Here’s insight and a good idea, conveyed to me by e-mail, from my long-time and very wise correspondent Warren Smith (shared here with his kind permission):
When I go to Walmart no one on the staff “takes a knee” before stocking a shelf or selling a product.
Neither does this happen at Home Depot or McDonald’s or anywhere else that I spend my money. Of course, none of these businesses pipe the national anthem into their stores.
My entertainment dollar is no different than my grocery dollar.
If the fans object to being asked to sacrifice their leisure time with political issues or to the players “taking a knee”, then maybe the sports venues should simply stop playing the national anthem rather than ask the players to choke down their voicing of their conscience.
Someone else wrote to me earlier today expressing disgust with protesting NFL players. This other person said that he just wishes that they’d “take it off the field.” I’m sympathetic. I generally dislike people who I pay for entertainment to mix politics into their acts. Their politics are typically juvenile, and expressing political opinions is not what I pay to watch them do. (When I want to expose myself to juvenile politics, I read the editorial pages of major American newspapers.) The trouble is, the NFL (like each of almost all other sports purveyors in the U.S.) has for as long as I can remember – and I went, as a nine-year-old, to my first NFL game on September 17, 1967 – insisted on playing the national anthem before the start of each of its games.
I really like the idea of ending once and for all the ritual pre-game skin-crawling homage to the state.