If you haven’t been completely disconnected from the world in the past few days, you may have noticed that everyone is either condemning or praising President Donald Trump for telling a crowd in Alabama that it would be nice to see an NFL owner fire any player who kneels in protest during the national anthem.
Regardless of where you stand on this subject, the reality is that the heart of this debate lies in sports and how they have become highly politicized. But this trait is anything but new. It might feel that way because the media has, for the most part, been much quicker to use anything Trump says to boost the ratings. Still, sports have been used by those making politics in America to boost the war spirit since World War I. Over time, the tradition of tying the anthem with sports in times of war expanded into a regular reminder that pride in government efforts and sports went hand in hand, at least in America.
So it’s no wonder those who feel betrayed by what the anthem represents, regardless of motives, will use such a high-profile event as a football game to show their discontent. And when a highly powerful elected official such as the president makes a strong statement against people who often embody the most American of sports, it’s also easy to see how his comments may cause divisiveness.
Still, the outrage is here because we have always allowed the U.S. government to latch its own agenda to what happens in the sports arena.
Now that the U.S. government openly invests in “paid patriotism,” spending millions of taxpayer dollars in pro-government campaigns during sports events run by the NFL — itself one of the most successful government-subsidized organizations in U.S. history — how can we claim ignorance and act as if football had, all of a sudden, become immune to government influence?
The president complains about players demonstrating against their government because football is as American as apple pie and as entangled with politics as it gets. So the solution to the outrage of the day isn’t to condemn players who refuse to stand for the anthem. The solution isn’t to complain about the president either. After all, he’s simply standing for that to which a man in his position is expected. No. The solution is to look at sports once again as a private business matter and forever untangle it from the political machine in Washington.
Unless we’re able to successfully do just that, the outrage will always be there — and the future will continue to look bleak for those of us who simply think that a game is a game and politicians should have the decency to at least handle that back to the people.