Trump, taking a knee in the NFL and the true meaning of patriotism -

Trump, taking a knee in the NFL and the true meaning of patriotism

Scott Gilmore: The Pentagon pays big for the NFL’s patriotic displays. Players taking a knee are the only ones not acting out of self interest.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Jacksonville Jaguars players kneel during the playing of the national anthem against the Baltimore Ravens at Wembley Stadium on September 24, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mitchell Gunn/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 24: Jacksonville Jaguars players kneel during the playing of the national anthem against the Baltimore Ravens at Wembley Stadium on September 24, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mitchell Gunn/Getty Images)

I try not to be cynical. But weeks like this make it hard.

On Friday night, President Trump traveled down to Huntsville, Ala., for a campaign rally. Standing on stage, he paused mid-ramble, and struck his “Il Duce” pose: both hands gripping the lectern, his chin lifted up and to the right, lips pursed and heavy lids. He had important things to say.

A cataclysmic hurricane has left over three million Americans in Puerto Rico without power and water. The government of North Korea just declared a nuclear attack on the U.S. is “inevitable.” A new health care bill is being pushed through Congress that would uninsure tens of millions of people. Multiple investigations are uncovering more and more evidence of Russian intervention in the U.S. election. Nazis are a thing again.

But the president wanted to talk about football. He said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’ ”

Judging from the cheering crowd, this was a popular opinion.

Trump was talking about football players who have been taking a knee during the Star-Spangled Banner to protest racism in America. This has turned into a controversial issue. Owners, fans, and other players have called it inappropriate, disloyal, ungrateful and unpatriotic.

Ironically, even just a few years ago these words would have applied to the entire league. Because standing for the national anthem is a new thing. Players and coaches used to stay in the locker room or sit on the sidelines.

This changed in 2009, because the Pentagon had a problem. The military had failed to meet its recruitment targets for years, largely because joining the armed forces all but guaranteed a deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan to join in wars that that had been burning since 2001 with few obvious victories to show for it. Even with high unemployment rates, finding more young men to fight these unpopular wars was a struggle. What’s worse, by the military’s own estimate, only one per cent of Americans are fit enough, educated enough, and inclined to put on a uniform. So where do you find these folks? At football games.

Therefore the Pentagon began paying the NFL to help its recruitment efforts. It brought vets on the field, added flags, F-15s flew over, military bands played in the stands, and the owners were asked to trot out the players for the anthem. It’s marketing 101—if your favourite sports star is saluting Old Glory, you’re more likely to sign on the line which is dotted. And, guess what? It worked. That year the forces met their recruitment targets for the first time in years.

Since then, according to a recent Senate report, the Department of Defense has spent $53 million for patriotic displays at sporting events, including one at a Seattle Seahawks game where 10 soldiers re-enlisted on the field during a pre-game show.

Meanwhile, social media began to expand. Twitter users increased from 30 million in 2009 to 328 million today. This brought us memes, cute cats, and cops killing unarmed black men. To be fair, this had been happening for decades. In fact, in the 1970s, by some estimates, cops were shooting 10 times as many people. But they weren’t being filmed doing it, and those clips weren’t being transmitted into our pockets.

But now we’re watching the bloodshed on a daily basis, and we’re watching one officer after another being exonerated. Like the cop who said, “I’m gonna kill this motherf–ker.” Then killed him. Then planted a gun. Then was acquitted anyway last week.

And now a man who started his career by banning blacks from his rental properties is president. And Friday night, down in Alabama, a state that only stopped lynching blacks in 1981, he held a rally with white people, angrily denouncing “ungrateful” blacks. We used to call that a Klan rally, which is probably why the KKK are such enthusiastic supporters of Trump.

So, how is it possible to not be cynical? How can you know any of this, and not give up on it all? Endless wars. Racism. Institutionalized injustice. Greed. Ignorance. And that is just from unpacking one thread of one speech by one politician.

Maybe this is what you have to do: focus on the guys kneeling. In this whole ugly, sprawling mess, the only people who are not acting out of self-interest, who are trying to make things better, to make things a little more just, are the guys on their knee. And today, the day after the president denounced them as sons of bitches, there are more of them than there were yesterday. So, maybe there’s hope. It would be nice to think so.


Trump, taking a knee in the NFL and the true meaning of patriotism

  1. As the games at the coliseum go on, the players will probably get McDonald certificates next.

  2. Adolph Hitler used patriotism to appeal to the German people. Benito Mussolini used patriotism to appeal to the Italian people. Joseph Stalin used patriotism to appeal to the Russian people. Napoleon Bonaparte used patriotism to appeal to the French people. Donald Trump is attempting to appeal to the American people by using patriotism, not to unite but to divide. “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.” Mark Twain

    • Seems that you have patriotism confused with nationalism. there is a vast difference between nationalism and patriotism. Nationalism means to give more importance to unity by way of a cultural background, including language and heritage. Patriotism pertains to the love for a nation, with more emphasis on values and beliefs

      • Cases like this blur the line between the two.

        If patriotism makes you value a song over free speech and justice, it’s bad.

    • Why am I not surprised that someone would bring up Hitler as a backhanded reference to Donald Trump.. It goes beyond any reasonable sense to even compare the two on any level in any conversation. Hitler wouldn’t have allowed those players to take a knee and if they had dared to they would have been executed. Add to that, the official media sources (in America anyway) would be applauding him for his restraint in not executing all the players family members and friends as well.

      It’s the exact opposite as the players are cheered on (by media and opposition) and the leader is vilified to the max by the media for daring to suggest it’s inappropriate.

  3. Is everyone’s view slanted? Scott Gilmore, could you have provided an argument from the other side? Seems very left handed and generalized especially when making accusations. Outside of these, article wasn’t too bad.

    • It’s an opinion piece. If you want to provide a differing opinion, write it up and send it to Macleans.

    • “Is everyone’s view slanted?”

      Yes. That’s how human beings work. The only reason it surprises you is because you’re used to being told your point of view is “objective,” against all our understanding of neuroscience.

  4. What has been failed to be mentioned today is the hypocrisy of the NFL owners and team managements, arm in arm with their players, but Colin Kaepernick still without a job?

    The NFL owners are doing to Kaapernick what Trump told them to do. Trump has given the NFL owners a convenient scapegoat, himself.

  5. This isn’t simply patriotism. It’s bigger than that. The national anthem is simply the biggest stage available.

    This is what people do when they don’t enjoy free speech. If people could communicate their thoughts on social media without censorship or persecution as racists they would. Instead they resort to silent symbolism as ambiguous and subject to misinterpretation as it may be.

    Hatred is defined by conflict. Conflict between races is racism.

    Racism exists all around us. It doesn’t help to pretend it doesn’t. We need to talk about it and encourage the free expression of all perspectives, especially those that represent the conflict.

  6. I’ll put my flame suit on and go for it. I believe these kneelers are disrespectful as hell. They are dissing’ their flag, country, anthem and the multitudes who fought and died to keep their country free.
    There are many ways to voice your displeasure, but disrespecting those basic core values are not in the mix.
    LOL, now one CFL team locked arms yesterday, I guess if the Yankee players can take a run at Trump, our guys can take a run at Trudeau.

    • But there aren’t many ways to voice concerns without persecution.

      People are severely punished for voicing concerns on social media.

      Hold a public demonstration and the “alt” will show up to fight.

      The media only presents propaganda.

      People ostensibly fought to preserve free speech so why is the opposition to it so prevalent?

    • “I believe these kneelers are disrespectful as hell.”

      Countries should earn respect, not demand it.

    • Every single US service man or woman fought or died for one reason – to defend the Constitution of the United States. It is their sworn duty.

      Free speech, including the right to peaceful protest, are guaranteed in the same Constitution they are sworn to defend.

      If you don’t like it, you should be called on to defend yourself.

      • While that may be so.. you typically don’t stage these protests at work.. There is a time and a place for everything.

  7. As a veteran, I signed the dotted line and fought for your right to stand, sit, kneel, avoid, sing, not sing, and do any damn thing you please during any national anthem. Any veteran will tell you the same thing.

    Most CFL players are American so if they take a knee, power to ’em.

    The kneeling isn’t dissing the flag – it’s protesting the eradication of black men and women and children. The other ways of ‘voicing their displeasure’ isn’t working. This is a non-violent movement, and yet they’re still getting grief. Give me a break.

    They’re shot for pulling over, they’re shot for not pulling over. They’re shot for showing their hands, they’re shot when they don’t. They’re shot when they say they have a weapon and a permit, they’re shot when they’re carrying a stick of gum. They’re shot when running away, they’re shot when they don’t. They’re shot when they ‘answer back’, they’re shot when they don’t because they’re deaf. They’re shot when they kneel, they’re shot when they’re lying down helping their autistic client.

    If taking a knee is a way to protest this bullshit, then I’m all for it. Maybe they won’t be shot if they’re in front of thousands of people.

    • How many more need to die before armchair critics recognize and support free speech in many forms especially when it describes the conflict and suggests solutions?

      People in military and law enforcement should be required to wear body cameras while on duty. This forces trust which at this point is necessary.

      People, both citizens and law enforcement need to be trained in standardized interactions to minimize confusion and unnecessary escalation. People need to know what police are going to say and exactly how to respond when they do.

      Our politicians obviously aren’t up to the task of coordinating a resolution.

      • “People need to know what police are going to say and exactly how to respond when they do.”

        Philando Castile did exactly that. So did Sandra Bland. So did countless others.

        Politeness can’t protect you from a murderer.

        • Body cameras won’t do any good either in the absence of ethics and morality in our justice system.

          Let start with the education and the evidence and see if the people can grow spines.

          • Actually, if you look at Dallas, body cameras, data transparency, prioritizing major enforcement over petty infractions, and better training do dramatically reduce the rates of assault and murders committed by the police.

            Let’s reform the police according to the evidence, not wait 12 years in the hope that schools today are producing fewer killers.

            Also, the problem with murderers in the police force goes much deeper than “growing spines.”

        • Yes I know we need body cameras. I’ve been talking about this since before cell phones had cameras.

          I wasn’t talking about education for kids in school.

          I suggest that our government coordinates the standardization amongst police and sends the training out to citizens with access to the internet.

          Haven’t you ever taken online training? It’s cheap and easy and everyone is so connected we’d have to be stupid not to use it to our advantage.

          I haven’t seen a crook with a straight spine.

          • The thing about training citizens is that it’s not on citizens to manage interactions with the police. Police are the ones being paid to do a job, not citizens. If the police commit crimes, that’s on them, regardless of victim behavior.

          • Blacks are dying unnecessarily for two reasons.

            Corrupt racist cops on a murder spree. Probably a minority.

            Scared and untrained cops and citizens reacting poorly during deadly encounters.

            Cameras will prevent the first but human error is human.

            As long as citizens are involved in interactions they will have the responsibility to act to minimize human error.

            That is if citizens want to live.

            You can abdicate your responsibility, ignore training, and put your life in the hands of a stranger who considers you a threat.

            Fill your boots.

          • Neither “Corrupt racist cops” or “Scared and untrained cops” are the fault of citizens.

            I can’t imagine any other public service profession where “not capable of doing job” is considered an inevitable outcome.

            I absolutely think people should be cautious around cops. But that’s not a fix for incompetence.

          • To err is human.

            Only training reduces error.

            It would be a stupid and stubborn person who risks death because of their job description.

            Some would say Darwinian.

          • Blacks are not being targeted any more than any other ethnicity. If you want to complain about police brutality than fine.. it happens although it is certainly not the norm.. But statistics are showing that it’s not racial or at least not any more racial than it is with those of other ethnic backgrounds on a crime for crime basis.

          • In fact, if you take a 100 crimes committed by a black man and compare it to 100 crimes committed by a white man (in America obviously) where weapons are involved statistics are showing that White COPS are less likely to kill the black guy.

            So is that suggesting that their racist against whites? Or more effective at policing whites simply because the backlash is not as great? If we keep impeding police from doing their jobs with more and more and more restrictions it will get to the point where they won’t be able to do their job, or will fear doing their job because of the possible backlash against them.

            Our military already has that problem as they fight against insurgencies that do not follow the same set of rules put forth by the global community.

          • Wearing body cameras and taking training don’t restrict police in any way.

            It’s called preparation, transparency, accountability and trust.

    • If the protest is about the lives of black men, women and children then the MSM need to stop the lies about what is really killing blacks – first up to bat are other blacks (black on black violence is the leading cause of death of young black men and quit trying to blame non-blacks), second up to bat is abortion (which was the original intention of Planned Parenthood and it is no accident that most of their ‘clinics’ are in black neighbourhoods) and third is the Democratic Party that have flushed black families down the tube with the welfare system that they created and have supported (find the worst black poverty and guess what? – there is a Democrat controlled government in control). So maybe all of these well paid black NFL, NBA, and baseball players need to take some of their money that they get from white fans and put it towards the real causes of blacks falling behind everyone. Because ‘take a knee” is a useless as ‘bring back our girls”

  8. NFL owners would have to make a simple choice – allow players to exercise their legal, constitutional right to peacefully protest, or pander to Trump and his voting base.

    Given that the USA was born from protest, it shouldn’t be a difficult decision. But it will be, because gate revenue “trumps” principles.

  9. This isn’t about free speech no matter how some of you like to wrap in such. You can (as a paying customer) be removed from some stadiums for a variety of reasons that on the surface would appear to trample on your first amendment rights but really are just common sense or odd team related rules of conduct for fans and players alike.

    In today’s day and age we have seen players having to apologize publicly for small inflammatory slights, or not conducting themselves in a certain way.. sometimes coming from one enraged fan who figured what that player was doing was disrespectful.. and yet when a portion of your entire fan base is insulted by players taking a knee (or even doing stretches..) during the anthem speaking out against it violates their first amendment rights? Come on!!!!!

    If the workers in stadiums that make everything go round and round decided to stage a protest on game day and fans didn’t like it.. many would find themselves out of a job the next day.. or believe they would anyway.. as you usually don’t stage political protests at work.. you do it on your own time.

    • The fact that we regularly let businesses trample on our right to free speech now doesn’t mean that this isn’t about free speech.

      The criteria for something being a right is that you can’t be punished for doing it.

      Why do people act like bulls seeing a red flag when their brainwashing is exposed? It never ends well for the bull.

  10. These players are nothing more than very well paid employees and the arena is their workplace. If they want to protest something they can do so on their own time and with their own money. But once they take that protest into their workplace they have moved it into another set of circumstances. Some of their employers (owners) have allowed it without a lot of regard for those individuals who actually paid the freight – the viewers, the people in the stands etc. It appears more and more that the customers are getting pretty fed up with the protests and are voting with their feet and their money. Let’s also remember that many of these teams play in arenas that are heavily subsidized by taxpayers who are now being trashed by the very well paid players and owners. Good luck with that!

  11. Take a knee. This is free speech.

    In our country, when a black man is killed by police, regardless of the circumstance, the sky falls and everyone except the blacks are racist.

    Perhaps if media reported every once in a while about what’s going on in Africa, the supposed homeland of African Canadians, the magnitude of black on black violence, our troubles here might be seen with a clearer perspective.

    There are no Nazis at war.

    Look at the wars around the world. How many are you even aware of?