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Ron Martz: Players can kneel if they want; I’ll turn my back on NFL
League’s response to anthem protests is its latest example of hypocrisy driven by greed
10012017 NFL ANTHEM
Members of the Cleveland Browns take a knee during the national anthem before the Sept. 24 NFL game against the Indianapolis Colts in Indianapolis. (Michael Conroy) - photo by Associated Press

For the remainder of the football season I am going to kneel, lock arms with myself and turn my back on the National Football League.

Ron_Martz

I will kneel not in support of the protesting players, but in remembrance of my uncle Eugene Acker, who died at the age of 19 in World War II during the Battle of the Bulge so the players can protest.

I will kneel in remembrance of my boot camp buddy at Parris Island, S.C., Quinnen T. Chandler, Jr., “The Oklahoma Blackhawk,” who also was only 19 when he died in Vietnam so the players can protest.

And I will kneel in remembrance of my father, Louis H. Martz, who survived the Battle of the Bulge but came home with a head full of PTSD demons that haunted him until his death last month at age 96 so the players can protest.

As far as I am concerned, the players can do what they like and express themselves in any nonviolent manner they choose on any subject they choose, on or off the field.

They can twiddle their thumbs, pick their noses or scratch their nether regions during the playing of the national anthem if they like.

It’s their right as Americans to be disrespectful of the flag, the country, military personnel, police, firefighters and just plain old average Americans, most of whom recognize their country is not perfect but would like to work to make it a better place for everyone if they weren’t always trying to defend themselves against charges of racism, sexism, homophobia, imperialism, nationalism, ethnocentrism and whatever else you can pull out of your bag of “isms.”

Likewise, it is my right as an average American to express myself as a consumer and choose not to watch any of these protests or patronize any league sponsors because of their refusal to honor the sacrifices my family and friends have made so they have the freedom to do what they are doing.

I make this choice not because of the subject of the protests, but because of the incredible hypocrisy the NFL is demonstrating when it comes to protests of any sort.

That observation comes not from casual observation of the league but from seven of my 40 years in the newspaper business spent reporting on the NFL and seeing up-close its hypocrisy, which in recent years off the charts.

The NFL likes to portray itself as a loyal, patriotic corporate citizen of America. It is anything but.

It is a corporate tyrant that thinks nothing of bullying anyone or anything in its path and then trying to convince us whatever it does is for our own good and the good of all America.

When a team wants — but doesn’t necessary need — a new stadium the NFL and team owners think nothing of bullying local governments by threatening to leave town if they don’t get to suckle at the public tax teat for money to build that new stadium.

The Falcons are getting about $200 million in public financing through hotel/motel tax funds for the new Mercedes Benz Stadium. They made the city of Atlanta an offer it couldn’t refuse.

As for fans, if you want a season ticket for the Falcons you first are bullied into buying a personal seat license and then have to pay for game tickets on top of that.

If you’re a small business and want to try to latch on to the economic windfall the local team produces if it gets to the Super Bowl, the NFL is just waiting to see if you have the temerity to put your advertising the words “Super” and “Bowl” in proximity that it considers too close. Do that and a flock of NFL licensed lawyers will descend on you like the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz and haul your assets off to federal court.

The “Super Bowl” moniker is league property and you can’t have any of it unless you shell out big bucks.

The league is especially hypocritical when it comes to patriotism. In recent years all that patriotic, flag-waving hoopla before games has been a bought-and-paid-for sham.

According to Business Insider, the Pentagon paid 14 NFL teams $5.4 million dollars — more than $1 million went to Arthur Blank’s Atlanta Falcons — for pregame displays honoring troops.

That the Pentagon agreed to pay the money, supposedly as a recruiting tool, is another story. Or maybe it also got an offer from the NFL it couldn’t refuse.

But those payoffs demonstrates one immutable fact about the league: Its primary purpose is not to entertain the public but to make money.

The NFL is all about money, optics, money to enhance the optics, money and, well, money.

And it order to keep the money rolling in the league thinks nothing of bullying anyone or anything. It is especially good at bullying players who try to make low-key political statements.

Last year the No Fun League as some have dubbed it threatened to fine the Dallas Cowboys if they put stickers on their helmets supporting Dallas police after the murder of five officers who were providing security for a Black Lives Matter march.

The league also forbid teams from displaying anything on their helmets or uniforms commemorating the lives lost in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

When Sean Taylor of the Washington Redskins was killed by a burglar during a home invasion, teammate Ryan Clark saluted him by wearing Taylor’s No. 21 on his eye black during a game. The league fined him $5,000.

In 2013 Chicago Bears’ wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who suffers from a bipolar disorder, wore green shoes to commemorate National Mental Health Awareness Month. The league fined him $5,250.

DeAngelo Williams of the Pittsburgh Steelers tried to wear pink to commemorate the death of his mother from breast cancer but was denied by the league, even though teams spend much of October sporting pink gear in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Instead, Williams wrote: “Find the Cure” on his eye black. He was fined.

Yet the league now sanctions, supports and all but promotes protests against flag, country and those who serve because the most spineless commissioner in its history, Roger Goodell, says to do otherwise would be divisive.

President Donald Trump’s decision to weigh in on this was an egregious mistake on his part because he has far weightier issues to consider. He only further politicized an already highly politicized issue.

Then the NFL, through its hypocritical approach to political protests, upped the ante by trying to bully Trump.

Not everything has to be about politics, folks.

Already advertisers are having doubts about the long-term viability of spending money on ads during NFL games because of the league’s decision to allow these protests.

Forbes.com reported last Monday that shares of companies that broadcast NFL games are down as much as 8 percent at the same time the stock market is up more than 2 percent. In addition, the $5 billion the networks are paying to televise the games this season has corporate officials nervously biting their nails because of the potential loss of ad revenue if viewership continues to decline as it has the first few weeks.

Better call in the Flying Monkeys Legal Team and find somebody to sue. Or to bully.

Personal note to Arthur Blank: The Falcons shirt I returned to you earlier this week may be a bit large for you, so please feel free to give it somebody who gives a flying fig tree about the Falcons and the NFL.

I no longer do. I am sure I will find it far more rewarding to spend my Sundays remembering the people who gave you and your employees the opportunity to protest. 

Ron Martz is Marine Corps veteran (1965-68), journalist and former educator.; email. He lives in Northeast Georgia and writes monthly commentaries for Sunday’s Viewpoint page.

10012017 NFL PROTEST 2
Cleveland Browns fans hold a sign following the national anthem before the Sept. 24 game in Indianapolis. (Michael Conroy) - photo by Associated Press
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