Donald Trump is wrong about the NFL. He’s been wrong about much of everything in his first months as president.
That’s not likely a surprise to anyone, minus, maybe his supporters.
But for just a moment I want to take a look at the fight between the NFL and Donald Trump because I think it informs a lot of the challenges that we are dealing with as a country right now and as a society.
Donald Trump is wrong when he says that the players are protesting against America and that the players should not be protesting on company time.
I’m not going to get into the merits of either side of the argument on the specifics except to say that the protests started by one player as a way to protest the continued occurrence of police using excessive force against black people around the country with no repercussions, in most cases not even a slap on the wrist.
That’s just a fact.
The NFL’s attendance and ratings have been in decline for several seasons. So to claim that the two are linked, that’s wrong.
So for Donald Trump to make the connection is wrong.
In the short term, you are likely to get a little fluctuation one way or the other on either side. That’s possible in any situation.
Again, Donald Trump is wrong about the NFL and the players.
He’s wrong for a few reasons that also frame the challenges we are dealing with in the United States right now.
- Corporations have to be social institutions: This is probably the most important thing to remember and it is probably more important than ever before. But our corporations are our biggest and most powerful social institutions and they gain power each day. As our culture has become more dissected and less connected on a community level, the corporation has filled in as the place people get together. That makes the work place and the job more important than ever, but it also means that corporations can’t just take a pass at social issues. They have a responsibility to take social responsibility and speak out if something doesn’t reflect the values of their employees and their worldview.
- The First Amendment is the most powerful declaration of who we are: To say that it only applies when it is convenient is BS. The First Amendment is so powerful because of the actions that the NFL players took this weekend and that Colin Kaepernick was taking before anyone noticed. In truth, taking an uncomfortable stand makes the First Amendment even more powerful.
These two points are more important than ever and why Donald Trump is wrong because now as much as any time in our history, we need social institutions and communities. If we have to go to a sporting event to get them, that’s great. I remember very fondly going to Seattle Supersonics games in the early 2000s and losing my mind with all the people around me and having them support me when my dad was sick.
The same way social institutions are important, the ability and need for people to call out the worst behaviors and hold our democracy accountable is needed now more than ever. It isn’t a partisan issue on either side, its simply the price of living in a civil society.
Which is the big reason that Donald Trump’s whole act is so disturbing. He’s ripping at the seams of our civil society and destroying the things that make us American.