A nonprofit organization supporting veterans fired off a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell challenging him to prohibit on-field “unsportsmanlike” protests of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Freedom Alliance, a group founded by former Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, tells the commissioner “grievances should remain outside the stadium.” The letter from Freedom Alliance President Tom Kilgannon suggests that the NFL offer protest zones outside of venues and allow the expression he seeks to prohibit on the field before the game to occur after the game ends when fans, players, coaches, and stadium employees can respond by leaving. As a private organization, Kilgannon reasons, the NFL could ban players sitting and kneeling for the national anthem—the way they already ban excessive celebrations, unapproved clothing, and headbands with messages written on them.
Kilgannon writes that past and present soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines
are insulted by Mr. Colin Kaepernick’s protests of our national anthem and our country. His campaign – by virtue of the time and manner in which it takes place – is not personal. His protests are carried out as a representative of the National Football League and we believe it is time for the Commissioner to put an end to these anti-American demonstrations during NFL games.
To allow them to continue is to treat the men and women of our military as punching bags. Active duty military personnel routinely appear at NFL games for pre-game and half-time ceremonies. While these young men and women are in uniform, they are not permitted to engage in political commentary or social protest. They are asked by NFL teams to enhance the game day experience, but then subjected to premeditated demonstrations the League otherwise prohibits.
By contrast, the NFL does not allow antagonism toward any of its own. Excessive demonstrations are not permitted. “Insulting language or gestures at opponents, game officials, or representatives of the League,” are not tolerated according to NFL rules.
The NFL routinely enforces policies governing the conduct of players, coaches, officials, teams and their representatives on and off the field, telling them it is “a privilege to be part of the National Football League.” The NFL Personal Conduct Policy states that those who are in the League “must strive to conduct ourselves in ways that favorably reflect on ourselves, our teams, the communities we represent, and the NFL.” It goes on to state that representatives of the League “are all held to a higher standard and must conduct ourselves in a way that is responsible, [and] promotes the values of the NFL…”
These standards are admirable, but why are they not enforced during the national anthem? Do anti-American protests such as those carried out by Mr. Kaepernick promote “NFL values”? Do you believe these protests reflect favorably on the League?
The letter, sent earlier this week, immediately preceded Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall taking a knee during the national anthem before the NFL season opener on Thursday night. Marshall became the fourth player to refuse to rise for “The Star Spangled Banner” in 2016. The league braces for more such protests that tend to alienate their fan base this weekend.