Free Speech and the NFL

Did you boycott the National Football League (NFL) this season? Yeah, so did I. Did you fudge a little and watch the Super Bowl? Neither did I. In fact, I didn’t know the winner of the Super Bowl game (Philadelphia Eagles) until sometime Tuesday morning when the mainstream media and Shepard Smith began speculating on how many of the NFL players would refuse to attend the White House should President Donald Trump extend an invitation. (In today’s world idle speculation fills ninety percent of the news day because the media is too damn lazy to actually gather facts.)

At any rate I found that I did not miss professional football at all. And so liberating was the experience that I have extended it to the Emmy’s, the Oscar’s, the Golden Globe’s, the American Music Awards, and all the rest of the awards honoring overpaid underachievers who believe the American public is holding its collective breath waiting for their political thoughts and commentary. But let’s not write this off without understanding that what is going on is really quite a teachable moment – a teachable moment that those who insist on lecturing us without living the results will never themselves understand.

Let’s use the NFL experience because it easily translates into all of the other venues. According to Forbes the average NFL player made approximately $1.9 Million in 2017. According to the NFL Players Association, the average career in the NFL is 3.3 years over which they will make approximately $6.27 Million. (In contrast, the average Joe who watches the NFL and buys the products that sponsor the NFL makes about $1.1 Million in a lifetime – $1.8 Million if you have a college degree). Colin Kaepernick, a benched quarterback for the San Francisco 49’ers decided to protest “police brutality” by first sitting at the end of the bench during the playing of the national anthem and then, in order to achieve more visibility, kneeling. Other players throughout the league began to join in although it is difficult to tell whether their protests were for the same purpose as Mr. Kaepernick – or for any purpose at all.

Mr. Kaepernick, and for that matter any of those joining him, could have called a press conference, rented a venue or stood on a street corner to voice their protests where they were pretty much assured that no one would attend. Instead they chose to use nationally televised football games where someone else is footing the bill. That is a cheap trick seemingly being used by the liberal/progressive movement with greater frequency. There was an uproar fueled by the media and taken up immediately by Democrats everywhere – most of whom wouldn’t know a nickel back from a cheese steak. The furor then resulted in a boycott of the NFL in both game attendance and television viewing.

That sets the stage for the teachable moment. Mr. Kaepernick and the other highly paid football players have every right to protest even if they have never experienced “police brutality.” It is their right guaranteed under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. It is of no consequence whether their protests are factually accurate or not. It is also of no consequence whether you agree with them or not – it is their right, not yours.

However, it is not their “right” to use nationally televised football games to stage their protests. That right belongs to the NFL and its member teams who could have blocked the protests by enforcing their contractual rights with the players. The NFL declined to do so, that is their right. The individual teams reacted differently as is their right – some required protesters to remain in the locker room until after the playing of the National Anthem while others did nothing.

There are secondary rights also. The broadcast networks could have refused to carry the games or blacked out the protests. However, controversy fuels the media and they not only showed the protests, they highlighted them – including on-field interviews with the participants. That is their right. It is not your right and it is not the right of their advertisers. It is theirs alone.

The NFL advertisers also have a right to refuse to continue advertising and by osmosis be deemed to support the protests. Rather than bar the broadcasts, they can refuse to participate. Some did, most did not. That is their right. It is not your right, it is theirs alone.

Consumers – those buying the products of those whom advertise and those watching the games – have the right to decline watching or buying. That is their right alone. As much as liberal/progressives would like to force participation, they cannot. The right to Free Speech includes the right to not listen, to not participate and even to counterprotest.

In this instance everything worked precisely as envisioned by the drafters of the Constitution. Everyone exercised their rights AND as a result, everyone suffered the consequences of their exercise. The football players protested and, in turn, were supported by some and shunned by others.

The NFL declined to exercise its right to ban the on the field protests and they suffered damage to an already tarnished reputation and the loss of sponsors, ticket holders and viewers, but on the other hand they probably avoided a labor dispute with the players.

The networks declined to exercise their right to refuse to carry the protests and they suffered further damage to their reputations as a biased media, and lost viewers which in turn reduced the revenue from advertisers which is based on the number of viewers.

There is no specific information on the impact on advertisers at this time but it is doubtful that there was much impact on those who continued to endorse the NFL or those who withdrew their support.

And finally, and most importantly, customers (viewers and attendees) made a choice between their fondness for football and their disdain for the cheap shot tactics of the protesting players – both were probably satisfied with their choices.

For me the choice was easy. I am tired of politics intruding on every aspect of life. (Just recently some nitwits on Staten Island cancelled the annual father-daughter dance because it might “discriminate” against those confused by their gender identity.) I’m tired of watching multi-millionaire athletes, television twits and dumb-as-a-bag-of-hammers actors/actresses bloviate about things they will never experience because their wealth has allowed them to live in a cocoon – safe from the reality of what they wish others to do.

But just as importantly, I found that I didn’t miss NFL football at all – nor the Emmy’s, the Oscar’s, the Golden Globe’s, the American Music Awards nor all the rest of the awards and events that have abandoned their original purpose to lecture us on how we should act, think, and believe. I have more time to enjoy life without listening to the din of people inclined to talk more and know less. And, more importantly, I have found there are more things to talk about than sports statistics, fashion wear, and the trials and travails of low-lives like the Kardashians, etc.

Pick your boycott – even if it is this column – your life will be better.