President Trump turned the NFL into one of the least popular brands in America this year when he turned his bully pulpit to the shameful disgrace of the players kneeling for the national anthem. These protests, already deeply unpopular by the time Trump said that the NFL brass should fire any player who engages in them, turned into a flashpoint in American politics overnight.
The more the heat came down, the more the players kneeled. And the more the players kneeled, the lower the NFL ratings sank. Coming up on the end of the season, the league actually canceled their last Sunday Night Football game for the first time since the mid-1990s. And if Roger Goodell and the various coaches and team owners can’t put this genie back in the bottle by the time next year’s season rolls around, the NFL’s long-held dominance over the sports scene may be coming to a permanent end.
But before the crash hits the point of no return, an Indiana lawmaker wants to make sure fans have access to restitution should they arrive at a game and see their country being disrespected in front of their eyes. Rep. Milo Smith, a Republican state representative, is introducing legislation that would entitle Indianapolis Colts fans to a refund if their hometown team kneels for the anthem.
“To me when they take a knee during the national anthem, it’s not respecting the national anthem or our country,” Smith said. “Our government isn’t perfect, but it’s still the best country in the world and I think we need to be respectful of it.”
The ACLU has already promised to challenge the legislation if it were to pass, saying it represents overstep on the part of the government.
In effect by passing the law, government would be weighing in and fining political speech by the Indianapolis Colts,” said Jane Henegar, executive director of ACLU Indiana. “It seems like the worst thing that could happen is government weighing in and trying to control in any direction the political speech of private actors.”
In a certain sense, we actually agree with the ACLU on this one, as loathe as we are to admit it. It’s a bad idea to start forcing businesses to change their practices, especially when it’s a subject of free speech. The NFL has the right to let the players kneel, stand, or do the twist during the national anthem and fans have the right to stay home or turn off the game (and many of them are doing just that). When the government starts trying to get involved, things go awry, even if Smith’s intentions are in a good place. The free market will punish these players for their unwise protests; there’s no need for the Indiana legislature to do so.