NFL did fans and players a favor with anthem rule

Most NFL players won't realize it, but the owners did them a favor. It gets back to a simple rule of persuasion.

Don't start your argument by insulting half your audience.

That's what the league's social justice warriors did when they started taking knees during the national anthem. It was a classic case of self-sabotage.

The point they were trying to make was immediately overshadowed by their method of delivery. Instead of seeing players standing up for something, a lot of fans saw it as spitting on the flag.

In a victory for those fans, teams will be fined if players or other team personnel kneel, raise their fists or otherwise disrespect the flag. But players will be allowed the option to remain in the locker room.

That's a fair compromise to this ultra-touchy situation. If you don't want to stand for the flag, Mr. Punter, well nobody is making you.

But if you want to protest against police brutality, racism, income inequality, global warming, transgender bathrooms or the brown M&M's in the locker room, you have to do it on your own time.

In other words, you have to act like just about every other working stiff in America.

When their employers lay down the rules, they're expected to be followed.

Wednesday's rule will undoubtedly trigger another round of constitutional-ignorance signaling. People will scream, holler and tweet that it violates players' First Amendment rights.

The amendment prohibits the government from interfering with the free exercise of speech and religion.

At last check, Roger Goodell was not the president.

"A lot of people invoke First Amendment in a private setting, thinking they have an absolute right to say what they want and speak what they want," Harvard law professor Mark Tushnet told MarketWatch. "They find out it's not really true in a private workplace."

It's especially difficult for pro athletes who aren't used to being told "No." The players union quickly started rattling its sabers Wednesday, saying it might not stand for this potential violation of the collective bargaining agreement.

The NFL was also considering assessing a 15-yard penalty to teams that violate the rule. That didn't go over well with a lot of fans.

That crowd seems incapable of grasping why people don't equate Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem to Colin Kaepernick sneezing in the huddle.

Kaepernick certainly didn't get it when he started the protest movement two years ago. He wanted to bring attention to what he saw as cops acting like the KKK.

A lot of people automatically agreed with him. A lot didn't. But there was a segment willing to at least hear him out if he'd done it more tactfully.

Instead, Kaepernick took a knee.

Sure, he didn't see anything wrong with it. But millions of open-minded Americans did.

They know America isn't perfect, but they cherish the ideas the flag stands for. They get a lump in their throats when they see the flag-draped coffins of fallen soldiers.

Excuse them for getting upset when that flag is disrespected.

The protesters and apologists denied such feelings even existed. They blamed the drop in attendance and TV ratings on everything except the national anthem protests.

Common sense, polls and even NFL teams said differently.

One thing everybody can agree on in this brouhaha is that NFL owners are businessmen. They saw how protests were damaging their business, and now they've decided to do something about it.

Players can still make stands or take knees. They just won't be allowed to do it in front of fans that paid to watch a football game, not a political protest.

Some of those fans might be more sympathetic to the protesters' concerns.

Players might not realize it, but spitting on something people hold dear is no way to win them over.

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