Further Refinements to the NFL Anthem Policy

The National Football League recently announced a change in their rules regarding the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner,” that great paean to durable fabric. They understand the symbolic importance of standing and pretending to know the words to a song about a symbol. It’s symbolism: Singing a song that pays homage to a symbol symbolizes the singer’s love of symbols — and that’s something we all agree is the most important lesson we can teach our children. Anthem = Flag = United States of America = Mad Love & Respect.

Taking a knee or refusing to stand during the playing of our national anthem — and what a lovely little ditty it is, poetically evoking what democracy is all about — will no longer be tolerated. Players and teams who do not stand and show appropriate “respect” [insert your definition here]  — will be fined and penalized. The NFL believes protesting police brutality and systemic racism has its proper place (far away from the ball game). The main idea is to compel all team personnel, including black players who are statistically likely to know someone who has been unjustifiably hurt by officers of the law, to participate in the mass charade, when a stadium full of 50,000+ people who have zero idea of why we operate nearly 1,000 overseas military bases (or why we still have soldiers in Afghanistan) can pretend to “support the troops” and our exalted way of life.

Trust the owners. They’re true patriots. Although, sure, not many of them have a son or daughter who has ever seen active duty combat (or served in the military), NFL owners know more about the importance of “The Star Spangled Banner” than most. America has made them unfathomably rich. (Rich enough to give generously to military-related charities.) They’re the embodiment of the American Dream — which, don’t ever forget, encompasses freedom, liberty, equal rights and all the other stuff terrorists hate about us.

So when an owner, for example, Jerry Jones, proprietor of the Dallas Cowboys, says the new policy is meant to get the focus back on football (and not social justice issues), we should support him passionately, as though he were a troop. He’s so right: what does the anthem have to do with football anyway? What do professional athletic spectacles have to do with patriotism? Why are we wasting time singing when we can get right to large men injuring each other?

In the spirit of focusing on football instead of less important matters like income inequality or corporate welfare, we propose that any NFL player who refuses to crisply salute our National Heroes, meaning everyone wearing a badge, including parking enforcement officers and security guards, shall be assessed a 15-yard penalty on the opening kickoff. (It’s not a game-breaker, but it’s symbolic, and that’s the point.) Not knowing the words, all of them, even if you don’t know what some of them mean, will get you a 10-yard penalty. Five-yards if you sing them all but don’t fully agree with the consensus narrative.

The goal isn’t to stifle dissent; no one’s trying to abrogate anyone’s constitutional rights. We’re just working on getting every single American, no matter what their color or creed, even the ones that are most likely to be abused by police officers, to realize we’re all part of the same big team, the one called America. The country that the song about the flag is supposed to be about.


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