The owners of the National Football League have concluded, with President Trump, that true patriotism is not about bravely standing up for democratic principle but about standing up, period.
Rather than show a little backbone themselves and support the right of athletes to protest peacefully, the league capitulated to a president who relishes demonizing black athletes. The owners voted Wednesday to fine teams whose players do not stand for the national anthem while they are on the field.
Let us hope that in keeping with the league‚Äôs pinched view of patriotism, the players choose to honor the letter but not the spirit of this insulting ban. It might be amusing, for example, to see the owners tied in knots by players who choose to abide by the injunction to ‚Äústand and show respect‚ÄĚ ‚ÄĒ while holding black-gloved fists in the air. Or who choose to stand ‚ÄĒ while holding signs protesting policy brutality. We look forward to many more meetings of fatootsed gazillionaires conducting many more votes on petty rules to ban creative new forms of player protest.
Many players, African-American by and large, have been kneeling during the anthem since 2016, when the San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began sitting, and later kneeling, during the ceremony to protest racism and police brutality.
Many football fans and team owners thought Mr. Kaepernick was showing disrespect for the flag, or even for the military, as though the Stars and Stripes were a battle standard and the football field a hallowed battleground. The owners responded in the grand old American tradition of blackballing people you disagree with.
Since Mr. Kaepernick became a free agent a little over a year ago, no team has offered him a contract, an odd thing given the less than distinguished roster of quarterbacks in the league last season. He filed a collusion grievance, which reportedly led to documents showing that some of the top coaches in the league said that he was not only good enough to be a backup quarterback, but to be a starter.
As time went on, and more cases of police brutality emerged, more players knelt in solidarity with Mr. Kaepernick and his cause.
The president, smelling an issue sure to fire up his base, pounced. ‚ÄúWouldn‚Äôt you love to see one of these N.F.L. owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‚ÄėGet that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he‚Äôs fired,‚Äô‚ÄĚ Mr. Trump said at a political rally in September.
That riled up players, owners and fans on both sides of the question. Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence continued to stir outrage. More players knelt. More conservatives became incensed and threatened to boycott the league.
The fury that Mr. Trump ignited was so troubling that it brought players and team owners together in a meeting last October to discuss it.
‚ÄúThe problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don‚Äôt feel is in the best interests of America,‚ÄĚ Robert Kraft, the Patriots owner and a Trump supporter, said of the kneeling. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs divisive, and it‚Äôs horrible.‚ÄĚ
The league has now decided it will also override the best interests of America and try to substitute a phony pageant of solidarity for a powerful civics lesson.