The culture war has come to the NFL
"America refuses to address the pervasive evil of white cops killing black men, and I will not stand during a national anthem that honors the flag of such a country!"
That is the message Colin Kaepernick sent by "taking a knee" during the singing of "The Star Spangled Banner" before San Francisco '49s games in 2016. No NFL owner picked up his contract in 2017. But a few players began to copy Colin and to "take a knee."
Friday night in Alabama, President Trump raged that any NFL player who disrespects Old Glory is a "son of a b---h" who ought to be kicked off the field and fired by his team's owner. And if the owners refuse to do their patriotic duty, the fans should take a walk on the NFL.
And so the stage was set for NFL Sunday.
Two hundred players, almost all black, knelt or sat during the national anthem. The Patriots' Tom Brady stood in respect for the flag, while locking arms in solidarity with kneeling teammates.
The Pittsburgh Steelers coach kept his team in the locker room. Steeler Alejandro Villanueva, an ex-Army Ranger and combat vet, came out and stood erect and alone on the field.
For NFL players, coaches, commentators, owners and fans, it was an uncomfortable and sad day. And it is not going to get any better. Sundays with the NFL, as a day of family and friends, rest and respite from the name-calling nastiness of American politics, is over.
The culture war has come to the NFL. And Trump will be proven right. Having most players stand respectfully during the national anthem, while locking arms with other players sitting or kneeling in disrespect of the flag, is a practice the NFL cannot sustain.
The mega-millionaire and billionaire owners of NFL franchises are going to have to come down off the fence and take a stand.
The issue is not the First Amendment. It is not whether players have a right to air their views about what cops did to Michael Brown in Ferguson, or Eric Garner in Staten Island, or Freddie Gray in Baltimore. Players have a right to speak, march in protest, or even burn the flag.