For many football fans, the 2016 season was marred by players protesting the National Anthem. According to MoffettNathanson, total NFL viewership was down 9 percent compared to 2015 (recode.net). Hundreds of thousands of people boycotted the NFL because of the players protesting during the National Anthem and I was proudly one of the people who boycotted the NFL last year.
Not watching the NFL was a new experience for me. As a very young child, I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time watching football with my parents and grandmother. My parents and my grandmother were both big football fans. My parents were Pittsburgh Steelers fans, but my grandmother was a Dallas Cowboy fan. By the age of five I had picked a side and it sure wasn’t the Steelers. Through thick or thin, I religiously watched the Cowboys for over 35 years, but that all changed in 2016.
During the tumultuous summer of 2016, my oldest two sons joined the Marine Corps. After thirteen weeks of the world’s hardest recruit training, my sons returned home for their ten-day leave. While the boys were on leave, we had long talks about their boot camp experience and life in general. They told me many stories about boot camp. Some of their stories are very funny but others stories were too horrifying to tell their mother. We also talked a lot about the state of the country. The boys were very concerned about the country, especially the racial divide that had swept through the country. They told me that, in their experience, race is not a problem in the Marine Corps. They assured me that all recruits were treated the same regardless of their race. In fact, my sons made strong bonds with recruits of all races. They were quick to point out that the character of the individual, not the race, is what makes a man.
After ten short days, it was time for the boys to return to San Diego to complete their training. Both of the boys were in poor physical condition and could barely walk when they returned to San Diego (one of the boys had fractured his hip in boot camp and the other one had staph infection on his feet). Their story is not unique.
Thousands of young men and women sign up for the military every day. Most of these young men and women go to boot camp as soon as they finish high school. Therefore, America has thousands of teenagers training everyday to protect our country and the freedoms we hold dear. These young men and women have sworn to defend the Constitution of the United States. They receive very little pay and may be put in harm’s way so that Americans can enjoy our many freedoms.
The Constitution guarantees free speech to all Americans but the Constitution is only a piece of paper. Our rights and freedoms can be taken away if men and women do not defend the Constitution. Our military men and women have sworn to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. They do this for very little pay or fanfare. Our rights are protected by men and women who make less in a year than professional football players make in one-quarter of a game.
The NFL is an organization that sets rules and guidelines for its players. If a player or coach is not strictly meeting the NFL’s dress code, they will be fined. Infractions on and off the field can lead to suspensions. Tom Brady had footballs deflated below specifications and was suspended for four games. If clothing and air pressure violations can lead to fines and suspensions then the NFL can require players to stand for the National Anthem. The flag and the Anthem are symbols of The United States.
I will be the first to admit that America is not a perfect country. America has never been perfect and it will never be perfect. America is not a utopia because utopias do not exist. Mankind will always have strife and conflict. America may not be perfect but it is the greatest country in the world. Personally, I cannot support an organization that allows millionaires to disrespect America. I will boycott the league again this year and I hope millions more do too.