Here we go again with rich, spoiled athletes telling us it's our problem if we are offended by their disrespect of the American flag and the national anthem.

Members of the San Francisco Giants took a knee during a preseason game against the Oakland Athletics on Monday, generating a response from some fans on social media. A lot of folks simply don't like it and are sick and tired of the politicizing of our customs and traditions, and polluting professional sports with politics.

Fans expressed themselves on Major League Baseball's Twitter page. One fan named Jayson blasted the protest as "polarizing" and demanded that the MLB "keep politics out of baseball!" MLB tweeted back that "supporting human rights is not political."

Mike Grozier tweeted, "Kneeling for the National Anthem is showing complete lack of respect for our men and women fighting for your freedom." MLB responded, "It has never been about the military or the flag. The players and coaches are using their platforms to peacefully protest."

Protesting is as American as apple pie and the Boston Tea Party. But shoving your political beliefs down the throats of your fan base when they are clearly telling you they don't want to hear about it is offensive to many. Whether the MLB or NFL believe these protests "(have) never been about the military or the flag" doesn't matter if the fan base is offended.

If ballplayers want to kneel until the cows come home, they are certainly entitled to do so. But if they kneel while my national anthem is playing during the presentation of my flag, I have a right to be offended.

Americans have lived without sports for months now and many have discovered that it is possible to do so. The abbreviated baseball season begins this week with a lot of protest-weary sports fans looking beyond it. Many fans who look to sports as a means to escape all of this may reject it altogether if political grievances are allowed to permeate the games.

The popularity of baseball in America is on a downslide. The younger generations find the game too be too slow to be interesting. Antagonizing the fan base could be a crucial and costly error for the league.

The coronavirus has already killed ticket sales as games will be played before empty stadiums. And with bars still closed, television viewership will be down as well. MLB would be wise not to alienate those fans who might still be interested in following their favorite teams.

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 barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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