Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Outrage

Enough with the right wing virtue signaling over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, an issue which was essentially non-existent until the president randomly brought it up in Alabama a few days ago, saying that owners should fire “that son of a b*tch” who protests during the anthem. Of course, Republicans everywhere fell over themselves to agree with Trump on this. Never mind that the chief offender in all of this, Colin Kaepernick, couldn’t buy a job on the NFL team at the point when Trump decided to sound off on the issue.

With a belligerent regime in North Korea tinkering with nuclear weapons, continued unrest in the Middle East, and the American territory of Puerto Rico still reeling from a hurricane, I sure am glad the President of the United States is concerning himself with the important things like Steph Curry not wanting to visit the White House and what had been a handful of players kneeling at NFL games. In what tangible way does this petty bulls**t aid in Trump’s stated goal of Making America Great Again? Is it creating jobs? Is it making the country more secure against threats from abroad? Does it address the healthcare mess we have right now?

Today, members of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens participated in the very kind of protest that President Trump was complaining about just days ago. On a personal note, I as a Ravens fan found myself far more outraged at how terribly they played in the game itself than anything else that happened today in London. The Pittsburgh Steelers announced they wouldn’t even participate in the pre-game ceremony at all.

Instead of letting this relatively minor issue with very few players across the league involved just blow over, Trump just had to run his mouth and here we are with a much bigger problem than there was before. Just as a protester is free to express themselves while not being immune from consequences that may arise, the President (no matter who they are) is free to say what he wants, but not immune from their statements being met with reactions and escalations such as we saw today.

Let’s imagine a scenario in which a Democrat president, perhaps Barack Obama, decided to use his bully pulpit to go after Tim Tebow for praying during games, or if players in the NFL who disagreed with Obama staged protests of some sort, perhaps even kneeling during the national anthem to send some message. One can easily speculate as to how the right would react, and it wouldn’t be pretty.

Now let’s look at the bigger issue. It seems that many within the Republican Party want to see the NFL and other leagues hand out punishments of their own to players who protest. What kind of precedent does that shortsighted idea set? The shoe will inevitably be on the other foot at some point, and people should be very careful what they wish for when they start talking about organizations imposing penalties on speech and expression.

In the end, this comes down to the right’s insatiable need to be outraged and offended by … well, everything. This is something they claim to be exclusive to the left, but that’s simply not true. For every liberal losing their mind over what pronoun we should call someone by, or because of Chick-Fil-a’s CEO stating that he didn’t support gay marriage, there were conservatives crying about what the cups at Starbucks looked like one Christmas. For every triggered college student who can’t handle Ben Shapiro coming to their campus, there’s someone on the right screaming bloody murder about some late night talk show host (who they probably don’t watch in the first place) mocking Trump.

I don’t like the protests, and wouldn’t participate in them if I were an NFL player. However, the right is letting themselves be trolled at this point. As for me, I’ll still watch the games, ridiculous as I find the protests to be.

See also Three Hurricanes and North Korea Should Be Trump’s Concerns, Not NFL.