The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

NFL Attempts to Limit Players Right to Protest

May 28, 2018

The NFL came out with a new policy regarding players’ protests during the pre-game playing of the national anthem. It ruled players who are on the field will be fined if they refuse to stand during the anthem. It says they can stay in the locker room if they so choose.

The protests began when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first sat and later knelt on one knee during the anthem in protest against police brutality. His teammate Eric Reid and others around the league took up Kaepernick’s example. San Francisco dropped both Kaepernick and Reid from its roster and both remain out of the league. There are clearly quarterbacks in the league vastly inferior to Kaepernick, who has courageously remained steadfast in his convictions. Both he and Reid filed collusion grievances with their union, but they thus far remain unresolved.

The league claims it is responding to fans upset because they view the players’s protests as disrespectful to the national anthem, the flag and to military veterans and this has caused the league to lose TV viewership.

Says who? How do they know people haven’t stopped watching because they are upset with the league and the owners treatment of the players?

There clearly are some soldiers who find the players’ protest disrespectful. Donald Trump seized on the NFL announcement to make another disgusting, reactionary comment that “You have to stand for the national anthem, or you shouldn’t be playing. ... Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.

Clearly, however, not all veterans share such views. A recent poll of 8,000 service members and veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan found 62 percent supported NFL players’ right to peacefully protest during games.

The league’s claim to stand on patriotism rings hollow. As ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith pointed out,“Until 2009, no NFL player stood for the national anthem because players actually stayed in the locker room as the anthem played. The players were moved to the field during the national anthem because it was seen as a marketing strategy to make the athletes look more patriotic.”

That changed when the Department of Defense began paying the NFL for “paid tributes” like on-field color guards and full-field flag details. The NFL received 12 million dollars from 2011 to 2015 from the DOD.

The players have every right to protest, however they choose. They will have to decide how to respond to the new NFL directive. They stand in a long line of athletes who have spoken out politically.

Workers, including veterans, have every reason to support their fight. We should remember, borders serve the interests of the wealthy ruling class, who send us to fight other poor and working class people from other countries for their benefit, not ours.