A Sporting Chance

“I hate all sports as rabidly as a person who likes sports hates common sense.” ~ H. L. Mencken

“In response to the challenge of strangers, sport arose as a sublimated representation of a community’s armed might as well as its pride of place and clan.” ~ John Thorn

To some, a community’s pride of place and clan is everything. Know who you are and be proud of it. Be proud of your people – be proud of your hometown football team – and then some fool packs up and leaves for the big city, or for Paris, never to return. Another marries outside the religion, or even worse, outside the race – either way, outside the clan. They stop cheering for the Steelers or whatever. They’re idiots. Idiot literally means a “private person” – from the Greek idios – “one’s own” and only one’s own. They’ve left the clan – but H. L. Mencken is impressed with the common sense of such folks. If sport arose as a sublimated representation of a community’s armed might as well as its pride of place and clan, all sports are hogwash. Or all sports are about something else – something dark and irrational – armed might and the clan.

Sometimes that’s blatant, as Allegra Kirkland notes here:

Color guard displays, enlistment ceremonies, military appreciation nights: These were among the many displays of “paid patriotism” that NFL teams once regularly carried out as part of lucrative contracts with the U.S. Defense Department.

She explains it all. It seems that taxpayers paid each team over five million dollars a year for that – sweet free money for years – but she notes that the business with the national anthem is a bit more complicated. Before 2009, players were in the locker room for that. They ran out, to big cheers, after all that patriotic stuff was over. That wasn’t football. That was something else. Everyone understood that. One team was called the Patriots, but they weren’t. They were football players.

What changed? It wasn’t the money – the DOD said they didn’t ask for that change – they weren’t paying for that – and there never was any NFL rule about the players standing for the anthem. And the DOD is not paying for anything now. John McCain and a few others put an end to “paid patriotism” – McCain said he preferred the real thing. But remember, Donald Trump said that John McCain is no hero at all – he never was. It’s all quite complicated.

It’s also quite normal now too. Americans have their Olympics clan-chant – USA! USA! USA!

Everyone understands what that means. “We” will humiliate those other guys. Americans cheer for the clan, not the individual athletes, and Donald Trump tapped into that. America would always win. No nation would ever humiliate America ever again, even if none really had. He said they had, and starting with Mexico, we’d humiliate them all – and starting with Little Marco and Lyin’ Ted, and moving on to Crooked Hillary, he humiliated anyone who disagreed with him about anything at all. His tweets destroyed them. He was a winner. We’d all be winners, again, finally. He’d make America great again.

That hasn’t worked out. Things are falling apart. Nothing is getting done. Donald Trump is picking fights with Republican allies he needs in Congress and with his own cabinet – guys like Jeff Sessions and Rex Tillerson, guys he appointed and now regularly and publicly insults – and one by one, our foreign allies shrug and walk away. The United States is now far less important than before. They’ll do what they can for their own countries, on their own. They’ll work their own trade deals with Asia, and everyone else. They’ll work with Iran on that nuclear business, to keep everyone safe. They don’t need us for that – and the Paris climate accord will be fine – they’ll work with individual states over here on such things. Let Trump be Trump. They have other things to do.

This has put Donald Trump in an awkward position. The “clan” needs a win. So, is there a contest, with a big prize, for the person who accurately predicts the exact date and time of the Trump Tweet™ where he calls for the NFL to ban all black players and make professional football an all-white sport, with no whiners? If not, why not? Contests are fun. And what about the exact date and time of the one where he calls for that to extend to all sports? And what about the exact date and time of the one where calls for legislation to make all of this into law? There should be a prize for nailing the exact date and time, to the second, of these three things. The “Klan” needs a win. That may seem farfetched, but these back football players, kneeling on one knee for the anthem, in attitude of prayer, to protest the constant string of the deaths of unarmed young black men at the hands of the police, are insulting the clan, and the military too – the community’s armed might as well as its pride of place and clan. They are “idiots” in the original sense of the word. And they are whiners.

Trump is working on that:

Up early Tuesday morning, President Donald Trump fired off several tweets referring to his ongoing feud with NFL players protesting during the national anthem.

Trump escalated his tiff with the football league by suggesting the government nix the NFL’s tax breaks – “Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!”

There’s only one problem with that:

The NFL gave up its tax exempt status in 2015, leaving it unclear which tax breaks Trump would be looking to eliminate. The league does see tax breaks when building stadiums, but those are granted by local governments, not the federal government.

Oops. This president is not a well-informed man, or even an informed man – no surprise there – but the clan (and the Klan) will forgive him, because he heart was in the right place:

Monday night, Trump defended Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who said recently that he would not allow any player who kneels during the national anthem to play – “A big salute to Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, who will BENCH players who disrespect our Flag – Stand for Anthem or sit for game!”

Trump’s renewed interest in the NFL and players’ protests came after Vice President Mike Pence walked out on a football game over the weekend when players kneeled for the national anthem.

Jerry Jones is taking a risk with this. Imagine all his black players getting together and deciding to kneel for the anthem at the next game. That would be a cool challenge. Do you really want to field an all-white team, do you, Jerry? Good luck with that. This could escalate.

It has escalated:

The NAACP is furious with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones – claiming his comments about sitting players who “disrespect the flag” are tone-deaf and misinformed.

Tony Covington – a former NFL safety who’s now an executive with the NAACP – issued a statement on behalf of the organization blasting Jones.

“Jerry Jones’ comments are more than tone-deaf, more than misinformed and misguided – they are a public commitment by an NFL owner to violate his players’ Constitutional right to free speech – one of the principles on which our nation was founded.”

Covington continued… “They are proof that athletes like Colin Kaepernick who have quietly and peacefully used their platform to protest violence against communities of color do so at their own peril.”

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People says it has reached out to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for a private meeting “in order to determine how he can best protect his players.”

“We hope that he will work with us and the Players’ Association to forge this critical path forward.”

The idea here is that the right to free speech is one of the principles on which that nation was founded, a basic thing that defines the American “clan” – so Jerry Jones is the “idiot” here – the odd man out.

But it got worse for Jones:

Local 100 of the United Labor Unions filed a complaint against the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday, alleging owner and general manager Jerry Jones has violated the National Labor Relations Act by threatening players if they choose not to stand for the national anthem.

Jones said earlier this week if a player “disrespects the flag” and national anthem by not standing, then the player will not play.

According to the filing to the National Labor Relations Board, “the employer, evidenced by repeated public statements, is attempting to threaten, coerce and intimidate all Dallas Cowboys players on the roster in order to prevent them from exercising concerted activity protected under the act by saying that he will fire any players involved in such concerted activity.”

This did escalate:

Jones has said players will not play, not that they would be fired, if they do not stand for the anthem, but Wade Rathke, Local 100’s chief organizer, said that is a “distinction without difference when it comes to the law.”

“You can’t discipline somebody for something that is a right they have under the law, whether that discipline is termination or benching or giving a slap on the wrist or writing up in their files they’ve been a bad boy,” Rathke said. “That’s just not what they can do when it comes to concerted activities. I know in the modern age people think workers shouldn’t have rights, but they still do. This union was offended by those comments. Mr. Jones just got carried away being a rich guy and there’s no laws he has to respect.”

According to Rathke, the NLRB will assign a field agent to investigate the claim and if there is a determination that there is a violation of the act it will go to trial if no settlement is reached.

And then it got even more interesting:

According to the NFL’s game manual, players are not required to stand for the anthem; however, it is written that they “should” stand at attention.

On Tuesday, Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to NFL teams expressing a belief that “everyone should stand for the national anthem” and that the dispute surrounding the issue is “threatening to erode the unifying power of our game.” He spoke of a plan that will be reviewed with the teams at next week’s league meeting, which would “include such elements as an in-season platform to promote the work of our players on these core issues.”

That might not fly. Those players might not want to be good little boys, not on the issue of all the dead unarmed black kids, and there was this:

When asked if he would really sit a player like Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Dez Bryant, Jones initially deferred.

“The policy and my actions are going to be that if you’re not honoring, standing for the flag in a way that a lot of our fans feel that you should, if that’s not the case, then you won’t play,” Jones said, noting that his stance is “nothing new.” He added, “As far as whether or not I will basically institute or basically do what I said, I just would say that the implication that we’re not respecting the flag is just not going to be accepted and so I would just ask anybody to look at my record relative to what I say I’m going to do and you go from there.”

What did he just say? Who knows? Maybe that was the point, but there was this from the Dallas Morning News:

Jones can legally outline policies and procedures for his employees, according to local attorney Chad Baruch, a First Amendment expert who focuses on constitutional and appellate law.

“He’s a private employer, so he’s free to make any rules he wants that infringe on free speech,” Baruch said. “He’s totally unconstrained legally. The First Amendment protects your right to have opinions against government intrusion, not to exercise that right at work.”

Fine, but the Washington Post’s Cindy Boren adds this:

Perhaps Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys owner who has forbidden his players from doing anything but standing during the national anthem under penalty of benching, should give Tony Dungy a call.

Dungy – the Hall of Fame coach – directed a bit of advice toward Jones about trying to squash protests in a tweet Monday night after Jones told ESPN that his players would be benched if they did not stand for the national anthem. Dungy’s point? Protesters, not the establishment, decide when a protest ends.

“Why would he think the controversy would go away when in the players’ minds the same issues are still there?” Dungy wrote.

And there are new issues too:

Last month, Dungy spoke up for players who had taken a knee or linked arms in their attempt to make a statement about racial injustice, defending their First Amendment rights after Trump stirred up a storm that unified players by calling anyone who protests a “son of a bitch” who should be suspended or fired. In a “Today” show interview, Dungy said that he thought the demonstrations of Sept. 24 were about freedom of speech, and about Trump’s remarks.

“Up until yesterday, the players would want people to know this was not about the flag,” he said. “This was not about patriotism. In their opinion, it was about social change. A group of our family got attacked and called names and said they were unpatriotic and should be fired for what we feel is demonstrating our First Amendment right. We’re going to band together as a family, and they reacted.

“You had people who hadn’t been in this movement now saying, ‘I’m going to side with my teammates.'”

Damontre Moore and David Irving of the Cowboys raised their fists at the end of the national anthem Sunday, but Coach Jason Garrett said Monday that they would not be disciplined.

The owner’s head coach let that pass. Perhaps Jerry Jones should fire him – or something – but there is that other famous football coach:

In a radio interview Monday, Mike Ditka was asked his opinion on NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem, and the legendary player and coach painted a pretty rosy picture of the world in response.

“I don’t know what social injustices there’ve been,” Ditka told Jim Gray on Westwood One before “Monday Night Football.”

Ditka stated that folks need to be “colorblind” and not judge people by the color of their skin. And apparently he thinks everyone has been doing a pretty good job of that.

“All of the sudden it’s become a big deal now about oppression,” he said. “There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of. Now maybe I’m not watching as carefully as other people. I think the opportunity is there for everybody – race, religion, creed, color, nationality. If you want to work, if you want to try, if you want to put effort in, I think you can accomplish anything.”

He’s not as carefully watching as other people, but he is fine with Jerry Jones:

Ditka said he would institute similar rules if he were in such a position. “If you don’t respect our country, then you shouldn’t be in this country playing football. Go to another country and play football.”

So said the white man, who says those black folks have nothing to complain about and should stop whining. America, love it or leave it. If you’re not part of the clan, and proud of it, get the hell out. No one wants you here anyway. They do play football in Canada. It’s the late sixties all over again.

Or maybe it isn’t:

Most Americans disagree with President Donald Trump that football players should be fired for kneeling in protest during the national anthem, but a majority also would prefer that the players stand during the song.

The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll finds that 57 percent of Americans don’t think the National Football League should fire players who kneel during the anthem as a protest against racial injustice and police brutality toward African Americans. This includes 61 percent of NFL fans who watch at least a few games each season.

Those guys should stand, but this is no big deal, except that there are clans within clans:

Eighty-two percent of Democrats and 29 percent of Republicans disagree with the president about firing the football players.

It all depends on who you ask:

Eighty-five percent of Americans told Reuters/Ipsos they almost always “stand in silence” when “The Star Spangled Banner” is played at a public event they are attending. Fifty-eight percent say “professional athletes should be required to stand during the national anthem at sporting events.” But most say such athletes shouldn’t be fired if they refuse to stand, and 53 percent say it’s not appropriate for the president to comment on “how the NFL and its players conduct themselves during the national anthem.”

Democratic pollster Mark Penn, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton, told Fox News, “There’s kind of a standoff on this thing,” with many Americans opposed to the protests during the national anthem but at the same time opposed to firing the protesting athletes as Trump suggested. “The country can’t take more division like this,” Penn said, adding that most Americans want bipartisanship and cooperation.

The general consensus is that it’s not appropriate for the president to comment on how the NFL and its players conduct themselves during the national anthem – because it really doesn’t matter much – but things are falling apart. Nothing is getting done. Donald Trump is picking fights with everyone in sight and our foreign allies shrug and walk away. Donald Trump is in a bind. The “clan” needs a win. He really may call for the NFL to ban all black players and make professional football an all-white sport, with no whiners – but it seems Americans define the “American clan” a bit more broadly than he does. Those who protest the constant string of the deaths of unarmed young black men at the hands of the police are part of the clan too. Only the Klan is upset, but that’s another matter.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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