Photo Courtesy AMVETS

Opinion: OK, NOW I'm done with the NFL

Rejecting AMVETS' ad was the last straw for this fan

Eric Dehm
January 23, 2018 - 12:12 pm

Over the past several months as the debate around whether NFL players should stand for our national anthem carried on, I took the same approach as most veterans.

It was really quite simple. While I prefer every American stand for the anthem, I believe very strongly in the freedom of expression our country provides and our military defends. So strongly, in fact, that if you feel the need to kneel out of a sense of purpose, or a belief in a perceived injustice, I will always defend your decision to do so.

It's like the old saying goes: I might not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

That will never change for me, even though my perspective on the NFL kneeling issue has.

You see, I will also defend the rights of those who present a counter-argument to do exactly that, which is where we now have a problem: the NFL has decided that an organization comprised wholly of veterans, will not be allowed to put the following apparently controversial, possibly divisive message into an ad: #PleaseStand.

Photo Courtesy AMVETS

Yes, AMVETS had the audacity to ask, not demand, that people stand for the symbol of the freedoms we have in this country, and the NFL responded that it "might be considered political by some."

Apparently, showing respect for our country is a "political" issue to the NFL, though disrespecting it is a free speech issue.

Apparently, veterans haven't earned the right to ask that professional athletes stand during our national anthem, though professional athletes and their league have earned the right to tell us how we should look at things because.... they're really fast and good at catching a ball?

Apparently, "some" people who might see the ad as a political statement outweigh those who see it as a simple request asking Americans to honor the flag that means so much to them.

Apparently, the NFL believes their players should be able to express their thoughts on national TV while on the job, but a Veterans Service Organization shouldn't be able to do so in a program for game attendees. 

Apparently, one side is given a free pass into this discussion, while the other isn't even being allowed to pay to get in on it. 

It is interesting to me that apparently anything said in support of our nation and the symbols of it is now "political" and unwelcome in the NFL's sphere. Think they'd ask Budweiser to pull their legendary ad featuring the clydesdales paying respect to the World Trade Center? 

Probably not, those horses were taking a knee after all.

Also, Bud is a massive sponsor funneling millions to the National Football League.  Come to think of it, isn't calling yourself "National" a bit political and jingoistic? Maybe it should just be FL from now on. I'm sure their graphic design team could change the logo. You know their logo right? The one with stars and stripes that are red, white and blue? Let's go ahead and change those colors and symbols too. Too political.

Hey, if we're cutting out everything that "some" might find political, let's not stop at an ad that respectfully asks people to stand for the flag your league has draped itself in for decades.

Oh, I almost forgot about the sham patriotic pre-game displays featuring the military, flyovers, etc. that the military actually pays for. Let's toss those too.  

There's a lot that will need to be changed to avoid the politicization of football, but when the NFL puts it's collective mind to something, it gets it done. Which is why it's deeply interesting and/or disturbing to me that the NFL has taken a stand on this despite not taking a stand when it comes to some other items. Which ones? How about concussions and CTE, domestic violence, or even a player allegedly threatening to find and rape the spouse of the police officer who arrested said player (his 2nd arrest this year, mind you) for driving over 100 mph. 

With those things, the NFL withholds judgement and refrains from statements until public opinion is established so they know which way to go, or until they are forced to.

Remember Ray Rice punching his wife in the face in that elevator? Remember how the NFL didn't address the brutality of that attack initially, even though they had seen it before the public did?

Remember how the NFL said the studies showing links between their players mental health and concussions was "inconclusive" and tried to sweep the CTE issue under the rug? 

I remember those things and I can't help but notice a marked difference in their approaches to them.

I've worked extensively in public affairs, so I think I know what's going on here. The NFL is betting that veterans who think all able to stand should do so won't raise too much of a stink over this. That we won't want to draw attention or come off as entitled bullies trying to tell people how they should or should not respect the symbols of our freedom just because we happened to wear the uniform.

And they're probably right about one part of that.

I know I won't tell anyone what to do, that's not my place, and again I very strongly believe in the right to express yourself. What I might do is what AMVETS tried to do, which is respectfully ask them to stand, or perhaps privately discuss the matter on a person-to-person basis. 

I'll also talk about this issue, and I will let as many people as I can know what the NFL has done here and why I believe it is wrong.

Maybe I'll be doing that at about 6:30 p.m. on February 4th. I certainly won't be watching the last football game of the season, because at this point I am done with the NFL unless something changes with how they operate. 

Running the #PleaseStand ad would be a nice start.

Read more:  AMVETS answers criticism over media tactics:  "It's got a flipping bow on it."