In overly-aggressive language, President Trump called for the firing of NFL players who don’t stand for the national anthem before games. In response, NFL players knelt nearly en masse during the anthem for this week’s game
• Mr. Trump should not interfere in the workings of a private business this way. The NFL has a right to set up and decide how to enforce reasonable rules of conduct.
• The players have a right to protest within those rules.
• ProtestIng the anthem is questionable, particularly if the protests are following former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick’s views about so-called police brutality since there is a lack of solid statistical evidence of law enforcement discrimination against Blacks.
• Mr. Trump will gain from this as the public sees these photos of players kneeling – or, as the Buffalo Bills’ LaSean McCoy did, stretching – during the anthem. Many people see protesting the anthem as equal to flag burning. If the players explain that they are refusing to stand for the anthem to protest Donald J. Trump, that may mitigate the situation. But probably not very much.
• Professional football will lose from this episode. Many fans already see the NFL as taking sides on political issues. Consider:
— In 2014 members of the St. Louis Rams were not disciplined for recognizing the “Hand Up, Don’t Shoot” narrative that came out of the Ferguson killing of Michael Brown and which has been discredited.
— But in 2016 members of the Dallas Cowboys wanted to wear decals honoring that city’s police department after a killer massacred four officers and the NFL objected.
Moreover, fans are already falling away due to news stories on concussions and of players guilty of domestic abuse. Pictures of players not standing respectfully for the national anthem will add to that exodus
Our final point: We worry about eroding the unity symbolized by the anthem before a sporting a event. There is already enough that divides us.