Tennessee Titans player Delanie Walker has one word for fans offended by players staging protests during the National Anthem: “Bye.” And a few more words: “I mean, if you feel that’s something, we’re disrespecting you, don’t come to the game. You don’t have to. No one’s telling you to come to the game. It’s your freedom of choice to do that.”
As I’ve pointed out before, all the arguments about the First Amendment, the importance of the issue, how passionately the players feel, etc., are irrelevant. The players have a First Amendment right to protest anything they want when they’re off the clock. But the NFL is a business. It has an employee manual that mandates in detail how to behave during the National Anthem, and player contracts that state that behavior that harms support for the team is a contract violation.
If a grocery checker insisted on lecturing you about veganism before ringing up your hamburger, you’d demand he or she be fired. So what makes stadiums different from every other workplace in America – aside from the fact they’re largely underwritten by taxpayers, which makes the partisan political statements even more inappropriate?
League officials and team owners are likely clutching their chests right about now at the thought of all the furious fans saying “Bye” in return. They should ponder what they’ve wrought by kneeling in “solidarity” with employees who are now actually telling their paying customers to stay home if they don’t like having political messages forced on them during the National Anthem. Funny, I thought the reason everyone came to the stadium – fans and players alike – was to participate in a football game. If it’s now more important to have a political protest than to have fans, then why even bother to play the game? Why not just turn it into a three-hour social justice protest? Bet that’ll sell a lot of tickets. Or at least, maybe a few Che Guevara T-shirts.
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