Some of you may remember my column from a few months ago about comedian Kathy Griffin, who created a gory scene by holding up a bloody head resembling that of President Donald Trump.
I mentioned that our Founders knew that to protect us all from government censored speech, they had to protect people like Griffin. But, while the First Amendment protects the freedom of speech, it does not provide for the freedom from consequences of our speech.
Griffin is still dealing with verbal attacks, loss of lucrative endorsements, and being disinvited to speaking events. These consequences were logically expected.
However, her one display of defining the phrase “lack of class” pales in comparison to some football players, owners, and employees of the teams in the National Football League (NFL). The public acts of disrespect toward our National Anthem, flag, military forces, men and women of all races and our entire society began over a year when a reserve quarterback decided to further divide a nation in desperate need of healing.
He refused to stand for the National Anthem before the San Francisco 49ers started one of their games. He remained on the bench, where he stayed during the entire game and has been ever since.
Now, his act has been copied by many others in the NFL. None of these protesters seem to care about how their behavior hurts their fellow NFL players who were raised to honor our flag and are disgusted by these protests. The protesters and non-protesters will share the same fate as anyone financially associated with the NFL.
Just as with the quarterback, other NFL owners, players, and employees have the right to
freedom of speech under the First Amendment to the Constitution. Here, action or inaction, is speech.
As Americans, we are fortunate that our Founding Fathers provided for the First
Amendment. Without it, we would be without a freedom that is necessary for a free society to thrive.
But, as Sun Tzu taught over 2,000 years ago, consequences of engagement must be assessed before action is taken. “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”
I am not saying that any of these protesters are warriors. I am saying that they are already
The NFL is a business. Businesses must have customers – or fans – to survive. When a business seriously offends a substantial portion of their customers, the business suffers from reduced profits, losses, and sometimes collapse.
According to the Sporting News, 33 percent of NFL TV viewers are boycotting games because of these “protests.” Today, the NFL’s television ratings are down across the board. The drop in ratings and viewership is unprecedented in recent years and has occurred during the protest of the National Anthem.
But, the dwindling fan base is not a boycott. Boycotts are short term refusals to buy something or engage in activity because of a temporary issue or ultimatum. (Ex. U.S. boycott of Soviet Olympics in 1980).
The actions by some in the NFL will have a permanent effect because such brazen and disrespectful acts against the entire country are so offensive to the vast majority of
Americans that even the biggest football fans, like me, will never watch or go to another game again. The NFL, which I have watched since I could sit on my father’s knee, is now dead to me.
According to Forbes, the NFL will take in roughly $4.6 billion in television fees from major
media outlets that it will equally share with its 32 teams this year. The NFL commands this
amount because advertisers will pay for football’s huge ratings.
The television money is a big reason why the average NFL team is worth $2.34 billion and the average NFL player earns $2.1 million. Those numbers will never be seen again.
By some people exercising their First Amendment rights in such a manner, the teams, owners, staff, coaches and players, regardless of whether they participated, will see their income decline for a very long time. If there is one thing that brings almost all Americans together, regardless of the things that divide us, it is the anthem and flag of this Constitutional Republic.
The NFL is not bigger than America. And, Americans do not forget.
Jason Swindle is a criminal-defense attorney and college professor in Carrollton.