TAKING A KNEE – FOR THE FREE MARKET
The hot controversy over NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem, has an angle that has been under- played, but which is nonetheless crucial. It deals with the corporate responsibility – or lack thereof – of the league. Consider the following:
The starting salary for an NFL player is almost $500,000 per year. Yet, a significant majority of them end up in bankruptcy once their career is over. Clearly, they are lacking a basic financial education.
Not only that: each year, dozens of players are arrested for crimes ranging from DUI, to domestic violence, to rape, to murder. Clearly, they need moral training and guidance.
In addition, many of these players are from black communities. The problems in these areas are well publicized: fatherless homes; drugs; gangs; families living in poverty. Clearly, the family structure in their communities needs to be rebuilt.
Unfortunately, none of this seems to be clear to these athletes. At least, these ills seem undeserving of public attention. Instead, the players have chosen to focus the national spotlight on racial issues. This is tragic, and a huge misuse of mass media. The fact of the matter is that you could cure every cop in the country of racial bigotry tomorrow, and none of the above problems would go away. Sure, racism should be protested, but in this case, it’s being protested by people who beat their wives, throw their money away, and live in cities with families that are falling apart. Bashing America is a convenient way to cover up their problems that have nothing to do with race, and which they have the responsibility to solve on their own.
But hey – we shouldn’t be surprised that they are blaming the other guy. They work for one of the most exploitative employers in the country. The NFL has a long practice of getting the other guy to do things for them, by whatever means possible. It gets tax breaks not offered to other companies; sweetheart deals with billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize stadium construction; and a monopoly in the pro football marketplace, with the help of crooked politicians.
I don’t expect the NFL to take care of its players from cradle to grave; it is, after all, a business. But at the same time, it’s morally irresponsible to let so many of its employees crash and burn under its watch. The situation is strikingly similar to that old movie “Rollerball,” which portrayed athletes working for a big entertainment corporation as pure cannon fodder.
And so while the players are drawing national attention to allegations of racism in America, the plundering and abuse of the league avoids the spotlight. Fortunately, we have started to hear of congressional inquiries into NFL exploitation, and I hope fan boycotts of the games increase, so these hearings can pick up steam.
For me, the best outcome of this knee-taking would be the national realization that the corrupt NFL needs to be overhauled, so that more teams and leagues – and more socially-responsible teams and leagues – could enter the pro football marketplace. That way, players could have more options for employment, and choose a company that would take better care of them. They would then have less to complain about.