, many coaches, trainers, executives and other staff member, then everyone should be allowed to protest. On a football team your starting right tackle might protest against people wearing fur. Your defensive lineman will protest against people eating meat. Your quarterback protests in favor of gay marriage while your starting linebacker protests against gay marriage.

     Now you really have a problem. To be fair, if you allow one person to protest their personal off the field beliefs then you must allow everyone to protest their own social issues as well. If you think there is a circus going on in the NFL right now, wait until everyone shouts out their protest movement all at once.

     Protesting your social agenda during work hours is very selfish. Most sports are a team event. The teams with the most "chemistry" usually win the most championships. Disharmony on the playing field or in the locker room only adds to a losing team. Not everyone in your locker room will be willing to support your social causes. In the NFL anthem debate, there are many players who served in the military and have the utmost respect for the national anthem and the flag. They are being silenced in favor of the more outspoken protest movement. A locker room divided will never win. Bringing in your personal social agenda into the work environment makes not just for poor team chemistry but for a losing team.

    Imagine if you went to your dentist and he tried to sell you on his religion while you had your mouth pried open for an extended period of time and unable to debate back. You might be looking for a new dentist. Imagine if you had a refrigerator repairman come to your home to fix your appliance and he tried to convince you that you belonged to the wrong political party. You might be looking for a new repairman. Imagine if you were on an airplane flight and the captain kept getting on the intercom and shaming those who voted for this current President. You might be choosing a new airline.

     Professional people get paid to perform their skill or task. They are not paid to enroll someone into their own agenda or to take company time to shout about their own personal views. Professional people go to work each and every day and have good solid boundaries and do their job.

    Un-professional people use company time to try to enroll others into their personal causes. Unprofessional people believe that if they have a spotlight they must take advantage of it in order to get their message across. This is no different than the dentist who will spout off while he has you tied down to the chair. You are helpless and vulnerable and are being taken advantage of in the moment. Un-professional athletes are no different as they feel like they have a "captive" audience and must take advantage of this opportunity.

     For instance, the NFL anthem protest is like when rapper Kanye West rushed the stage uninvited during a 2015 MTV VMA awards show while Taylor Swift was about to receive an award. Instead, Kanye West decided that this was his spotlight to tell the audience who should really be receiving the award. (It is believed that alcohol had a lot to do with Kanye West's judgment that evening). Most NFL protestors believe that they have an opportunity to steal the spotlight so they must take it.

    This stealing the spotlight strategy has also been employed by artists and actors at awards shows with the same dismal failure. Often at the Academy Awards ceremony an actor will rant about his or her political views. They have stolen the spotlight for their own selfish adornment. The results are much the same as in the NFL. While the actor might feel the power in the moment the viewers have the power to turn off and tune out these impromptu political takeovers. Needless to say the ratings for many of these award shows continues to plummet as viewers have spoken. They do not want their entertainment mixed with politics. They would rather watch reruns of "I Love Lucy" than be shamed by a political ideologue. 

     In fact, just as many would choose another dentist or repairman if their boundaries were broken, many fans have turned off the NFL as well. Current estimates are that NFL fan viewership is down at least 10 percent since the anthem protest began. Many fans do not want their entertainment and their politics to mix. When they turn on their televisions to watch sports they do not want to be reminded of the current political turmoil. They come to watch sports to be entertained and not to be lectured to.

     What is the message anyways? Lost in this ruckus is the original message and what that message is. I have heard some say that the message is that there is a problem with police brutality (especially against minorities). Some would say that this is a big problem while others say that this is a minor or insignificant problem (depending on what color is your skin and what neighborhood you might live in).

     Some say that the original argument is to demand equal rights or social justice issues. Does that mean that the protest is also against the fact that women in general are paid less than men for the same job or that Muslims are profiled at airports? These are social justice issues as well.

     Others say that the original protest meaning is only a tiny fragment of a much larger picture. That larger picture is the loss of jobs in the inner cities, black on black violence, gang drug wars, prescription and street drug addiction, elevated high school drop out rates and teenage and out of wedlock pregnancies. It seems that the protestors do not wish to address the entirety of a social conundrum and just wish to focus on a small part of it. 

     The problem with this wayward protest is that people are not discussing ways to solve the original problem but whether it is acceptable to protest during work hours. You might even agree that the football players are correct in their assumption that police brutality is out of control and reform is needed. What stops you in your tracks is that these current protests do not offer solutions, stalemates in a blame stance and generalizes claiming that all police officers are bad people. Interestingly enough, those very same police officers are guarding them and their fans at the stadium, in their buses while arriving to a stadium and their own homes in their neighborhoods.

    There is very little congruence with this protest movement. If you really believed that there was an elevated level of police brutality then go protest in front of a police station or during a city hall meeting where your voice might be heard. This is like a vegan protesting against eating meat at a regional barbecue contest. Very few people will hear your shouts and cries. You might have more success educating women at a school cafeteria on how to feed their children by going meatless. When you engage in a protest make sure that you have a clear and understandable message and do it in the right place for maximum effectiveness.

     Many claim that this is a First Amendment issue and that the Constitution grants players the right to protest. It does not. When you are employed you have given up your First Amendment rights and are now under jurisdiction of the contract you signed with your employer. In this case, the NFL union has signed a contract stating that all players must stand and respect the flag before each game. Only weak and intimidated owners refuse to uphold the contract that they themselves have signed.

     Some have said that Colin Kaepernick is a modern day Rosa Parks. It was Rosa Parks, an African American woman who refused to give up her seat for a white person and move to the back of the bus in 1955, who was hailed as a pioneer in Civil Rights issues. However, the big difference is that when Rosa Parks made her protest on that bus she was on her own time and not on company time. The NFL protest is during work hours when someone is in uniform. Rosa Parks did not sign a contract stating that she would uphold anything like NFL players have done.

    Many players and their supporters claim that they are not intending to disrespect the national anthem and the military with their protest when the national anthem is being played. If it looks like a protest then it is a protest. Imagine if a game warden came across a duck hunter shooting his shot in the air while a flock of ducks passed near by. The game warden asks the hunter for his hunting license and the hunter replies that he is not hunting because he is not aiming for a duck. The game warden's response is that if it looks like hunting then it is hunting. He issues a ticket for hunting without a license.

     The warden drives down the road and spots a man in the lake sitting in a canoe with a fishing rod and a baited line over the side. The warden asks for the fisherman's fishing license. The fisherman replies that he is not fishing because he is not trying to catch any fish. The game warden responds that if it looks like fishing then it is fishing and issues him a citation. To all of those who are protesting during the playing of the national anthem, if it looks like a protest then it is a protest.

     It seems that most people who make a protest want others to change and they themselves are not willing to change. Modern day protestors most often do not take much time to look at themselves but they would rather control the behavior of others. A Buddhist answer to the protest movement would be to have someone look into his own actions before condemning others for their actions.

Solutions:

     Make sure you have a clear message about what you disagree with and what you are protesting about.

     Find the appropriate venue for your protest where you will be heard and you will not harm or offend anyone else.

     Provide solutions to what you want.

Resources:

          "The Evolution of the Protestor"- Jon Burras

http://www.spectatorron.com/theevolutionoftheprotestor.htm