From The Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal:
Healthy democracies have ample room for politics but leave a larger space for civil society and culture that unites more than divides. With the politicization of the National Football League and the national anthem, the Divided States of America are exhibiting a very unhealthy level of polarization and mistrust.
The progressive forces of identity politics started this poisoning of America’s favorite spectator sport last year by making a hero of Colin Kaepernick for refusing to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” before games. They raised the stakes this year by turning him into a progressive martyr because no team had picked him up to play quarterback after he opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers.
The NFL is a meritocracy, and maybe coaches and general managers thought he wasn’t good enough for the divisions he might cause in a locker room or among fans. But the left said it was all about race and class.
President Trump was scathing in his condemnation of the millionaire athletes who publicly disrespect the American flag, saying Friday: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired.'”
So far, so good. It is quite reasonable for the president to express outrage — no doubt shared by many, if not most, Americans — at the blatant disrespect for the national anthem shown by those kneeling players.
But here’s the problem: “Trump never stops at reasonable, and so he called for kneeling players to be fired or suspended, and if the league didn’t comply for fans to ‘boycott’ the NFL.”
Talk about coercion.
Even so, players who “want to be politicians and use their fame to lecture other Americans,” are stretching to the limit the tolerance and goodwill of their fans — the ones who, above all, are patriotic Americans.
So when the fans stop showing up at the games, those same players will have only themselves to blame for bringing politics into sport — and thus bringing sport as well as themselves, into disrepute.