OPINION | Barry Richard: NFL Gets Tough on Kneelers…Sort Of
So the NFL is clamping down on players and staff who disrespect the national anthem and the American flag. Well, sort of, anyway.
Team owners, sick of losing revenue and their fan base over spoiled and sanctimonious players who would rather kneel while the anthem is played, have reluctantly voted to support a new policy imposing fines against any team or league employee if they fail to stand for the anthem. But they've also voted to change the rules to allow the players to remain in the locker room until after the anthem is played.
President Trump, whose sharp criticism of players who knelt for the anthem last year resulted in the new policy, tells Fox and Friends he believes that all players should stand for the national anthem.
The players union has already blasted the new rules, and the owners are scrambling for cover.
I sense the new policy is going to backfire on the league. I envision entire teams missing from the sidelines while the anthem is played. Unless, of course, the league passes another rule that prohibits the networks from broadcasting the playing of the anthem. Either would be disastrous P.R. for the already beleaguered NFL.
Look, I'm a First Amendment guy. I support free speech. Players have a right to speak out against what they perceive as injustice and to protest, should they chose. But I also have a right not to agree with their tactics, and to protest by changing the channel. If your right to free speech is protected, well, so is my right to free choice.
Most Americans believe it is offensive to kneel during the national anthem. If the NFL, a private business, allows its players to offend the customer base, then they have to be prepared to accept pushback from that base.
And as a private business, the NFL has a right to ban all forms of on-the-job protest. If the owners had any guts, that's what they would have done.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.