The game of Football is the United States’ foremost pastime sport. Football, one of America’s life standbys, is eroding. The National Football League (NFL) is imploding as it devolves into a political circus. Multimillionaire players refuse to stand for the national anthem, turning off millions of fans whose former loyalties paid their hefty salaries.
My say to these footballers:
Your high school years are not far behind you. Possibly your teenage years were a struggle. Possibly you grew up on what was coined ‘the wrong’ side of the tracks.’ Perhaps your father was never around and your mother was the bread winner, the leader of the family and she worked tirelessly to keep a roof over your head and food on your plate.
School academic studies may have been a struggle for you and your grades were mediocre at best. The thing that made you stand out is your weight, about 200lbs and you could run 40 yards in 42 seconds, while carrying a football.
Your best friend was possibly just like you, except, he didn’t play football. Instead of going to football practice after school, he went to help his family, he went to work at McDonalds, or a similar job, for a minimum wage.
Then came a change. You were recruited by a prominent college and you spent every weekend of your high-school senior year making visits to universities where coaches and boosters tried to convince you that their school – academics and football club – was the best. They laid out the red carpet for you to make their best impression on you. But your best friend continued to work, many times double shifts, at Mickey D’s. College was not an option for him.
On the day you signed up with the ‘Big State University,’ your best friend signed the paperwork with his Army recruiter.
You went to summer football workouts; your best friend went to military basic training.
You spent the next four years living in the athletic dorm, eating at the training table. You spent almost every Saturday on some football field, cheered on by adoring school and other fans. Academic tutors attended to your every academic hurdle and need. You attended class when you felt like it, not when you had an open hour of curiosity to learn and know more. Sure, you worked hard at lifting weights, running sprints, studying plays, and soon you became among the top college football players in the country. And your best friend was assigned to the Military 101st Airborne Division.
While you were in college, your best friend was deployed to war torn Iraq, once, and then to war torn Afghanistan, twice. He earned the rank of a Sergeant and led a squad of 19-year-old soldiers, who grew up just like he did, just like you did. He shed his blood in Afghanistan and watched young Americans make the ultimate sacrifice, fall in battle, and lose limbs and their innocence for the security of their country, United States.
You went to the NFL combine and scored off the charts. You hired an agent and waited for a draft day. Then you were drafted, in the first draft round and your agent immediately went to work for you, ensuring that you received the most money possible for your gamesmanship. You signed up for a $16 million contract, though you had never played a single down of professional football.
And your best friend, he re-enlisted in the Army for four more years and as a combat tested sergeant, he will be paid the salary of $32,000 per year.
Soon you began driving a Ferrari or Bentley and show off. Your best friend rides in the back of a Blackhawk helicopter with 10 other loaded combat soldiers. You sleep at the Ritz or the Hilton while your best friend digs a trench in the ground and tries to kind of sleep there. You will “make it rain” in the club, he will pray for rain as the temperature where he is stationed reaches 120 degrees.
On a Sunday you will run into a stadium as tens of thousands of fans cheer and yell your name. For your best friend, there is little difference between Sunday and any other day of the week. For him there are no adoring fans, there are only people trying to kill him and his unit of soldiers. Every now and then, he and his soldiers leave the front line and “go to the rear” to rest. He might be lucky enough to catch an NFL game on a small TV screen.
When the National Anthem is playing and you take a knee, your best friend jumps to his feet and salutes the flag on the television screen. While you protest the unfairness of life in the United States, your best friend gives thanks to G-d that he has the honor of defending his great country.
So, to the players of the NFL: We are the people who buy tickets to your game, watch you play on TV, and wear your jerseys. We anxiously wait for Sundays so we can cheer for you and marvel at your athleticism. We, the people, pay your sky-high salaries!
Although we love to watch you play, we care little about your political and other opinions unless you offend us, offend our country, as you have with your keeling while our national anthem is played.
Yes, you have the absolute right to express yourselves, even in the most insulting way to us; but we have the absolute right to take action against you and your behavior. We have tolerated your drug use and DUIs, your domestic violence, and your vulgar displays of wealth. We should be ashamed of putting up with you, ashamed of our adulation of your physical skills before what is morally right.
But now you have gone way, way too far. You have insulted our national flag, our national anthem, our country, our soldiers who defend us, our police officers, and our veterans; you insulted every single value which we hold to so dearly.
You are living the American dream, yet you disparage our great country that allowed you have that dream.
I will not support people or organizations that show such disrespect to our country. I am done with NFL football. I don’t presume to speak for other Americans, but I suspect many others feel the same.
You have the right to be disrespectful. Just don’t expect me to pay you to do it.