Wealthy and privileged NFL players – they earn nearly $2 million a year on average – have been “protesting” social conditions in the United States, where they allege minorities face more or less constant discrimination, with various stunts this year.
It’s a move that, among other things, likely has played a role in the sudden plunge in fan interest in the league, with audiences down significantly from just one year ago.
But these left-leaning activists surely don’t like it when someone else protests their protests.
As talk-radio icon Rush Limbaugh put it Monday: “How dare you take my PR stunt and convert it into your PR stunt! How dare you!”
Limbaugh was describing the reaction Monday after Vice President Mike Pence went to the 49ers-Colts game on Sunday but walked out when members of the 49ers protested by kneeling down during the national anthem.
Pence explained on Twitter that he would not honor organizations that dishonor the flag or anthem. President Trump said he had asked Pence to leave the game if there was a protest, and he thanked him for doing it.
Establishment media Monday repeatedly characterized Pence’s actions as a “stunt.”
They charged that he had planned to leave and complained he spent a lot of tax money flying to the game.
But whatever “stunt” occurred, Limbaugh said, it was the fault of the NFL players, not Pence.
“It’s the players for the San Francisco 49ers and if any of the Colts were involved who made this possible. This is what pushing back looks like, folks. This is what refusing to cede the moral high ground to the left looks like. And of course they’re gonna act like stuck pigs. They’re gonna react like they’ve been offended like no one ever has. ‘How dare you take my PR stunt and convert it into your PR stunt! How dare you!'” he said.
“This is what pushing back looks like. Get used to this. This is what pushing back looks like. This is what the left not getting away with setting the narrative and determining who can and who can’t say anything… This is what it looks like. This is what it looks like when you push back against it. You may find it uncomfortable. You people think… You may buy into this notion, ‘Gee, I wish the vice president hadn’t gone in there and hijacked the Peyton Manning statue unveiling.'”
Limbaugh pointed out that the players’ speech is not a First Amendment issue, because the amendment pertains only to government restrictions on speech.
Sometimes, he said, there are consequences to speech.
“And, furthermore, nobody has to listen to what you say, and nobody has to watch what you do. So when you force your speech or behavior on people who don’t want to have anything to do with it, I don’t get the moral high ground. Not anymore. If you do that, you’re gonna have people walk out of the stadium, you’re gonna have people turn the games off, you’re gonna have fans not show up, you’re gonna have serious ratings problems. You’re gonna have great, great damage done to that business; and that is exactly what is happening here.”
Limbaugh pointed out the irony of “reporters and pundits” praising players for protesting but “blasting” Pence for protesting.
“They’re coming down on Pence and they’re coming down on Trump. But Pence and Trump are simply being consistent with what they have said from the get-go on all of this. They are not … Pence has children, a son in Iraq. Don’t forget this, either. It was about a year ago Mike Pence and his wife went to a performance of Hamilton on Broadway. You remember this? And during that performance cast members decided to lecture Mike Pence, vice-president-elect, on the importance of protecting ‘diversity.’ Pence just smiled and he was polite and he took it.
“He went to enjoy the performance. He wanted to go backstage, congratulate the cast on a job well done, but they mocked him and made fun of him and then lectured him while he’s in the audience on the importance of ‘diversity.’ Well, Pence and Trump are not taking it anymore, and this is what it looks like. For decades now, we have become conditioned to just accept any and all anti-American displays. We’re supposed to be tolerant. We’re supposed to sit back when they try to put out of business a bakery or a photography shop that refuses to cater (because of because of religious freedom in the Constitution) a gay wedding,” he said.
“This is what pushback looks like, ladies and gentlemen. When Mike Pence walks out as a protest, he is engaged in ‘an unprincipled PR stunt,’ they say. But when players kneel to protest? ‘Why, that is principled behavior that you are not permitted to question and you are not permitted to disagree with and you are not permitted to comment!'”
WND columnist Pat Buchanan had a similar perspective.
“‘A stunt! That plane trip cost taxpayers $250,000,’ wailed a media that was rarely critical of Michelle Obama’s million-dollar junkets with Sasha and Malia,” he wrote in a column Monday.
“In the culture wars, Trump has rejected compromise or capitulation and decided to defend the ground on which his most loyal folks stand,” he continued, “All weekend, viewers of cable TV were treated to self-righteous wailing from the acolytes of Colin Kaepernick, patron saint of the 49ers, that ‘taking the knee’ to protest racism and racist cops is a most admirable exercise of the First Amendment right to protest.
“What Trump’s folks are saying in response is this: ‘You may have a First Amendment right to disrespect our flag, or even to burn it, but you have no right to make us listen to you, or respect you, or buy tickets to your games, or watch you on Sunday.'”
There was additional indication the national anthem protest is running into headwinds, as ESPN suspended broadcaster Jemele Hill for violating, again, the network’s social media guidelines.
She had told fans that they should boycott the sponsors of the Cowboys after owner Jerry Jones said players will respect the flag or they won’t play.
He was the first NFL owner to publicly state that players will be disciplined for disrespecting the national anthem.
Jones said: “If we are disrespecting the flag then we won’t play. Period. We’re going to respect the flag, and I’m going to create the perception of it. And we have.”
In another sign the protest is crumbling, Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross said he wants players to either stand for the anthem or stay in the locker until it’s over.
Coach Adam Gase immediately implemented those instructions as policy.