Trump Has Suggestion for NFL's New Anthem Policy No Anthem-Kneeler Is Going To Like


And just when you thought that the NFL’s national anthem policy was settled, cue yet another plot twist — with the president involved, no less.

On Thursday, the NFL and the league’s Player’s Association released a statement in which they said that “no new rules relating to the anthem will be issued or enforced for the next several weeks,” ESPN reported.

The statement came after the Miami Dolphins submitted potential disciplinary measures for players who disrespect the anthem, a move which severely irked those on the side of giving players the right to protest on the field.

“The NFL and NFLPA, through recent discussions, have been working on a resolution to the anthem issue,” the statement read. “In order to allow this constructive dialogue to continue, we have come to a standstill agreement on the NFLPA’s grievance and on the NFL’s anthem policy.

“The NFL and NFLPA reflect the great values of America, which are repeatedly demonstrated by the many players doing extraordinary work in communities across our country to promote equality, fairness and justice. Our shared focus will remain on finding a solution to the anthem issue through mutual, good faith commitments, outside of litigation.”

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Hoo boy. Haven’t we been here before? Why on earth would the NFL, just weeks before the regular season is set to begin, decide they wanted to dredge this beast up again? No mass shift in cultural consciousness has taken place in America; people are still against protesting during the national anthem. The compromise the league reached — allowing players who feel standing for “The Star-Spangled Banner” is simply too much for their delicately honed social-justice sensibilities to stay in the locker room — is about as close as anyone was going to get to making the greatest amount of people who care about the issue begrudgingly happy.

But no. Brace yourself — autumn is coming, and with it a whole lot of social media noise and 4,000-word think pieces about how your real problem, if you think well-remunerated athletes ought to stand for our national anthem, is that you’re probably an inveterate racist.

Before all that, however, President Trump let the world know how he would deal with the situation.

Do you agree with President Trump's solution?

“The NFL National Anthem Debate is alive and well again – can’t believe it!” the president tweeted Friday. “Isn’t it in contract that players must stand at attention, hand on heart? The $40,000,000 Commissioner must now make a stand. First time kneeling, out for game. Second time kneeling, out for season/no pay!”

This marks the third season that the anthem is set to be a major issue. In 2016, Colin Kaepernick started the trend in earnest. Things mushroomed last year after the president said, during an Alabama rally for Republican senatorial candidate Luther Strange, that if any player kneeled during the anthem, he would “get that son of a b—- off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired.”

While the NFLPA was still fighting the new policy, things had generally died down. For now, players are either supposed to stand for the anthem or stay in the locker room. The controversy about whether Colin Kaepernick is still a good enough player for the NFL and whether his talents counterbalance the baggage he brings along or the farrago of nonsense he tends to spew whenever he’s asked about politics has returned to a simmer. There was something of a detente on one of the hot-button cultural issues of the latter half of this decade, even if it wasn’t the solution myself or most patriots would have picked.

And all of a sudden, we have tweets like one from comedian Christopher Titus, who first suggested that Trump remove himself from a certain part of Vladimir Putin’s, um, anatomy, and then declared that “THEY HAVE THE 1ST AMENDMENT RIGHT TO KNEEL. LIKE YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO CHEAT ON YOUR WIFE, REPEATEDLY. HOWEVER, YOU DON’T HAVE THE RIGHT TO CHEAT ON YOUR COUNTRY, TRAITOR. ALL CAPS! SO YOU KNOW WE MEAN IT.” (The original tweet, including the vulgarism, is here.)

You’re going to hear a lot of nonsense like that over the next few weeks. I chose this tweet because beyond the false equivalencies, ad hominems and the fact that all caps doesn’t mean anything aside from the fact that the typist is an intellectual teenager, it contains the biggest fallacy the left has pushed during the anthem debate: There is no First Amendment right to free speech at your place of work.

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Want proof? Here, try this one weird trick that will make you shed your employment status in a hurry: Go into work on Monday and tell everyone in your office that you’re now a member of a militant political movement that believes Joey Buttafuoco should be installed as world dictator for life, and that everyone who doesn’t pledge fealty to the cause will be thrown into jail come the revolution. Then burn an American flag in the nearest public space for good measure.

Now, what you have is every right to say and do this without fear of arrest, all thanks to the First Amendment. What you won’t have, at least after going through that spiel, is a job. That’s because your boss is totally within their rights to regulate problematic speech in an employment environment, whether it’s general-issue crankery or offensive rhetoric.

I’m not saying that kneeling for the national anthem is as offensive as my hypothetical “Buttafuocoism.” (It’s also not as funny.) What I am saying is that there’s little to no protection for political speech in the private sector.

If there wasn’t a union involved, the NFL could do what Trump recommended — and, given its viewership issues, probably would be considering it strongly. As for its new policy, the league is likely well within its rights to set down ground rules involving the anthem. That it’s chosen to very publicly rip the scab off at this moment — instead of quietly rejecting the Dolphins’ solution as it worked in equivalent quietude with the NFLPA, as they would have been well-advised to do — is proof that the NFL is the sole author of so many of the problems it now faces.

Donald Trump isn’t going to shut up. Neither are patriotic Americans who feel that disrespecting the flag is also disrespecting the country and those who have fought and died for it. This is a losing issue for the league, and they know it. Yet, if they can’t even stick by their own watered-down solution just months after they implemented it, how is it ever going to go away?

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture