Patriotism in the Age of Trump

By David Paitsel

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a column to decry the NFL’s descent into drama and politics.  I hate to revisit the same topic so soon, but the events of the weekend leave me compelled to pen a follow up.

Prior to Trump’s campaign rally in Alabama last Friday,  the Colin Kaepernick controversy had largely dissipated.  Sure, a few sports  journalists were bellyaching over the ex-49er’s failure to find a spot on an NFL  team’s roster, but the rest of America (and the league) had moved on.

Kaepernick and a few others may have taken a knee during the national anthem to protest police violence and mistreatment of minorities, but Trump’s spittle-flecked rant targeted the entire league.  He had called the players “sons of bitches,” pressured owners to fire anyone who refused to stand, and exhorted fans to leave stadiums in protest.

Players erupted in anger, interpreting Trump’s diatribe not only as an attack on Kaepernick specifically, but more generally as an assault on the their freedom of speech.  Trump and his cheering supporters were telling them their rights ended at the stadium gates, and they should shut up or lose their jobs.  Even players who had never participated in Kaepernick’s protests felt they had to respond, and the coaches and owners had little choice but to back them.

So, on Sunday, players around the league protested Trump to reaffirm their rights as American citizens to speak their minds without the president using his bully pulpit to intimidate them.  Protests took different forms.  Some linked arms with owners and coaches during the anthem.  Some teams stayed in their locker rooms  Others followed Kaepernick’s example and took a knee, some with heads bowed and others with hands on their hearts.

In doing so, NFL players showed more appreciation for the principles our flag represents than the president.  They did more to honor the values so many sacrificed and died to protect.  They reminded us that freedom is under greatest threat not from foreign adversaries or immigrants, but from authoritarian impulses of officials in our own government.

Moreover, we should all recognized the supreme irony that it took Trump, an intellectually and temperamentally unfit demagogue who wraps himself in the flag, to transform an unpatriotic act like kneeling during the national anthem into a patriotic act of civil disobedience.

One comment

  1. The oaths taken by enlisted people and officers on entering any of the military branches have nothing to do with flags and respect for the people fighting and being killed in American wars. Like the oath taken by Trump last January, something completely different is involved. Here’s a link to the verbiage:

    http://www.history.army.mil/html/faq/oaths.html

    Yes, defense of the Constitution involves standing up for the 1st Amendment rights of the NFL players protesting the unequal treatment of African Americans by police, up to and including shooting of minorities during police stops. While one might argue this isn’t the best place to demonstrate that point, one can’t argue that the players can’t protest.

    Also, one can’t, as President of the United States of America, condemn the players for exercising their 1st Amendment rights and still be true to his oath taken (in front of a crowd smaller than the one at President Obama’s inauguration…) to become President because he, too, vows to defend the US Constitution: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

    Trump is not fit to be President when he regularly demonstrates he has no familiarity with the requirements of his office, as stated in the oath he took on January 20, 2017.

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