A new poll from Fox News does not bode well for the NFL. Their players and their anthem-disrespecting publicity stunts are costing the brand its very reputation among Republican viewers. According to the poll, NFL favorability has fallen 37% among Republicans since 2013, and the league’s overall popularity has plummeted 18% thanks to the anthem protests. The poll, in conjunction with the league’s sagging ratings and ticket sales, portend a major crisis for Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL’s owners, even as they try to do anything and everything they can to avoid telling the players to stand up and respect the flag.
Speaking of finding alternative solutions, Chicago Tribune columnist Kevin Williams believes he has found one: Simply stop playing the national anthem at sporting events in the first place.
“If we didn’t put the anthem where it doesn’t belong, maybe people wouldn’t use it in the wrong way,” Williams argues. “The omnipresence of the anthem cheapens it. Its use should be reserved for special occasions, when national pride is at issue. Right now, the anthem is this thing that so many are using for their own purposes. Is wrapping something in the flag as a marketing ploy any more patriotic than taking a knee in protest?”
As much as we distrust Williams’ motives in writing this column – he’s undoubtedly trying to take away the responsibility of the players and their NFL owners for demonstrating the thinnest degree of patriotism before the crowd – we have to say he makes a decent point. While the playing of the anthem at American sporting events has become a heralded tradition, it’s not as if we’re talking about some ceremony that was written into the Constitution in the days of yore. And while we don’t think it’s a “problem,” per se, that we use this occasion to celebrate a bit of pride in our country, we can see where Williams is coming from. The NFL is a corporation putting on an event for money. We don’t expect the national anthem to play prior to a Lady Gaga concert or Disney on Ice, so why the 49ers game?
On the other hand, at a time when this country’s population is seriously starved for patriotism, national culture, and camaraderie, we think it would be a shame if we allowed a few spoiled brats in the NFL to take away one of the few moments in American life where we can stop and reflect on the one thing we all have in common. And the mere fact that it is already being ruined by partisan and racial divisions is a crying shame. If Americans can’t even agree that we should be proud to be Americans…what hope is there?