Compulsory Patriotism

The National Football League (NFL) has issued a new regulation that will fine teams if their players don’t stand for the national anthem.

The new rule is in response to the ongoing protests started by now-blacklisted NFL player Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling during the national anthem to protest gun violence and state violence against black bodies.

Its only somewhat redeeming quality is that the new rule will allow players to remain in the locker room during the national anthem, which was previously prohibited.

So, basically, the NFL has decided that players can protest in isolation and off-camera, but that they can’t do so on the field in front of spectators and fans.

The deal was brokered by the league without input from the player’s union in Atlanta this spring.

At least one team-owner, Jets chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson, has come out saying that he will not punish players who chose to kneel during the anthem regardless of the financial cost.

“There will be no club fines or suspensions or any sort of repercussions. If the team gets fined, that’s just something I’ll have to bear.”

The de facto prohibition of public protest and freedom of speech is an alarming development, even if it’s restricted to the confines of the world of football, because it reflects a shift in societal attitudes towards the sanctity of freedom of speech and peaceful protest.

Not to mention, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a more ironic situation that the one now presented to us: the oppression of freedom of speech and protest during the playing of the national anthem which enshrines those very same values.

“Oh, thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust”:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

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