When Denver Nuggets Guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf refused to stand for the national anthem in 1996 because he claimed it was against his religious beliefs, then NBA Commissioner David Stern wasn’t interested in constitutional arguments in favor of freedom of speech. Stern suspended Abdul-Rauf for one game and made it clear that not standing for the anthem wasn’t an option. In Stern’s NBA, player freedom of speech was a distant second to the NBA brand.
Fast forward 20 years, and NFL Commisioner Roger Goodell has a similar decision to make with Colin Kaepernick. If Goodell’s recent comments are any indication, the days for Kaepernick to levy his protest without penalty from the NFL may be numbered.
Goodell recently told the AP, “I support our players when they want to see change in society, and we don’t live in a perfect society. On the other hand, we believe very strongly in patriotism in the NFL. I personally believe very strongly in that.”
That’s not an encouraging soundbite for Kaepernick. The NFL is the Soviet Union of sports leagues. Goodell has made his reputation on unilateral action without due process. It’s his thing.
Today in Read Between the Lines, Colin and Jason were asked if sports leagues and teams should have the power to control the national anthem, or if it should be off limits from league discipline.
Colin doesn’t question the leagues’ right to control the national anthem, but thinks exercising that right is a bad read.
“Young people are communicating. They’re empowered by all the social media. It’s not going away. So there is some level of discomfort coming increasingly to leagues and teams and coaches. Start being aware of it, and start getting comfortable with occasional discomfort.”
Whitlock called it a bad read and thinks leagues and teams clearly have the right to conduct the national anthem as they see fit, and if that means eliminating player protest, so be it.
“Of course these teams and leagues have the right. If they want to play the national anthem whenever they want. If they don’t want someone making a mess of their national anthem, or turning it into something they don’t want it to be.”
Your move Goodell.
— Speak For Yourself (@SFY) September 8, 2016