Welcome to the new National Football League, where players are allowed to give one another concussions in front of you, your grandma, and everybody, but have to kneel in private. From now on, if players want to take a knee, they’ve got to take it off the field.
Here’s a quick recap. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started sitting down or taking a knee during the National Anthem in 2016, and soon other players followed suit, in protest of police brutality against people of color.
Naturally, that meant President Donald Trump had to weigh in. He told a crowd at an Alabama campaign rally that he’d like to see an NFL owner fire players for taking a knee.
“You know, some owner is going to do that. He's going to say, 'That guy that disrespects our flag, he's fired.' And that owner, they don't know it [but] they'll be the most popular person in this country.”
Now, a year and change out from the inciting incident, the NFL is unveiling a new policy: either stand during the National Anthem, or make yourself scarce. The penalty isn’t a firing, but an unspecified fine placed on the team, according to commissioner Roger Goodell’s statement on the subject.
"It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic. This is not and was never the case,” Goodell said.
Goodell said the protests created "awareness and action around issues of social justice that must be addressed." And the players could continue to create that awareness. Just in the locker room, or some other place where no one could see them.
Whether the decision to punish players who protest visibly makes the NFL the “most popular” organization in the country remains to be seen, but it’s already made it less popular with one avid fan: DFL U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison of Minneapolis.
Friends who know me, know that I love football. But I won’t be watching this NFL season because of the unfair cowardly and idiotic kneeling ban. #BoycottNFL— Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison) May 27, 2018
"It is patriotic to protest and to raise awareness for issues of importance to our country, and our country is better for it," Ellison said in a statement. "President Trump wanted to silence the conversation that players like Colin Kaepernick were raising, and the NFL owners played right into his hand."
Naturally, Twitter heard about one man choosing not to watch football, and it reacted.
Hey @keithellison WE DONT GIVE A F**K!— Caren (@Caren78571575) May 29, 2018
@keithellison YOU ARE WORST RACIST THAN THE K K K...— tony diaz (@Diaz1249) May 29, 2018
Then there were the arguments. Like, “you shouldn’t be able to stand up for your personal beliefs at work.”
Keith Ellison is a joke freedom of expression is limited in the work place— BAMA guy81 (@Lvo57) May 29, 2018
Or “sure, protesting is great, but why can’t the players protest in some other, less upsetting way?”
What’s the proper, approved, and social acceptable way to protest? https://t.co/fkTf0RT5Zc— Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison) May 29, 2018
But it turns out, some people are with Ellison. And some have already been on this boycott train for a while.
Stopped last season, not going back.— JB (@JoanLMB) May 29, 2018
So we’ll see how this whole “popular” thing shakes out.
TH NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE IS TRASH— S A V A G E. �� (@briiDRAKE) May 24, 2018