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Show of hands – are you as fed up as I am with the recycled media story about NFL players “taking the knee” to protest how bad (racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Canadian, fascist) America is?
A few thoughts from a non-American who deeply loves this country. (To borrow from the 80s band Men At Work, I come from a land up over.)
First, I’m aware that the phrase “take a knee” is something a coach might say to the team for a pep talk. But this new iteration, “Take the knee” (with defiant definite article) means something different. It’s a hashtag-inspired statement, a form of virtue signaling via body language.
Forget that these millionaires in tight uniforms succeeded primarily (although, obviously, not solely) because they live in America, and that 99% of cops would willing protect and serve them, too. Forget that President Trump has spent inordinate amounts of time and energy weighing in and dousing the flames with jet fuel on Twitter. Forget the spun-off talking head cable TV debates. What started with the antics of the unemployed Colin Kaepernick has ended by…not quite ending.
The thing to focus on? How meaningless this story is.
So some liberal football players want to virtue signal, guilt-drenched fellow travelers jump on the bandwagon du jour, and ESPN gives the spectacle 24/7 adulation. This is news?
So little is at stake, compared to other things that happened during the Take the Knee frenzy. While the sports media noise machine went into hype mode over some footballers posing to show alleged heroism (remember, ESPN gave their 2015 Arthur Ashe Courage Award to…Caitlyn Jenner), Puerto Rico was still getting violently assaulted by Hurricane Maria, Christians in Iraq were being persecuted by Islamic terrorists, the martyr Father Stanley Rother was beatified in Oklahoma (the first US-born male now closer to sainthood), and thousands of brave men and women in law enforcement across the country were protecting the innocent and apprehending the guilty.
It’s depressing to behold, but once a sidebar story like this is fruitful and multiplies — and attains hash tag status — the media piles on and squeezes every last drop of juice from the long dry lemon.
This knee-taking kerfuffle is the latest manifestation of the politicization off all things. It’s conflict for conflict’s sake. Want to talk about courage? How many of the knee-takers would protest a rainbow flag at the start of a game or the singing of “Y.M.C.A.”?
No. Sitting out (kneeling out?) the collective musical symbol of the United States is as gutsy as they get. Maybe it’s just me, but I thought real men knelt when they pray and stood while they sang. It’s obvious why serial kneeler Tim Tebow is lampooned while Colin Kaepernick is lauded.
No matter. Certain laws of economics are already kicking in with predicable consequences: most NFL fans don’t appreciate the sliming of their beloved game by political posturing whether by players or owners, and, while they didn’t need the Commander-In-Tweet to hector them, have already begun to vote with their feet and viewers with their remotes.
How many football fans are thrilled to see ESPN become CNN and lecture to them over how to think?
About as many moviegoers are thrilled to be lectured by celebrities during the Hollywood Award season.
“Taking the knee” indeed cuts both ways.
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