There is a simple reason why Americans are so reluctant to take sides in the national anthem debate between President Donald J. Trump (R-New York) and NFL players – both sides are clearly wrong.
The players were wrong for turning the anthem performance into a cheap political theater. They took a song that should bring Americans together and made it into an instrument of political division.
The players’ hearts are certainly in the right place and the issues they are protesting are certainly legitimate. Yet a football game is neither the time nor the place to debate or raise such matters.
Simply raising anger and generating publicity will not end police shootings or reduce racism. A good case can be made that the players’ actions make racism worse; and enable and empower racists like Trump, while turning white and black Americans against each other.
Trump is enabling the NFL Players
Trump’s use of the anthem “controversy” to divert the media and his followers from his obvious failure as President is even more disgusting. Wasting taxpayers’ money on a cheap publicity stunt; namely, Vice President Mike Pence (R-Indiana) Colts game walkout, is even worse.
What’s most ironic is that Trump is justifying the players’ egoistical performance and guaranteeing more such theater by calling attention to it. The President is enabling the players’ behavior and ensuring that we will see more such nonsense in the future.
If Trump really cared about football and opposed the players he would simply shut his mouth and ignore them. The political theater would quickly end if it lacked an audience.
The NFL Players are just as bad as Trump
The worst part of this controversy is that the players are just as hypocritical as Trump.
Has a single kneeling player announced plans to donate all or most of his salary to poor African Americans in the ghetto? Have any of them given up their Porsches, country club memberships, supermodel girlfriends, Vegas vacations, luxury condos, and strip-club antics to help poor African Americans? Have any of them actually taken time out from golf to campaign for Democratic politicians, donated money to Trump’s opponents, attended a Black Lives Matter Rally, or tried to register young African Americans to vote?
Instead by kneeling for a seconds before the game the players can ease their consciences while enjoying a life of luxury and privilege far beyond what most Americans will ever achieve. Just like Trump they live in luxury, probably cheat on their taxes, shirk the basic responsibilities of citizenship, and make a mockery of American ideals.
Just as Trump thinks he can make up for a life of crooked business deals, racism, draft-dodging, abuse of women, scams, frauds, political corruption, philandering, and unearned privilege with a few years of “public service.” The players are easing their consciences by kneeling for a few seconds.
The Real Problem is Celebrity Culture
The real problem here is neither Trump nor the National Football League. It is celebrity culture; the imbecilic media-driven glorification of colorful larger than life figures simply to generate a few advertising dollars or sell a few products.
Trump and the NFL players are not to blame for celebrity culture they are simply the logical and inevitable results of it. Indeed a good case can be made that Trump and the players are victims of celebrity culture. The players are destroying their bodies and health on the field for a few seasons of fame and glory, just as Trump is destroying his family business; what little remains of his reputation, and quite probably his health and family life, for a few years of fame and glory in the Oval Office.
Americans need to take a hard look at celebrity culture and the media that feeds it and figure out ways to tone it down or destroy it. An obvious one is to simply ignore the celebrity culture, as the vast majority of Americans seem to be doing.
Turn off the TV or change the channel the second a Trump soundbite, reality show, or NFL game comes on. It is the only message big media will understand. The NFL’s falling ratings should send the corporate overlords that control the media a clear message that Americans are sick of celebrity culture and political theater and are tuning it out.
Another is to stop voting for shallow celebrity politicians such as Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton. Hillary’s only qualification for office is her celebrity status; which is even shallower than Trump’s – she is only famous because of her husband. Hopefully, Democrats learned that lesson from the last election.
Next time a celebrity egomaniac like Duane Johnson or Al Franken announces a candidacy simply refuse to support it. If necessary, vote for the other party to send the political class a clear message that you no longer tolerate such childish theater.
The Corrupt Celebrity Culture is Evil and must be destroyed
If we cannot get rid of celebrity culture the damage to our democracy and social fabric will be vast and potentially irreparable. Celebrity culture is evil because it can transform positive aspects of public life; such as the national anthem, into toxic egotism that turns people against each other.
Finally, there is a way that the NFL can end this controversy quickly. It can simply eliminate the national anthem from the games. There is no reason to perform the anthem at a football game beyond shallow tradition. If there is no anthem there is no backdrop for political theater.
That move would be unpopular but if Americans are unwilling to treat The Star Spangled Banner in a reverent manner eliminating its performance should be considered. Taking the lead in depoliticizing sports would be a good way for the NFL to start detoxifying the corrupt celebrity culture that is destroying our public life, and win back some of its fans.