Emilee Hibshman: Paid patriotism, the NFL and Trump

Published 12:15 am Thursday, October 5, 2017

The rebellion staged by many players of the National Football League recently poses a deeper questioning on our part as citizens. Why are they kneeling? What are they trying to represent? What are our responsibilities as citizens?

For anyone who is unaware, players who are employed by the NFL are not required to be on the field while the national anthem is played. They could simply remain in the locker room — which some teams did.

The fact that teams are on the field during the Star-Spangled Banner is actually a relatively recent development. This practice did not begin until 2009, when the Department of Defense began paying teams of many different sports to stand on the sidelines of their respective fields and face the flag during the national anthem.

In fact, Sen. John McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake published a report titled, “Tackling Paid Patriotism: A Joint Oversight Report.” Within this report, they state that “… displays of paid patriotism are included within the $6.8 million that the Department of Defense (DOD) has spent on sports marketing contracts since the fiscal year 2012.” It also states that the DOD spent $10.4 million on contracts with professional sports teams between 2012 and 2015.

Some of the teams mentioned in this report include:

NFL: Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers

MLB: Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, New York Mets, Texas Rangers, Pittsburg Pirates

NBA: Indiana Pacers, Charlotte Hornets, Portland Trailblazers, San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics

NHL: Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, Detroit Red Wings, Dallas Stars

NPSL: Seattle Sounders, Colorado Rapids, Real Salt Lake, D.C. United, L.A. Galaxy

These “displays of paid patriotism” include the team being present and standing during the national anthem, surprise homecomings, hometown hero tributes, on-field color guard, the recognition of wounded warriors, etc.

Essentially, this country pays its athletes to be patriotic.

Also called into question by this rebellion are other standard flag practices, issues that no one has addressed.

“The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free,” the Flag Code says. This means that when the flag is held flat over fields during games, the Flag Code is being broken.

It also says that flags should not be “used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery… should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever… No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform.” These are “rules” that people break every day, yet we are not discussing them. Why?

We are not discussing these rules because they are just guidelines. One thing that is also a guideline? That you have to stand during the national anthem. In fact, the anthem is not even included within the Flag Code. The code only mentions the pledge: “The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag … should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart.”

Another thing we should analyze as a country is why we are looking so closely at this now. What has caused this outrage to stir up? Why is everyone so angry at each other? Why does the president even care about the National Football League?

There is a trend among the things that Trump has brought up over the past eight months: it is all controversial. Trump has simply sparked outrage time and time again. He is establishing a divide between many people in this country. He has pitted groups against each other, responded poorly to the issue of white supremacy, and now he has declared that NFL players who don’t stand during the anthem should be fired.

This distraction tactic is actually incredibly intelligent. Trump occupies the nation with a debate that cannot be settled, then moves on with his own agenda while we are not paying attention.

What good will come of this? There is no point in arguing over a topic that is just a diversion.

What the nation needs to do is unite against distractions; we need to focus on the government and hold our leaders under a microscope. The United States of America is a representative democracy; this means that the leaders we elect are supposed to represent us, not pull the wool over our eyes as they further their own agenda.

Emilee Hibshman is a senior at Salisbury High School and an intern at the Salisbury Post.