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NFL Kneeling Rule Disrespects Players; Subverts Democracy to Placate Autocrat

Colin Kaepernick during his playing days in 2012 for the San Francisco 49ers. Photo by Mike Morbeck)

The National Football League (NFL) hoped to put to rest the controversy over kneeling players by ginning up a new rule that would fine teams and those who kneel during the pre-game National Anthem. But the NFL did just the opposite.

The league showed total ignorance about what really makes this country great, subverting Democracy in the process. The move is clearly meant to placate Donald Trump, who blew up the issue into a national brouhaha with his misguided criticism of the players.

The New York Daily News captures the true meaning of the NFL’s new policy. (Photo: NYDN)

Trump’s blatant manipulation of “patriotism” to attack his perceived political enemies and foment his hard-right base is antithetical to our nation, which is built on free speech and the right to protest grievances against the government. It’s clearly stated in the First Amendment.

Blind obeisance is sign of dictatorships. The president’s constant lying and willful flouting of the law makes the NFL’s move all the more ironic.

What’s more, the NFL did a huge disservice to its players, more than 70 percent of whom are African Americans. The players put their bodies, their health, and in some cases their lives, on the line every week to make the game the largest sport in America.

And, what do they get for it? Disrespect.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick originally took a knee during the pre-game ceremony to protest social injustice and police mis-treatment of African-Americans.

It took a lot of courage for Kaepernick to do so and he’s paid a stiff price for it. League owners have refused to employ him, despite his superior talents. His sacrifice on behalf of others is the essence of what our nation is about.

Anyone who denies that police violence against African-Americans is a problem in this country would be lying… like the President.

Trump and the NFL could have easily resolved the issue by acknowledging the problem and pledging to do something about it. Even a simple gesture would have gone a long way to insuring the player’s voices were being heard and would have put a quick end to the protests.

Instead, Trump chose to use the issue to his advantage, playing to his white supremacist base. He demonized the protesters by calling them “unpatriotic,” and by extension demonized all African-Americans.

Clearly, the NFL owners chose to take a stand– on their wallets. How the league could let that happen to its players, to whom it owes so much, is disgraceful.

Under the new policy, billed as a “compromise,” a team faces league fines if players or others fail to stand and show respect for the flag during the National Anthem. Players have the option of staying in the locker room during the ceremony.

So far, only one team, The New York Jets is taking a stand where it should–for its players. Jets General Manager Chris Johnson said he will pay any fine levied against any player for kneeling on the field, according to Newsday.

Meanwhile, Trump doubled-down on his political crusade during an interview on Fox & Friends, his go-to show for fawning interviews.

“You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there, maybe you shouldn’t be in the country,” he said.

Now do you get where he’s going? This debate is no longer about black Americans; it’s about all Americans. We should all take a knee on game day.

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