I’m a big fan of David French’s work, so I was disappointed to read his column “I Understand Why They Knelt.” Respectfully (and I mean that), I believe it is off-base on almost every point that matters.
For example, French treats Trump’s suggestion that NFL players be fired as a First Amendment issue and an abridgement of their free speech. This is just not so. NFL players do have a right of free speech, but they don’t have a right to avoid criticism for engaging in that speech. Despite the fact that Trump said NFL players should be fired, he didn’t call for Congress to take action. He didn’t try to push through an executive order saying that protesting the flag should be illegal. He hasn’t promised that the government will go after the NFL. He used his free speech to criticize their free speech. I’m not sure how that violates the First Amendment or curtails the rights of the NFL players disrespecting our flag, who are still employed.
French then goes on to complain that Trump “did more to politicize sports than ESPN has done in a decade of biased, progressive programming.” Except that’s exactly backwards. ESPN and the NFL have been slamming politics down our throats for over a year. I know that because I wrote a column calling for conservatives to boycott the NFL a year ago. Many other conservatives have done the same thing, and millions of fans have complained. But when someone with a platform big enough to cut through the noise echoes the complaint so many conservatives have, he’s supposed to be at fault?
Then there’s the real complaint, an argument that in a roundabout way cuts to the heart of what I believe is wrong with French’s approach to the issue. French says: “The hypocrisy runs the other way, too. I was startled to see many conservatives who decried Google’s termination of a young, dissenting software engineer work overtime yesterday to argue that Trump was somehow in the right.”
I did not expect Donald Trump to win the 2016 election, and like many, many other political professionals, I was egregiously wrong. After listening to what a lot of diehard Trump fans had to say, I took two big lessons away from being that wrong.
The first is that I’m not Nostradamus, and I shouldn’t be in the business of definitively saying one candidate will win or lose a race. Hopefully, a lot of us learned that lesson in 2016.
The other is that unfortunately, a large number of conservative Americans have given up on people like me, on people like David French, and on magazines like National Review. Do I think that’s right? Fair? Smart? Nope, but I do get it.
They hear us talk all day about our principles as if we’re going to solve the problems we have via some kind of discussion among gentlemen. Meanwhile, the liberal response is “You’re a Nazi, and you shouldn’t be allowed to have a job unless you agree with us.” We’re trying to win theoretical victories for our principles, but the Left is fighting to win in the real world — and they are coming out on top in the cultural wars with ease. The very fact that we’re even having this debate about the NFL (remember when sports was where you went to get away from politics?) tells you who’s winning.
You want to be a conservative and have run-of-the-mill political beliefs? Then you’d better work somewhere that’s friendly to conservatives, or you might end up like James Damore at Google, Brandon Eich at Mozilla, or even Curt Schilling at ESPN. That’s if you don’t have some government official really squelching your First Amendment rights by telling you to “bake the cake” or be run out of business. You want to express an ordinary conservative opinion at college? In Hollywood? Then you’d better think twice or prepare for a river of abuse. Even the Boy Scouts are being systematically destroyed. We may not want to fight a culture war, but the reality is that a culture war is being fought against people like us every day whether we like it or not, and the NFL has chosen to be part of that.
A lot of conservatives are tired of the double standard. They just want to watch an NFL game or a movie without having liberal politics slammed down their throat. They’re disgusted by the fact that they’re treated like dirt by corporations like the NFL, ESPN, Apple, and Starbucks while liberalism is openly embraced. Of course, from a pure business perspective, it’s almost hard to blame the companies. If conservatives are always going to defend these corporations and say, “Thank you, Sir; may I have another?” when they smack us around because of our principles, while liberals demand special treatment, it makes all the sense in the world for them to cater to liberals.
When Trump goes after the NFL, what many conservatives see is someone doing something that matters more the next 1,000 essays that we’ll write.
So when Trump goes after the NFL, what many conservatives see is someone doing something that matters more the next 1,000 essays that we’ll write. Guess what? They’re probably right, because — again, respectfully — David French may see an embarrassment, but what the NFL and other increasingly left-leaning corporations see are vast piles of money and legions of fans flying out the window. Those other companies are looking at the NFL and thinking, “Thank God we’re not in this situation. We better be a little more careful.” If you don’t believe that, go take a look at the Facebook fan pages of NFL teams from Monday. Very few of these teams have ever experienced a backlash like this. If you care about an increasingly liberal culture that seems to be going haywire, their bad day because of Trump is a good thing.
Getting back to the job question, I’m glad Colin Kaepernick doesn’t have one, and I would love to see NFL players fired for kneeling, because liberals don’t care about our arguments or our principles. They only care about the possibility that they might be on the receiving end of the same treatment they give us. Let liberals start getting fired for their views and they may start having some second thoughts. If they don’t, we’re just evening the playing field, because they’re already firing conservatives for their views.
Maybe it would be a better world if we weren’t having debates about NFL players and Confederate statues, but that’s not the world we live in. This is an issue that matters to an awful lot of Americans, not just because of the disrespect shown to our country, but also because it’s symbolic of how liberalism has been allowed to spread unchecked through our culture. If Trump’s rants and tweets get more Americans to do something about it, then he has done a good thing.