No, because the same brain-scrambling that the president loves so much — attempts to make tackles even a little less bone-crunching are “ruining the game,” as he sees it — killed the glee for me some time ago. Yes, along with incident after incident of violence off the field, some of which may be linked to the battering that the players’ own bodies take.
That I’m cheering for anything the NFL does is about as surprising as watching the million-
dollar Trump donor who owns the Jacksonville Jaguars lock arms in solidarity with his protesting players on Sunday.
But what the players did this weekend is important. Vital, even.
Taking a knee was never about disrespecting the flag or the anthem or the country. Initially, it was a way to take a stand against racism and police brutality, and most of us are against that. (We are, right?)
After the president’s profane, anti-free speech tirade in Alabama, though, going down on one knee and other forms of silent protest during the anthem have come to mean that and more.
It’s standing up, still, against hatred and the abuse of power while also saluting our absolutely essential First Amendment right to free speech and peaceful protest.
Of course, the NFL owners are not incidentally standing up against a threat to their bottom line.
But just this once, I agree with them.
Because this isn’t black versus white or left versus right or flag versus football, either. (And I have little doubt that Trump supporters who are fans of the game will have no trouble continuing to love both their president and their pastime.)
No, this is a matter of rights versus no rights and ultimately, right versus wrong.
Trump’s move away from his stance as a sworn enemy of political correctness is quite a pirouette. Now, he’s actually advocating that those with whom we disagree politically should be fired, suspended and/or boycotted.
That’s not just a flip-flop for him, of the sort he makes every day, but is in such clear contrast to the freedom loving of both parties and of our country as a whole that come Monday, his most devoted fans are going to be exhausted from the exertion of cognitive dissonance.
I'm never going back to football, and understand less all the time what’s so entertaining about watching guys accumulate the kind of injuries that left 27-year-old Aaron Hernandez with the brain of an old man, and former Chiefs running back Larry Johnson suffering from the symptoms of degenerative brain disease.
If you care at all for the men who perform this public spectacle for your enjoyment, it seems cruel to complain, as Trump did in Alabama, that “today if you hit too hard — 15 yards! Throw him out of the game! They had that last week. I watched for a couple of minutes. Two guys, just really, beautiful tackle. Boom, 15 yards! The referee gets on television — his wife is sitting at home, she’s so proud of him. They’re ruining the game! They’re ruining the game. That’s what they want to do. They want to hit. They want to hit! It is hurting the game.”
No, what’s hurting the game is that football is a guiltier pleasure all the time. Trump has done the NFL a favor by at least temporarily distracting us from that fact, and making even the team owners look like the good guys for a change.
But I’m a little bit grateful to the president for inadvertently throwing into such sharp relief how basic free expression really is, and how much most of us appreciate it.