Let me start by acknowledging what most other conservatives on this issue have acknowledged: NFL players, and other athletes, have the right to kneel during the national anthem. I will not argue that they should not be able to do it, but I will argue why they should not, and the ramifications of their choice.

The simple act of protesting the national anthem and the flag runs counter to the objectives of those carrying out the protest. The objective is to bring to light the various injustices perceived by the actors, but the result is that the protestors mock the very thing that gave them the right to protest in the first place. The flag represents plenty, including a united America, the rights that the Constitution gives us as well as the men and women who gave their lives to defend those rights. Under the flag, we are one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all. Protesters may see that as false reality, but can they acknowledge that that is the reality we should be striving for? How does kneeling during the national anthem accomplish this goal? Players should use their platform, influence and money to make a coherent argument and a structured plan to rectify their concerns. But too few of them want to do that, so why not just take a knee . . . literally. 

The only thing that has come from these protests is that Colin Kaepernick is no longer playing in the NFL. Did he accomplish the objective of his protest? In addition to Kaepernick’s rejection, viewership of the NFL decreased 8 percent on average last year. A decrease in viewers is running slightly lower than that percentage for regional games, but is sometimes a 20 percent decrease for nationally televised games.

It’s currently estimated that broadcasters like Fox, NBC, and Disney may lose $200 million as a result of falling viewership. Expect viewership to decrease more and financial losses to increase after the latest wave of protests. America isn’t against the message that these protests are getting at, it’s against the method: 32 percent of fans surveyed reported their lack of viewership is a direct result of the anthem protests.

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Furthermore, play on the field has suffered as a result of the divisive actions of some protesters. It is impossible for a team to be unified when some players are kneeling, some standing, some sitting, some locking arms, some stretching and others waiting in the tunnel.  To avoid these distractions, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin asked that the team debate and vote on how they would unanimously act. Instead of focusing on the game ahead, the team debated how to act during the National Anthem. They narrowly voted to wait in the tunnel before the game.

Army Ranger Veteran and Steelers offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva was not with the team prior to the game, and stood outside the tunnel with his hand on his heart. After the Steelers embarrassing loss to the Chicago Bears, Tomlin stated that he wished that the team was unified before the game, saying “I was looking for 100 percent participation, we were gonna be respectful of our football team.” Tomlin actually blamed Villanueva for not having the team’s back. Did he not have their back during his first tour to Afghanistan? What about the second? How about the third? The real question is when is the NFL going to have Alejandro Villanueva’s back? Mike Tomlin wanted to avoid distractions with the protests but it looked more like the football game was a distraction to the protests.

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NFL owners have responded in solidarity with the protesting players after President Trump’s remarks. What they fail to realize is that NFL viewers have not. Protests during the National Anthem will be repaid in kind by viewers, they’ll simply turn off the TV. Does that accomplish the goals of the protest?

A recent survey from the right-leaning Remington Research Group asked “Last week, Donald Trump said NFL players should stand and be respectful during the National Anthem. Do you think NFL players should stand and be respectful during the National Anthem?” 64 percent responded yes. And, “In the future, would you prefer to see more politics, less politics or the same amount of politics during sporting events?” 80 percent said less politics.

Dylan Resch ([email protected]) is senior double majoring in Political Science and History