A significant number of pro football team owners have risen in defense of symbolic acts by players and criticized Donald Trump’s remarks that they should fire any players who refuse to stand for the National Anthem, as some have done as a statement on race relations.

Here’s a roundup.

Example, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross who decried divisiveness and encouraged civil discourse over condemnation and sound bites.

“These are smart young men of character who want to make our world a better place for everyone,” Ross said. “They wanted to start a conversation and are making a difference in our community.” 

UPDATE: 17 NFL owners have now stood with players against Trump.


Arkansas native Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, has not made a public statement since Trump’s outburst in Alabama Friday night that I can find. He has said in the past that he is not a fan of such protests, but he has NOT, as some social media reports had it, ordered players to stand. He’s also a million-dollar contributor to Trump’s inauguration.
The usual suspects — demagogue Republican state Sen. Trent Garner for example — have tried to make the protests an affront to the military. Garner used a photo of coffins of fallen soldiers, as others have before, to make his point. As many of the participants have said eloquently, the protests are the embodiment of the American ideal and mean no disrespect to country or soldier. The flag is not only about troops, after all. The protests are about institutional racism, which should be anathema to what the flag stands for. See the Ken Burns’ documentary on Vietnam and the racial elements in that conflict for some relevant context, by the way.

Garner’s refuge in patriotism is a familiar and popular diversionary tactic. It is also ironic for the number of ways in which Garner has endeavored to reduce individual freedoms, with support for laws to punish protesters, limit women’s medical rights and protect discrimination against minority groups. Great American.


This thing will get more heated before it subsides, with more demonstrations expected on football fields today. A baseball player (Bruce Maxwell, son of a veteran) has taken a knee. Stevie Wonder took a knee. Pro athletes have taken offense at being called sons of bitches and told to shut up. (Is it not the American ideal that we are equally imbued with the right to speak?)

Some conservatives get it, including Bill Kristol, who invoked the famous U.S. Supreme Court ruling by Justice Robert Jackson in 1943, during war, upholding the right of people not to take an oath. (I often have occasion in a world full of would-be oppressors to remember this opinion, as when the Razorback women basketball players took a knee.)

Kristol quoted Jackson:

Making patriotic gestures compulsory betrays “an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds.”

I like this one, which Dale Bumpers also liked to quote:


“If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.”

This applies to officials who happen to be both high AND petty.

Also, the racial divide on this serves as national comment on the progress made since the 1957 school crisis.