A specter is haunting the NFL. Apparently, Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, considers the national anthem to be a sign of systemic racism, so he won’t stand for it. And it’s catching on.
But this orchestrated act of defiance has not happened in a vacuum. After all, Kaepernick did not tear up his paycheck, toss the pieces in his coach’s face, and turn himself over to law enforcement or the Thought Police. Quite the contrary. He knew very well that his televised act of calculated disrespect would suffer no consequence, financial or professional.
And he was right, because that football field is just the last link in a long chain of permissive, self-indulgent charades that has made the 49ers sideline a “safe space” for this latest oh-so sensitive snowflake.
That chain begins back on the college campuses where most of these players “studied” (although that requirement apparently didn’t apply to countless hundreds of athletes at the University of North Carolina given high grades for years in classes that UNC didn’t even bother to teach).
On these campuses, the tenured faculty, not the administration, rules. Take UNC: when the scandal broke regarding its long-standing but bogus African-American studies classes that never were, it was the university chancellor who had to resign in disgrace. And notably, none of the “student” athletes suffered any penalty.
College administrators take themselves very seriously, and every year they hire more “experts” for the serious task of coddling their students and protecting them from any experience that they might find offensive, intolerant, racist, sexist, or any other capital sin that requires a “trigger warning” on the part of the perpetrator.
But woe to the administrator who utters even one discouraging word or raises one critical eyebrow.
Even college presidents have to walk a tightrope in order to strike the precarious balance between the politically correct and the simply bizarre. Tim Wolfe, president of the University of Missouri system, had to resign a year ago because his response was not sufficiently obsequious when he was accosted by a student mob that disrupted the homecoming parade at the system’s flagship school so they could protest the university’s “systemic racism, sexism, and patriarchy.”
Wolfe met with the mob but was condemned as insufficiently sensitive. When the school’s football team threatened to go on strike – with the full support of their coach – Wolfe didn’t fire the coach and tell the players to either grow up or leave.
Next come the college-level athletic directors (AD’s). In higher education, they are mere administrators, and their job is to make money. Such has not always been the case: when Knute Rockne was a chemistry professor at Notre Dame ninety years ago and coached football on the side, my father, an ND law professor at the time, volunteered as chairman of the “athletic committee” – and that was it.
But those days are over.
Today, while athletics bring popularity, fame, and even money to the institution, the ADs and the coaches have to mouth the PC/Bizarro palaver as slavishly as the boss does. And that goes for even the most successful of them. When he was coaching at Notre Dame, Lou Holtz told me that his support in 1984 of North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms – my boss at the time – got him fired as head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks (it was a gift in disguise, since Holtz was then able to become the best coach the Irish have had in over forty years).
Academic freedom does not apply to the administrators.
So we have the links in the chain – the radical tenured faculty who can’t be fired; players who are coddled, indoctrinated, never penalized, never expelled; and the administrators, the ADs, and the coaches who can be fired if they don’t read from the PC playbook.
This spineless dread, distrust, and mawkish servility then infects the NCAA – because it’s run by the same claque of the usual fawning suspects.
In the NCAA the hypocrisy rides high. In March 2015, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed a popular religious freedom bill opposed by the college gang-bangers and their ADs. Within hours, the NCAA threatened to pull the NCAA basketball championships from the home of Hoosier Hysteria.
Meanwhile, after more than four years of delay, deviance, and defiance, the preening moralizers at the NCAA have yet to penalize the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for one of the most flagrant and vile derelictions ever to disgrace “amateur” college sports.
But what about Kaepernick and the NFL?
Let us recall that the NFL gets all those football players for free, having been catalogued and quantified by their NCAA institutions for the NFL scouts and their training camps. Moreover, on the other side of the ball, the NFL’s financial survival depends solely on the television industry, the Guiding Light of the Politically Correct media which brooks no deviance from its Ministry of Truth.
So Colin Kaepernick takes a knee. Does he fear that his “principled” genuflection to the Ferguson Effect will at all harm his financial or professional prospects? Quite the contrary. He and his teammates have been taught since undergrads that the more radical they are, the more popular they will be. All will be forgiven – even praised as bold, even brave! Their coaches, managers, and owners might tell them to grow up and behave, but if they dare to try, it won’t be Colin who’s sitting by the side of the road looking for a new line of work.
Keep cashing your checks, Colin. The snowflakes will survive and prosper. The fix is in.
Christopher Manion, Ph.D., writes on politics and religion – and occasionally on sports, the national religion.