The tradition of playing “The Star Spangled Banner” before American sporting events dates back more than a century, but never has the practice and its symbolism incited such a political firestorm as this past week when the President took aim at the NFL and fanned the flames of a debate over players protesting during the anthem
Now, the anthem is at the center of our national conversation — the President himself has tweeted two dozen times about it since — and as is customary in our current national state of truth-bending and carnival barking, misconceptions about the anthem, the NFL and its protesting players are widespread. So, in this week’s column, let’s get a few things straight about NFL protests and the anthem debate:
No one is protesting the flag. Somewhere along the line, this fundamental misread of Colin Kaepernick’s original protest became the beating heart of any anti-player, anti-NFL sentiment in the anthem debate. Players are merely protesting during the anthem, but it is only a vessel to make their point known. Disagreeing with that method is fair game, but no player kneeling or raising his fist or sitting during the anthem is protesting the flag. Or the military. Or any tenet of American democracy. Wrapping this conversation in the flag, so as to appear patriotic, only ignores the larger, more important questions being raised here. Patriotism, after all, comes in many forms.
There is no proof that NFL ratings are down because of protests. The President has tweeted several times about how NFL ratings are down, due to “tremendous backlash”. There’s simply no evidence this is true. TV ratings are generally down because of an uptick in cord-cutting. When it comes to sporting events, ratings are also notoriously inconsistent. It’s easy to cherry-pick. After the President’s divisive comments, NFL ratings were up in some windows and down in others last week. There are no hard-and-fast conclusions to make here, one way or the…