You can learn a lot about people, organizations and government by how they respond when they are threatened or in a crisis.
Look at the National Football League (NFL), the professional American sports league, for instance. The commissioner’s office and the owners are caught between a rock and a hard place at the moment.
It’s all over the news today, but if you left on Planet Nine this weekend, here’s a summary of the situation. Teams were confronted with how to react to comments by President Donald Trump last week. The Donald said that an owner should fire a player who kneels instead of stands when the national anthem is played. Mimicking what this owner should say, Trump shouted “Get that son of a bitch off the field.” He added his signature line from his reality TV days: “You’re fired!”
The original protest of kneeling while the anthem is played was originated by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a mixed race man who is now out of the league because his abilities are not worth the distraction caused by his presence. His view is that the anthem and flag represent a country that oppresses his fellow minorities and are therefore not worthy of respect.
Trump’s outburst exacerbated a situation that seemed to be dying down, fanning the flames anew and sending players into a tizzy. One team even held a four hour meeting on Saturday to decide what to do about the president’s statement.
The result on Sunday was varied, but suffice it to say that in every stadium players, owners and coaches all engaged in some form of protest. The commissioner and owners issued separate statements decrying Trump’s remarks.
After these protests the league made the announcement that there would be no punishment for those who engaged in protest while the national anthem is played. One of the things being reacted to on conservative talk radio is the fact that the NFL does indeed have a rule that states that the national anthem is to be played before each game and that players and coaches are to stand in allegiance to the flag of the United States. Suddenly, the rule doesn’t seem important.
One radio personality, while opposing the players actions, didn’t seem to think the rule was that important. “Rules schmules!,” he said. Obviously, to the players their protest outweighed any rule that got in the way.
Why is this?Why is it that even the NFL administration threw out enforcement of the league’s own rule when it was violated? The answer is expediency. The Google dictionary’s definition of this term is “the quality of being convenient and practical despite possibly being improper or immoral.”
The immediate answer to the pressure the league and owner’s faced over the Trump-caused brouhaha was of the knee jerk kind. Already facing declining attendance and TV revenues over the league’s allowance of politics into their realm, NFL leadership decided to side with the players.
This seems wise over the short term given that over 3/4 of the players in the league are African-American and that the sports media that covers the NFL is primarily left wing and are thus proponents of social justice. Over the long term this could mean disaster, however.
One little piece of anecdotal evidence supports this. Jersey sales for one Pittsburgh Steelers player, a decorated military veteran, have gone through the roof after he made a point of defying his coach and coming out of the locker room to stand for the anthem.
There are a lot of issues involved in the protests of NFL players, so much so that it is unclear to me exactly what they are upset about. I have heard many reasons for their outcry, including opposition to alleged police brutality against blacks and the need for some ephemeral unity.
In such a situation as this, when the cause is not defined, the cultural battle lines can be blurred. Further adding to the fog is the disinformation campaign of those with a political agenda.
For example, those supporting the player protests over the racial issue have claimed that President Trump’s statement was racist, thus further inflaming emotions. The president has denied this, stating that his remarks were about patriotism, and on the surface the words he used make no reference to race.
Everyone chooses (and perhaps even “cherry picks”) facts on which to formulate an argument.
Mr. Trump does it. The NFL players do it, too. So do media folks.
But what is important is the truth. What is the difference between facts and truth?
A post from the Focus on the Family offers a clear answer:
There is an important difference between facts and truth. In some ways it’s analogous to the difference between a pile of bricks and St. Paul’s cathedral, or between a list of dates and Arnold Toynbee’s A Study of History… An isolated fact is like a stray piece of a puzzle. It’s an object, an article, a fragment of information, a bit of trivia. Truth, on the other hand, is all about meaning.
To put it another way, discerning truth is a matter of interpreting the facts. In a courtroom setting, the same facts are available to both prosecution and defense. Each attorney puts his own spin or construction upon the evidence, but this does not imply that both sides are right. There is still one truth.
Getting at the truth behind these protests will go along way in deciding if the NFL remains a major influence upon American culture. This is what those who care about the NFL need to get straight after the media moves on from the events of this weekend.