Washington Gadfly

Oliver North’s Group Demands NFL Commish End National Anthem Protests

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Evan Gahr Investigative Journalist
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Does San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kapernick need to follow NFL rules just like everybody else? Ditto for other players who are joining him in kneeling during the pre-game national anthem to protest police brutality and the wicked racist ways of his country that twice elected a black president.

In a carefully written letter to NFL Football Commissioner Roger Goodell, Tom Kilgannon, executive director of Oliver North’s Freedom Alliance, an advocacy group for military families, says yes.

According to Kilgannon, “military families struggling to overcome the wounds of war” are “insulted by Mr. Colin Kaepernick’s protests of our national anthem and our country. His campaign – by virtue of the time and manner in which it takes place – is not personal. His protests are carried out as a representative of the National Football League and we believe it is time for the Commissioner to put an end to these anti-American demonstrations during NFL games.”

He is asking Goodell to just make football players adhere to the same standards for “active duty military personnel” who are barred from engaging in political activities when they “appear at NFL games for pre-game and half-time ceremonies.”  Instead, the servicemen are “subjected to premeditated demonstrations the League otherwise prohibits.”

Kilgannon, whose group has awarded $10 million in college scholarships to the children of servicemen killed or wounded in battle, says Kaepernick and other players should not be allowed to leverage NFL “to cultivate anger and resentment against the nation.”

This behavior, he argues, violates League Personal Conduct Policy that plays must “must strive to conduct ourselves in ways that favorably reflect on ourselves, our teams, the communities we represent, and the NFL.”

He offers several possible ways the NFL could accommodate players political expression without usurping neutral policies intended to prevent any athletes into turning the field into their own little soap box.

–NFL teams, at their discretion, [could] establish “Protest Zones” outside the stadium in the parking area so players, fans or others may come together at a designated time, before or after the game, to express concerns they may have toward their country, community or other cause.

–Allow, and even encourage, free and robust debate by players and other league representatives from their personal social media platforms and media appearances at times when they are not representing the NFL or making use of its resources.

–If the NFL chooses to indulge players who wish to protest their country, such demonstrations should take place at the conclusion of the game. In this way, fans, coaches and other players may exercise their freedom to exit the stadium or remain, as they see fit, so they are not forced to give witness to political demonstrations.

Of course, it is a safe bet that the NFL would not “indulge” white players who decided to sit out the national anthem to protest the league’s racial quota system for selecting coaches.

But Goodell has tried to triangulate the matter by suggesting he doesn’t agree with Kapernick without demanding he follow league rules. Isn’t this like a parent saying he doesn’t agree with his teenager drinking beer without punishing him for doing it? Just let junior know he “values sobriety.” Kind of the way Goodell said the NFL is patriotic.

Meanwhile, the adolescent jinx continue. Kilgannon tells the Washington Gadfly at least one dozen players made some kind of protest when the national anthem was played at their weekend games. The Seattle Seahawks all linked their arms together.

“It is not right for the NFL to endorse sentiments which encourage anger and resentment against an entire country,” he argued. “Commissioner Goodell has the authority to correct the situation, and should do so. The ball is in his court.”

Evan Gahr