At halftime of the 1:00 PM ET games on Sunday, October 8, 2017, I turned off the National Football League permanently; both literally and figuratively. It was a sad day for me. The team that I had loyally supported since childhood had turned their backs on me and so many others. Through good times and bad, I had watched their games, wore their clothing, and frequently defended them during impassioned debates with fans of other, rival teams. As the saying goes, I bled my team’s colors.
I had jerseys, jackets and hats which were decades old that I cherished and saved for important games. I had a dress tie with my team’s logo that I wore on special occasions, including to funerals, and twice I wore that tie while serving as a pallbearer for dear friends who had been fans of our beloved team. And every spring I became fully immersed in the NFL Draft, analyzing my team’s needs, studying their potential strategies, and dissecting their eventual decisions. To this day, not only can I name every player on the 53-man roster of that team that day, but I can recall what college he played for and in which round he was drafted. I was as emotionally committed to that football team as anyone could be. But I disengaged not only with that team, but with the entire NFL, and so should you. It’s not as difficult as you might think.
Three weeks before that afternoon over three years ago, I had sent a letter to the owner of the team imploring him to put a stop to the disrespect that several of his players had been showing to our country by kneeling for our National Anthem. That letter was more of a promise than a threat as I explained that the contempt those players had shown for our country and flag had reached a tipping point for me. If the players’ kneeling didn’t stop, I assured him, all support from me would cease.
Throughout the first half of that game, I tried to find out whether or not those players had indeed knelt during the anthem. While the first half played out, I scoured the internet for any reporting on the matter, but couldn’t find any. I had been text-messaging with a friend of mine who attended the game that day, but he had arrived at the stadium after the anthem and couldn’t verify whether they stood or knelt. Finally, after tuning into the halftime report of the team’s radio broadcast, a beat reporter confirmed the sickening news I had feared: for the third consecutive game, players on that team had once again extended their middle fingers to me and every other patriotic American. They had knelt during our National Anthem.
Normally, my halftime ritual would have consisted of a bathroom break, some food preparation, and perhaps a quick chore or two, but not that afternoon. My autumn Sunday routines changed forever. I proceeded to destroy all of my team garb and memorabilia, with one exception. The only item that was spared was the aforementioned dress tie, which I gave to a relative. Considering the sentimental relevance of that item, I couldn’t simply trash it, but I will never wear it again. Even a few weeks later as we brought out our Christmas decorations, a tree ornament in the form of the team’s helmet went into the garbage.
On October 9th, the day after that game, I sent a follow-up letter to the team owner (who had sent a dismissive response to my original note) and I informed him that I had indeed followed through with my promise of disengagement. That was my last interaction of any sort with that team or the NFL. A few weeks later, I received a second note from that owner who was apparently under the impression we were pen pals. His response went unanswered. I framed all four letters between myself and the team owner, and I keep them proudly on display in my home. Any time I feel the slightest bit of nostalgia for that team or that league, I only need to glance at those correspondences to remind me of what they did. I have no regrets, and the NFL has no place in my life. Screw the NFL.
The issue of NFL players kneeling during the anthem began in 2016 with Colin Kaepernick, a less-than-mediocre quarterback. But the controversy exploded the following season when newly-inaugurated President Trump rhetorically asked, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when someone disrespects our flag to say, ‘get that son of a bitch off the field right now?’” As players on many teams reacted to Trump and began kneeling, the NFL refused to take action even though they had a policy in place requiring that each player stand for the anthem. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell defended his inaction by citing “freedom of speech” as an excuse.
No one credible had suggested infringing on the NFL players’ right to free speech. No one was labeling their actions as criminal, and no one was calling for them to be prosecuted or imprisoned. Of course NFL players have the right to speak their minds, including kneeling or standing, as do all Americans. But as employees, we are also subject to our employers’ rules and policies, and NFL players are employees of their teams. My expectation, along with those of millions of other NFL fans, was for the NFL to allow any of their employees to speak their minds on their own time; just like everyone else. But when they’re on the field, in front of thousands of fans who are financing their salaries by paying for tickets and buying hotdogs, players are acting as employees and are therefore subject to their employer’s rules and regulations.
If the rest of us were to take similar liberties at our own jobs, if we were to openly act against the stated policies and best interests of our employers, such actions would be labeled as ‘insubordination,’ and we would be terminated. We’re free to say what we want while we’re on the job, but we’re also free to be fired. When a player wears their team’s uniform, and when a player is representing the team that I so passionately supported, he should respect our country and our flag. The NFL decided not address the issue, and they essentially punted instead.
Since 2017 and my unceremonious divorce from the NFL, their actions have proven that their original stance on the anthem was never about freedom of speech, and it wasn’t even about virtue signaling. The NFL allowed Kaepernick and the other anthem-kneelers to shame our flag and country because they agreed with them. To kick-off the 2020 season the NFL tossed aside any doubt and lifted their skirt for all to see when they played a song known as The Black National Anthem before every game. We are one country, flawed as we may be, and we have only one National Anthem. The NFL, however, exposed themselves for who they truly are: leftist activists intent on exploiting their position in our culture to further their cause through identity politics. The NFL is no different than Al Sharpton or Ibrim X. Kendi. They hate our country and only care about their agenda. And it is for this reason that Americans should turn their backs on the NFL, just like they have done to their fans.
This Sunday, there will undoubtedly be millions of fans who tune-in to watch the Super Bowl. They will check the printouts of their office pools every time a team scores, hoping that the current score will pay off with a nice chunk of change and bragging rights. They’ll pay closer attention than normal during breaks in the broadcast for fear of missing a clever Budweiser or Doritos commercial. And at halftime, some will enjoy the show more than the game while others take a moment to socialize. But there will be less of such folks; much less. Ratings for the NFL have been plummeting since 2017, including Super Bowls. The Thursday Night game during week four of this past season saw ratings drop a whopping 70% compared to last year, and ratings for both the divisional and wildcard rounds of playoffs were down double-digits for every game. Compare those numbers to 2017, and the drops are even more significant.
Less Americans are tuning in to the NFL, and that trend is sure to continue. And you should consider being one of those viewers who change the channel this year. The NFL doesn’t care about you, and they don’t care about our nation. They’ve got an agenda that aligns with the most radical leftists in our country, and that is their top priority. There are plenty of other shows to watch or things to do this Sunday that won’t result in you rewarding leftist radicals with your loyalty and financial support. It might seem impossible to imagine watching anything but the Super Bowl, but it’s not that difficult; and it’s the right thing to do.
P.F. Whalen is a conservative blogger at TheBlueStateConservative.com. His work has appeared in multiple publications, including the Western Journal, Human Events, and American Thinker. Follow him on Parler
@PFWhalen and on Gab @PFWhalen.