The NFL has instituted a new anthem policy requiring players on the field to stand and “show respect,” during the playing of the national anthem.
While such a rule would seems perfectly reasonable to most, leftists in the sports world and beyond are ripping the league for muzzling their players and violating their constitutional rights. In many ways, to the left, the NFL has become the sports leader of muzzled speech and forcibly compelled patriotism.
However, there’s just one problem with all this: The NBA has an even harsher anthem rule, and they’ve had it for decades.
For the purposes of this discussion, let’s compare and contrast the NBA and NFL rules.
The NBA rule is this: “Players, coaches, and trainers are to stand and line up in a dignified posture along the sidelines or on the foul line during the playing of the National Anthem.”
It’s important to note, while the NFL anthem policy also mandates that all “team and league personnel” on the field need to stand and “show respect for the flag and the Anthem.” Unlike the NFL, the NBA rule does not contain a provision which allows players to remain in the locker room during the playing of the anthem. In other words, the NFL actually makes allowances for players who don’t feel sufficiently patriotic enough to stand for the Star-Spangled Banner, while the NBA does not. Which means, the NFL rule is actually to the left of the NBA rule.
An inconvenient truth for the legion of sportswriters and fans, who have nearly unanimously ordained the NBA as the league which embodies all the best aspects of social justice activism. While panning the NFL as an anti-civil rights league of racism and speech oppression.
So why has the NBA escaped scorn and criticism for forcing their players to stand, while the NFL now finds itself feeling the full brunt of leftist angst?
The answer to that lies in how the NBA made their league a “Separation of Game and State.”
By requiring its players to stand for the anthem, the NBA forced its most outspoken activists to keep their activism away from the court. LeBron James, Greg Popovich, and Steve Kerr can say whatever they want about President Trump, and frequently do. However, they say it to reporters in interviews or press conferences. They don’t force paying fans — a captive audience — to sit and endure a spectacle that they don’t want to see.
In many ways, NBA activism is a throw back to the political movements of Muhammad Ali. One would have tried and failed to find a more highly politicized athlete than Ali during the 60’s and 70’s. However, Ali never “took a knee” in the ring. He marched in the streets, went to rallies, and made strong declarations to the press.
Yet, boxing fans were never forced to endure his diatribes from inside the ring.
For all the comparisons liberal sportswriters made between Kaepernick and Ali, the better analogy would have been LeBron James and Ali. In reality, Kaepernick is nothing like Ali. The “Brown Bomber” not only never mixed Game And State, he also recognized that continuing to box was the best thing for him and his cause. Unlike Kaepernick, who has not only thrown away his once promising NFL career, but condemned himself to irrelevance by taking himself out of the spotlight.
An irrelevance that has now come full circle as the protest movement he founded becomes officially outlawed.
By forcing the NFL’s paying customers to have to sit and endure a disrespectful display that many either disliked or were indifferent too, Colin Kaepernick forced the NFL to confront the situation head-on.
Specifically, Colin Kaepernick made the NFL embrace a truth that was all too inconvenient, and deadly, to his cause: The truth that while fans have no problem with players having political opinions. They just don’t want to see it on Sunday afternoons.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn