The NFL Anthem Protest Ethics Train Wreck, Part Two

The overview of our latest Ethics Train Wreck continues from Part One

  • Slate published an essay by African-American musician John Legend that itself makes an excellent case against the protests while supposedly glorifying them. Never mind the standard anti-Trump spin at the beginning about “Islamophobia” and the rest, though it is nice for any author to state up front that he’s completely biased and his opinion should be discarded as such. Legend and Slate have the audacity to evoke actual protests that were clear and targeted in comparison the all-purpose “knee”:

“Protest is patriotic. Protest has played a critically important role in elevating the voices of the most vulnerable in our nation. Protest in America has been essential to ending war, to demanding equal rights, to ending unfair practices that keep citizens marginalized. If we quell protest in the name of patriotism, we are not patriots. We are tyrants.

Would there have been a Civil Rights Act without the Birmingham protests? When Bull Connor unleashed his fire hoses and dogs on the schoolchildren taking to the streets, racial disparities and the violence facing people because of the color of their skin became the issues of the times. With savage images of the brutal attack in the news every day, President John Kennedy had little choice but to push for a Civil Rights Act that demanded equal services and equal rights.

Protests in Selma, Alabama, changed the trajectory of this nation and catapulted the Voting Rights Act into being.”

A recipe for tapioca would be as germane to the NFL protests as the Selma march. There is no definable law, principle or position these protests bring into focus. Let’s check the Ethics Alarms Protest Ethics Checklist against the NFL grandstanding:

1. Is this protest just and necessary?

No. How is it just? How is it necessary?

2. Is the primary motive for the protest unclear, personal, selfish, too broad or narrow?

Unclear and too broad by definition, since no two protesters make the same argument.

3. Is the means of protest appropriate to the objective?

Obviously not. What does football have to do with “racial justice”?

4. Is there a significant chance that it will achieve an ethical objective or contribute to doing so?

None whatsoever.

5. What will this protest cost, and who will have to pay the bill?

It’s already cost the NFL millions. But nobody is protesting the NFL…

6. Will the individuals or organizations that are the targets of the protest also be the ones who will most powerfully feel its effects?

No.

7. Will innocent people be adversely affected by this action? (If so, how many?)

Sure: every single fan who wants to just watch football.

8. Is there a significant possibility that anyone will be hurt or harmed? (if so, how seriously? How many people?)

The relentless politicizing of sports and entertainment harms U.S. society and frays the fabric of democracy. That means everyone.

9. Are you and your group prepared to take full responsibility for the consequences of the protest?

Clearly not: witness the constant complaining that NFL teams won’t hire Kaepernick so their season is dominated by racial politics rather than, you know, football..

10. Would an objective person feel that the protest is fair, reasonable, and proportional to its goal?

No.

11. What is the likelihood that the protest will be remembered as important, coherent, useful, effective and influential?

My guess: no chance whatsoever, unless unintended consequences count, like getting more votes for President Trump and crippling the NFL count.

12. Could the same resources, energy and time be more productively used toward achieving the same goals, or better ones?

It’s hard to imaging what wouldn’t be a better use of resources, energy and time.

Verdict: It’s an unethical protest. There is nothing patriotic about unethical protests. We have a right to protest; as with free speech, that doesn’t make all examples of exercising that right good, and certainly not “patriotic.”

  • However, let me argue in the alternative, as lawyers often do. Let’s say that, as Legend claims, all protests are patriotic. Fine. Then then Charlottesville protest against tearing down a statue of Robert E. Lee was also patriotic. Why, the, was the President attacked—by Legend and Slate, among others, for not condemning it?

The Left believes that protests are sacrosanct only when they are doing the protesting. There is nothing wrong or unpatriotic about accurately labeling a dumb, badly-conceived or destructive protest, and this one is all three.

“Football was down. The end. We, the good people who read the NYT, must say no to football. What is known cannot become unknown except by willful, immoral forgetting. No decent person can take pleasure in football. No fit parent can allow a child to take up the game. The era of American football is over. Bury it. We can end the misery through the simple and necessary refusal to watch anymore. Say no, America… or hey, wait a minute. Here’s that nasty President of the United States and he’s calling for a boycott of football…

So, watch the liberal media endeavor to save football from bad old President Trump. He’s a racist. This is his racism once again, stirring up the stupid people who voted for him. Here‘s the NYT today:

“The tweet suggested that the president, who used an expletive on Friday night to refer to players who kneel or sit in protest during the anthem — a practice that took hold last season among some African-American players after Colin Kaepernick, the now-former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, did so to protest racial and social injustice — is bent on deepening a bitter culture-war fight with the N.F.L.

It is a highly charged debate, with unmistakable racial undertones, pitting advocates of free speech who argue that professional athletes should have a right to use their positions to call attention to social issues against those who contend that refusing to honor the anthem disrespects the military and the nation, and that sports is no place for such displays.”

 Ann’s line:

“Let the brain damage continue. We’ve got a culture war to fight.”

  • Althouse’s analysis exemplifies how much this Train Wreck is driven by the cognitive dissonance scale. Political grandstanding was low on the scale…

..but once it was attached to the cause of a group—black players, the progressive news media, BLM— the NFL was afraid to challenge, its position on the scale was yanked into positive territory. Then Kaepernick’s antics seemed to lead to lost ratings, so back below the midpoint went the protest, resulting in Kaepernick’s rejection by every NFL team. Meanwhile, the increasing evidence that the NFL is destroying brains was pulling the whole league into negative territory, until the President attacked the protests. For the news media, Trump-Hate is more powerful and positive than almost anything now—yes, even the lives destroyed by a greedy, corrupt business—so back up the scale went the NFL.

Commissioner Goodell’s retort to the President, widely described as “firing back” was so disingenuous and manfestly false that it is laughable. I’ll break in (in bold) to what he wrote in a statement:

“The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture.”

How does a race-based on-field protest that attacks police, the flag, the National Anthem and the United States “create a sense of unity”? This is a non sequitur.

“There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month”

Translation: “Hey! Let’s not talk about the bad stuff we do: what about the good stuff! Huh? What about that?”

“Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.”

Here is the NFL arrest database. The concussion scandal has already been covered. The league’s domestic abuse problem has been well-documented. The most acclaimed team and its equally acclaimed quarterback have been caught cheating. NFL recruitment has thoroughly corrupted colleges and the education of players across the country.

Why should anyone respect the NFL?

21 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Leadership, Popular Culture, Race, Sports, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, War and the Military, Workplace

21 responses to “The NFL Anthem Protest Ethics Train Wreck, Part Two

  1. Chris

    One can oppose the NFL’s indifference to CTE and their many, many other defects while still defending them from unfair attacks. You defend certain actions of Trump’s all the time while still recognizing his many flaws. There’s no contradiction in viewing their unity in the face of the president’s attacks as just while also thinking the organization as a whole sucks. I have major personal beef with Jehova’s Witnesses, but reading about how their flag protests grew out of solidarity with JWs living under Nazi rule made me respect them on at least that front.

    There is no definable law, principle or position these protests bring into focus.

    Sure there is: the principle that blacks should be treated equally under the law, especially by police. The problem you have with this position is that you see no evidence that blacks are being treated unfairly. But that you disagree with the position doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, or that it isn’t internally consistent.

    Let’s check the Ethics Alarms Protest Ethics Checklist against the NFL grandstanding:

    1. Is this protest just and necessary?

    No. How is it just? How is it necessary?

    If you believe that blacks are treated unfairly by the police, then it is just and necessary to bring attention to that issue. These protests have clearly done that. Of course that wouldn’t justify any method to bring attention to that issue, but the method chosen by these players is deliberately passive and unobtrusive.

    2. Is the primary motive for the protest unclear, personal, selfish, too broad or narrow?

    Unclear and too broad by definition, since no two protesters make the same argument.

    I think this is an exaggeration on your part.

    3. Is the means of protest appropriate to the objective?

    Obviously not. What does football have to do with “racial justice”?

    Not much, I’ll give you that. That doesn’t necessarily make the means inappropriate.

    4. Is there a significant chance that it will achieve an ethical objective or contribute to doing so?

    None whatsoever.

    Why not? If more people are aware of a problem, that increases the odds that the problem will be addressed. (Of course, this doesn’t apply if, as you believe, there is no problem.

    5. What will this protest cost, and who will have to pay the bill?

    It’s already cost the NFL millions. But nobody is protesting the NFL…

    I’ve heard this said, but never seen evidence. Are there stats showing that viewership has fallen at a higher rate since Keapernick started this? Can that be solely attributed to the protests, and not to things like the CTE and other controversies, or simply the reduction in people owning cable packages in the first place?

    6. Will the individuals or organizations that are the targets of the protest also be the ones who will most powerfully feel its effects?

    No.

    I’ll give you this one.

    7. Will innocent people be adversely affected by this action? (If so, how many?)

    Sure: every single fan who wants to just watch football.

    Oh, cry me a river. No one is forcing these fans to watch the national anthem. How many fans who say they’re upset about this use that time to make some popcorn, or use the restroom? How many talk to their friends during this part of the game? This is faux outrage at its finest. The “effect” on a viewer is so trivial it should be immediately dismissed. It literally doesn’t matter.

    8. Is there a significant possibility that anyone will be hurt or harmed? (if so, how seriously? How many people?)

    The relentless politicizing of sports and entertainment harms U.S. society and frays the fabric of democracy. That means everyone.

    I believe the national anthem itself politicizes sports and entertainment. But even if it doesn’t, these players also believe that police mistreatment of African-Americans harms society and democracy. To them, the harm caused by that would certainly outweigh the harm caused by kneeling during the national anthem.

    9. Are you and your group prepared to take full responsibility for the consequences of the protest?

    Clearly not: witness the constant complaining that NFL teams won’t hire Kaepernick so their season is dominated by racial politics rather than, you know, football..

    A protest such as this one should not come with any consequences beyond criticism. I’ve already said that the negative effect of such a protest is no negligible as to be not worth discussing. It’s a two-minute song, three if you’ve got an obnoxious diva (let’s talk about all the ways they’ve disrespected the anthem over the years), and then the game is played. If anyone’s letting racial politics “dominate” the game because some players choose to kneel instead of stand, it’s the hysterical conservatives who can’t just ignore it and move on.

    10. Would an objective person feel that the protest is fair, reasonable, and proportional to its goal?

    No.

    By “an objective person,” you mean you.

    11. What is the likelihood that the protest will be remembered as important, coherent, useful, effective and influential?

    My guess: no chance whatsoever, unless unintended consequences count, like getting more votes for President Trump and crippling the NFL count.

    Only time will tell on this one.

    12. Could the same resources, energy and time be more productively used toward achieving the same goals, or better ones?

    It’s hard to imaging what wouldn’t be a better use of resources, energy and time.

    Kneeling during the anthem does not take any resources, energy, and time. The resources, energy and time are mostly being spent by breathless conservatives talking about how one not positioning oneself in the correct manner during a patriotic exercise means that one hates America. The onus of this controversy is on them. They are being hysterical crybabies.

    • Glenn Logan

      Sure there is: the principle that blacks should be treated equally under the law, especially by police. The problem you have with this position is that you see no evidence that blacks are being treated unfairly. But that you disagree with the position doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, or that it isn’t internally consistent.

      That was Kaepernick’s alleged reason, even if he usually failed to articulate it. But what is the reason for all the others? Clearly, it’s not the same one, since many of these worthies never knelt until Trump said something. So their motivation is indisputably different.

      We criticized Kaepernick, and maybe the NFL decided he was poison. But also, he wasn’t playing good football, so perhaps they were just unwilling to pay him millions of dollars just to have a racial justice figurehead on their team.

      The bottom line is, no matter why it was started, it is now being done for clearly different reasons, and nobody has articulated a coherent reason. Jack believes, therefore, that the reasons are various and all tied in with Trump opposition. I suspect a lot, maybe most, is simple virtue signalling. We haven’t seen NFL players travel en masse to the sight of police slayings of blacks to protest. Why not? After all, if you can kneel together on the field and donate to hurricane victims, are you telling me you can’t travel a few miles to join a protest with BLM?

      If the NFL wants to allow these protests, I’m fine with it — self-destructive behavior inimical to the nation is unethical, but so is protesting against other races. Just don’t expect an NFL game to assail my vision (not that it would have anyway).

      By “an objective person,” you mean you.

      That’s uncalled-for, and typical of your passive-aggressive self.

    • crella

      This is a small point, I know, and its the only point I’m going to address, mainly because it’s been nagging at me for some time…

      ‘ then it is just and necessary to bring attention to that issue.’

      The whole ‘attention’ and ‘awareness’ idea is a whole lot of smoke without substance, an air sandwich…it LOOKS like you’re standing up for something (and you’ll get likes and shares, and press) but very little, if anything is changed. What has been changed since Kaepernick started kneeling? What does kneeling in a football stadium actually accomplish? He kneels, people clap, and it’s over till the next time. He may as well post his underwear color weekly on Facebook and Twitter (the main way women ‘raise awareness’ of breast cancer during breast cancer week), he’d accomplish as much with even less effort…

  2. Glenn Logan

    The Left believes that protests are sacrosanct only when they are doing the protesting. There is nothing wrong or unpatriotic about accurately labeling a dumb, badly-conceived or destructive protest, and this one is all three.

    In some ways, the Right has itself to blame for this. Protesting has been a Leftist tradition my entire life, and the Right has been very bad at it when they’ve tried it at all. So it doesn’t surprise me that the Left thinks in these terms.

    But they also believe that they are the holders of the Revealed Truth, and that the moral case for their position is so strong that any opposition must be an unalloyed evil. For sure, the Klan, Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists that don’t fall under the previous two are utterly evil. But so are the ant-free speachers, the “lets make climate deniers crimals” lobby, Antifa, and the BLM racists.

    What all these groups have in common are that they are the fringe of their respective sides, a very small percentage of both. Yet we have all grown comfortable with defining the respective adherents to either side by their worst members.

    Here is the NFL arrest database. The concussion scandal has already been covered. The league’s domestic abuse problem has been well-documented. The most acclaimed team and its equally acclaimed quarterback have been caught cheating. NFL recruitment has thoroughly corrupted colleges and the education of players across the country.

    Why should anyone respect the NFL?

    Indeed. But also notable is that Trump in no way disrespected the players generally, but specific ones — the ones engaged in the irresponsible acts of protest. How is it Goodell gets to include the players that don’t agree with the protests? We know there is at least one.

    • Blacks are treated equally under the law. There are no discriminatory laws on the books, Discrimination is illegal. Your broad statement is not a fact, but a misleading characterization. Are admissions polices no longer favoring blacks “unequal treatment”? How about black perps getting shot when they threaten police officers while resisting arrest? Unequal? More whites are shot than blacks. Is persistent poverty, poor educational achievement, black unemployment and high crime rates due to systemic “oppression,” or to fatherless children, poor role models and toxic culture? What good does it do to lay off all the problems in a complex issue to “oppression” without anything else? What earthly good does that do?

    • “In some ways, the Right has itself to blame for this. Protesting has been a Leftist tradition my entire life, and the Right has been very bad at it when they’ve tried it at all. So it doesn’t surprise me that the Left thinks in these terms.”

      One problem is just the dispersal of population. The population density of Trump-majority areas is probably a tenth of that of Clinton-majority. I think one of the reasons the geniuses keep getting surprised is that Election Day is the only day that people to the right of center purposely gather together.

  3. The NFL National Anthem fiasco is another feather in the cap of social justice warrior. This is exactly the kind of things the SJW want to see, it shows them that their justification of using ANTIFA to infected society with their irrational SJW virus is succeeding! Social justice warriors are being empowered almost daily now. This is going to get much, much worse!

    I’m beginning to think that the social justice war has already been won by the illogical emotion driven social justice warriors. Why do I say that, because the most of the population has been dumbed down to the point that they can’t critically think themselves out of a wet paper bag and they’re oblivious and/or apathetic to what’s happening. These ignorant people are blindly jumping on the social justice warrior bandwagon, waving their “resistance” flags and wearing a t-shirt that says “I’m With Stupid”.

    As a friend of mine says, Social Justice Warriors “are starting to make ‘unhinged’ look like safe haven”.

    The big change that happened during the Obama administration is that Obama’s eight years turned the political left into a bunch of whiny, irrational, bias makes you stupid, political attack dogs. Emotion Trumps Critical Thinking (ETCT) will be the lasting legacy of President Barack Obama.

    • Chris

      See, I’d draw a bright line between this type of protest and what Antifa does. Antifa hurts people. These players are kneeling. There’s no comparison.

      • Over and over again I have to ask you to reread because your comprehension is so bad. I didn’t compare these players to ANTIFA. Try again Chris.

        P.S. Do you grade your students written papers?

        • Chris

          I apologize for misunderstanding you. In fairness, this sentence is a grammatical mess:

          This is exactly the kind of things the SJW want to see, it shows them that their justification of using ANTIFA to infected society with their irrational SJW virus is succeeding!

          So I hope you can see why I misunderstood you.

          • Chris wrote, “I apologize for misunderstanding you. In fairness, this sentence is a grammatical mess:”

            That’s a pitiful #10 on the Apology Scale.

            Chris wrote, “In fairness, this sentence is a grammatical mess:”

            “grammatical mess”? Really? That’s a pitiful and petty excuse when the intent was clearly evident.

            Chris wrote, “So I hope you can see why I misunderstood you.”

            Nope; there’s no excuse for your intentional poor comprehension skills.

            Please allow me to fix that incomprehensible “grammatical mess” for you so you can comprehend the full intent of the statement (I highlighted the two fixes); “This is exactly the kind of things the SJW want to see, it shows them that their justification for using ANTIFA to infect society with their irrational SJW virus is succeeding!”

  4. Rusty Rebar

    I am not a football fan, I mean I have been to a game or three, and gone to some High School games, and if a friend is throwing a football party or something I will go and eat ribs and drink beer, but the football is of little to no interest to me.

    I am also very much in favor of the ability for people to protest the National Anthem and burn flags. I served in the Army to defend your right to burn that flag, but that is really moot. It is, and has been for a long time, legal to burn the flag (as long as it is your flag) in this country.

    I am not the normal person. There are a lot of people who are going to get very upset (to the point of violence) when they see someone burn the flag, or being disrespectful of the National Anthem. I would say that attitude is prevalent among sports fans. Sports is like a microcosm of our country in a lot of ways, very much a tribalist kind of thing, just like nationalism. And this is really what is interesting to me about this episode.

    This whole kneeling during the Anthem thing is nothing new (Jackie Robinson talked about it back in ’72), Kaepernick did his kneel over a year ago. Everyone got all good and outraged, and we mostly forgot about it. Then, out of the blue, it seems, Trump decided to tweet about it. Was there some issue that brought that tweet up? From what I can tell, after Charlottesville, some other players did this, but it really was not making much news. Then Trump tweeted about it and suddenly it is a big deal again. (When you see this, you should start to look around to find out what it is they are trying to distract you from.)

    Trump does not seem to just tweet at random. He seems to have some sort of purpose with the tweets. I think this is a persuasion play. He turned this protest against (white supremacy? I guess…) into a protest against Trump. He has persuaded a bunch of very rich people to go on national TV, and disrespect the national anthem, in front of the entire country, and their fans… their very tribal, nationalist fans. All the while, pretending to either be oppressed (oppressed millionaires?), or in league with those that are oppressed, even though they cannot articulate it, or explain how doing this does anything other than virtue signal. Now it is something like “We are kneeling because of Trump”, but that does not make sense, you should stand up to Trump, not kneel. You hate this guy so much, that you just want to get on your knees? Or you hate this guy, so you will protest, what… America? Since I hate Trump so much, I have to disrespect America? I mean, is that really the message you want to send? I think that is misguided, and sends a garbled message. A message that NFL fans are not going to agree with, or appreciate. A message that will not unite much of anyone (if you think a bunch of 300 lb dudes in tight pants, holding each others hands while on their knees, is going to unite the country, I want what you are smoking.), especially since you cannot seem to articulate what you want to unite them for / against…? — Who knows?

    If you want to protest police brutality, then do it. There are so many cases of it, you could donate to legal funds, you could go to these communities and speak out. You can get your numerous contacts to make an issue out of this. You could take your millions of dollars and try to make a difference, or you could just get on your knees and take it.

    • Other Bill

      In this country, if you have a problem with the police (almost all of whom are local) you can go to your city or county council and complain. Cities and counties hire and fire and pay and supervise police. It’s called democracy. And most major cities are run by Democrats, many many of whom are black.

    • Chris

      This topic is generating a LOT of comments that could be named as COTD. Yours is one of them, in my opinion, Rusty.

  5. John Glass

    My sense is that the relentless images of NFL players “protesting” during the playing of the national anthem will not sit well with the average American viewer, much in the same way (though certainly not in the same degree) that the images of snarling dogs & fire hoses in the Civil Rights era & the gun battles and bombing in the Vietnam war troubled their audiences back then. And the gobbledygook that is being served up by NFL teams and league PR offices, and attributed to players, will trouble them even more.

    Though I am a sometimes sports fan, I would not equate that passion in any way to nationalism, tribalism, or any other kind of “ism.” It’s a microcosm of society, sure, but so are many others. Any suggestion that Trump created a provocation to deflect criticism of his person or presidency is fanciful. I have no doubt that these highly compensated athletes were encouraged by others – groups or people – and they didn’t need much persuasion.

    As a Navy veteran, I find it does offend me to see someone act disrespectful to the national anthem or flag, especially as I get older. For the last 7 nights I’ve relived some of this on Ken Burns & Company’s excellent Vietnam series on PBS. Back then, the options in life such as exist today were limited; and you were going – it was just a matter of when and where. I wonder how Rocky Bleir feels about the Steelers anthem protest?

    Over the last year, at the ball parks in Baltimore & DC, I’ve found the patrons are, in fact, even more responsive during the playing of the national anthem. Fans in the concourse, out of sight of the playing field, now stand at attention, remove their hats, and face the TV monitors. All sales of concessions are halted. At Nationals Ballpark veterans are honored in the middle of the 4th inning every single home game. Everyone stands up and applauds them, including the players. This is the type of lesson the NFL needs to learn.

  6. John Glass

    Last paragraph, fourth sentence should read “At Nationals Ballpark military personnel are honored in the middle of the 4th inning at every single home game.” A number of fans have expressed their displeasure with various teams on You Tube. Here are two of them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zFfSylwTk4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zFfSylwTk4

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