Here’s Henry: Paid Patriotism

Service members from all five military branches unfurl the national ensign during ceremonies prior to Sunday's football game between the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions at Soldier Field in Chicago, Nov. 10, 2013. Pregame and halftime ceremonies helped pay tribute to veterans in commemoration of Veterans Day. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Alan Haraf)

Like Paul, I fully support any nonviolent protest. Protestors are well within their rights to protest about whatever they feel as long as no one gets hurt.

When players kneel or sit down during the national anthem, they are protesting real injustices that are going on in the world. Things like police brutality, racial inequality and prejudice against minorities. These things exist and should be made aware of to everyone.

Yet a very important point that may not be known to the masses is this: the NFL gets paid to promote and display patriotism.

Last year Stephen A. Smith dropped this knowledge on ESPN’s “First Take” program. He revealed that players weren’t encouraged to stand for the national anthem until 2009. Before that teams would still be in the locker room until kickoff.

This is because patriotism in the NFL (and other sports) is paid for by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Service members support 2016 NFL Pro BowlFurther evidence came from a report released in November 2015 by Republican U.S. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona.

The report states that, “In all, the military services reported $53 million in spending on marketing and advertising contracts with sports teams between 2012 and 2015.”

“More than $10 million of that total was paid to teams in the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL), and Major League Soccer (MLS).”

An account of the individual contracts published in USA Today also contribute to the story.

It revealed that things such as the on-field color guards, field-sized American flags, fireworks, enlistment ceremonies, national anthem performances, hometown hero and wounded warrior tributes were all paid for by the Defense Department.

Moreover, all these displays of patriotism were paid for with taxpayer money.

Placing the players on the field during the anthem is a marketing strategy to make them and the NFL seem more patriotic. It is also an attempt to boost recruiting numbers for the military, which is one of their biggest struggles.

Between contributions from the Defense Department and the Army National Guard, we know the NFL has made $6.8 million worth of taxpayer money for their shows of patriotism.

Realistically, should the funding from these organizations be cut, who knows if the NFL will continue these displays of patriotism. I don’t think they care about the people they’re honoring, they care about fostering a good image and keeping the cash flowing. That’s the only reason Roger Goodell is still the commissioner.

37050806803_f197972cb5_bThat’s why I have no issue with the players that choose to protest the anthem. In addition to the cultural issues mentioned above, these protests can be seen as a stand against “paid patriotism.”

Don’t get me wrong, it is great to give recognition to those who serve and sacrifice to defend the rights we have, including the right to protest. However, there comes a time when something more meaningful should be done.

Instead of spending this money on ultimately meaningless displays of patriotism, the NFL should send it to organizations that help the (as of January 2016) 39,471 veterans that are homeless. There should also be a bigger effort to raise awareness of the issues our veterans face when returning home, such as PTSD.

Also, NFL should make more of an effort to research the impact of TBI (Traumatic Brain Injuries). These injuries plague their own players, as well as members of the military.

In addition to protesting the national anthem, players can make a bigger impact by speaking out against paid patriotism to the media and supporting veterans in their local area.

While I love watching the game of football, paid patriotism is just another reason I wholeheartedly support the players and coaches protesting the national anthem during games.

Henry Wolski
Executive Editor

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