The column, titled Why Colin Kaepernick is still looking for a job, features Goetsch arguing that Kaepernick hasn’t been signed by an NFL team because of his national anthem protest, which may be true although his performance in 2016 was not as great as his defenders make it to be.
Where Goetsch truly went off the rails was her trashing of the national anthem:
While fans do it out of habit or peer pressure, saluting the flag before a football game makes about as much sense as reciting the Pledge of Allegiance before seeing a movie or walking the dog. NFL games are contests between privately owned companies that exist for the profit of their owners. All appearance otherwise is marketing, which includes the pink equipment players are encouraged to wear during Breast Cancer Awareness Month; the red, white and blue NFL shield; or the branding of football as “America’s game.”
It was only downhill from there, as Goetsch actually called the honoring of military veterans on game day as “propaganda”:
A Senate Joint Oversight report on “Paid Patriotism” found that between 2011 and 2015 the Pentagon paid $5.4 million to 14 NFL teams in exchange for military “tributes.” The propaganda comes from all angles — stadium parachute drops, “hometown heroes” lit up on the Jumbotron, player cameos at soldiers’ homecomings, cheerleader photo ops with wounded veterans. Taxpaying fans, the targets of these “heartfelt” gestures, were unwittingly paying the bill for them until the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act outlawed the practice.
After smearing the sport of baseball for embracing the mantra of America’s “national pastime” as a way to avoid antitrust laws, Goetsch then degraded the national anthem.
“Unlike the magisterial ‘America the Beautiful,’ ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is a pompous battle number,” wrote Goetsch. “Spurred by a petition bearing 5 million veterans’ signatures, Congress designated it the national anthem in 1931, but it wasn’t until 1942, and our entry into World War II, that it was played on loudspeakers daily before games.”
She then claimed that players typically remained in the locker room until the Pentagon began paying NFL teams to have players stand on the field during the anthem, causing her to come to the conclusion that Kaepernick hasn’t been signed because NFL teams are afraid they’ll lose money over it.
Firstly, Goetsch’s claim that football players didn’t stand for the anthem until the Pentagon started giving money to NFL teams seems a little dubious: according to Snopes, the Pentagon did pay various sports teams from 2011 to 2014 to provide displays of patriotism, although it’s unclear how far back this goes and if there’s a direct correlation between this funding and players standing on the field for the national anthem.
But even if that was the case, so what? As sports psychology professor Kevin Burke argued, playing the national anthem before sports games provides “a sense of community and connectedness that is attractive to our souls.” That explains why so many football fans were irked by Kaepernick’s stunt:
According to Gallup, over 70% of NFL fans objected to his protest. While a majority of those polled did not think the league should punish the quarterback for his action, polls found that a third of NFL fans were less likely to watch the product because of Kaepernick. Incidentally, 2016 was a down year for ratings. It would be wrong to pin the decline entirely on the shoulders of the former 49er — it’s possible election season played a major role — but any hitch to the ratings machine of the NFL is going to get the attention of every league owner.
Just as Kaepernick has a First Amendment right to protest the national anthem, NFL teams have the First Amendment right to choose not to sign him if they feel like his prior actions will negatively impact their product. That’s how a free market works, whether Goetsch likes it or not.
But most importantly, for Goetsch to refer to the anthem as “a pompous battle number” isn’t just appalling, it’s historically inaccurate. Francis Scott Key penned the anthem after witnessing the American flag prevail over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 when it initially seemed to him as if Britain was going to win the battle.
That’s what our national anthem is all about: even during the country’s darkest moments, America, the beacon of hope and freedom, finds a way to prevail in the end. That’s why everyone stands for the national anthem before sporting events; it’s a reminder that we are lucky to have the freedom to be able to attend such an event and we should honor those who died to preserve that freedom for us.
Shame on Diana Goetsch for referring to the national anthem as “a pompous battle number.”