All right, that does it. Stop playing the national anthem at sporting events, please.

If something is not working, then why do it? If you take the family on vacation and nobody is having fun, then just go home. If singing the national anthem fails to unify and is continually hijacked for (fill in the political cause), end it. That was never its purpose.

In NFL stadiums around the country Sunday, entire teams spent the national anthem kneeling, linking arms or simply remaining in the locker room. We’ve gone from Whitney Houston’s unifying, goosebump-inducing, electrifying rendition of the anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl to this: players looking at their feet.

Consider this first as a practical matter: The NFL has enough troubles without this. TV ratings are down, again. Last year it was blamed on the election. Well, NFL ratings are down again this year. Maybe the biggest problem is that there is just too much of it – as Mark Cuban predicted three years ago, the NFL got greedy by adding Thursday night games and is headed for an “implosion.” And yet TV ratings are up for college football, which also turns up on the TV frequently.

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There might be another reason that is at least contributing to the decline. A recent poll by Rasmussen Reports showed that 34 percent of American adults say they are less likely to watch an NFL game “because of the growing number of protests by players on the field.” Another recent and bigger study by J.D. Power produced similar results: 26 percent cited the protests, 24 percent cited off-the-field issues (domestic abuse, etc.).

Fearful of the PC backlash, the NFL has chosen to let the protests happen, lacking the guts or inclination to stop them. The league likes to defend itself by saying it must respect players’ right to free speech, which of course is nonsense. Speech is protected from government, not employers (try making a spectacle of yourself with your own political statements at the office and see what happens). Besides, the NFL has no problem shutting down free speech when it’s for causes that aren’t politically hip or that injure your sponsors and bottom line.

In 2015, Titans linebacker Avery Williamson planned to wear shoes that memorialized 9/11; they were red, white and blue and inscribed with, “Never forget.” The NFL threatened to fine him; he auctioned the shoes instead.

The NFL also had no problem with shutting down DeAngelo Williams’ free speech. In 2015, the Steelers running back wore eyeblack that featured the breast cancer awareness symbol and “We will find a cure.” He was fined. Teammate William Gay, whose mother was killed by domestic violence, was fined for wearing purple shoes – purple being the color of a campaign against domestic violence. He was fined.

Steelers safety Ryan Clark was fined for wearing eyeblack inscribed with the number 21 in memoriam of murdered NFL player Sean Taylor. The NFL denied the Dallas Cowboys’ request to wear decals on their helmets to honor police officers killed in a Black Lives Matter march.

Countless players have been fined for wearing gear that isn’t made by an official league sponsor. The NFL has fined others simply for tweeting their opinions, and then sent them off to sensitivity training camp.

These are the things the NFL really cares about. The national anthem? Not so much. Now it has become a messy sideshow.

Colin Kaepernick started all this by taking a knee last season, supposedly to protest oppression; meanwhile, he was wearing a Fidel Castro T-shirt. That should have stopped anyone from taking this guy seriously.

Kyle Smith, the New York Post columnist, once wrote of Kaepernick, “His error was in conflating the actions of a few errant police officers with America itself … When Americans in positions of power mistreat blacks – and there is much such mistreatment to be concerned about – it is not a failure of American ideals, but a failure to live up to them. The flag stands for, among other constitutional principles, due process, equal protection under the law and protection from unreasonable search and seizure ….”

The national anthem is supposed to be a moment when Americans pause and set aside differences and stand shoulder to shoulder to show respect for those ideals. If we can no longer do that, if it’s going to be a sideshow for causes, then why bother?

Credit: By Doug Robinson Deseret News

Copyright (C) 2017 Deseret News Publishing Co.


This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.

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