Tag Archives: NFL

That’s what it was, Mr. VPOTUS: a political stunt

Vice President Mike Pence certainly knew what would take place when he went to a pro football game today.

He knew some of the players would “take a knee” while they struck up “Star Spangled Banner.” He knew some of the San Francisco 49ers would protest, along with some of the Indianapolis Colts.

He knew that would happen. But he showed up anyway at the game in Indianapolis — only to walk out because, as he said, he wouldn’t “dignify” a disrespecting of the flag, our country, our men and women in uniform, our Constitution.

Good grief! What we saw today was an act of political grandstanding.

An Indianapolis Star sports columnist also was right to question why Pence showed up in the first place and why he decided to expend a good bit of taxpayer money — with the requisite security and other things associated with the vice president’s traveling contingent.

Using high office to score political points

It’s not as though presidents and vice presidents don’t occasionally use their high office for political gain. I get that it’s happened before.

But this stunt that Pence pulled today was so transparently phony it boggles the mind. He wanted to make a statement that the players who are protesting are somehow “disrespecting” the nation that allows them to do the very thing they are doing.

Lest we forget, the protest — which began this pas season when then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the National Anthem — is intended to protest police treatment of African-American citizens. I’ll stipulate that I am not pleased with the form of protest mounted. I wish the players would find another way to make their point.

However, their demonstration is not meant to dishonor the flag, or the country, or our brave fighting men and women. To suggest it does all of that is to cheapen a legitimate form of political protest.

For the vice president of the United States to make a big show of it in the first place only heightens the phoniness of his own declaration of disgust.

O.J. out of prison … what now?

Orenthal James Simpson no longer is locked up in a Nevada prison, but he’s hardly what you’d call a “free man.”

The former college and pro football star served a nine-year prison sentence on an array of charges stemming from an altercation he had with some guys over possession of some football memorabilia.

But … then there’s that other crime with which he’ll be associated until the end of time. His former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman were stabbed to death in 1994. Simpson was the prime suspect. Police arrested him and charged him with double murder.

What ensued next was the most overexposed, overcovered and overhyped trial of the 20th century. Jurors heard months of testimony and after four hours of deliberation, they acquitted Simpson of killing the two victims.

Oh, it doesn’t end there.

Nicole and Ron’s families — the Browns and Goldmans — filed a civil suit. Another jury ruled that Simpson was “liable” for their deaths. They awarded them $33.5 million in damages.

Then came the scrape that put The Juice behind bars.

The Browns and Goldmans have been unable to collect anything from Simpson during his time in prison. His NFL pension is protected. The Hall of Famer couldn’t work, quite obviously, while he was locked up.

O.J. gets parole

Well, now he’s out. He’s free to earn some outside income apart from his pension if he’s so inclined. The question now becomes: Will the Goldmans and the Browns renew their quest for some semblance of the cash that the jury awarded them when they found Simpson liable for the gruesome deaths?

Don’t expect them to collect all of it. And at this point, I wouldn’t even bet on them getting any of it, given Simpson’s proclivity for hiring top-drawer legal advice. I mean, his criminal defense team got him acquitted of the murders despite overwhelming circumstantial and physical evidence that he committed that hideous crime.

My own wish is that O.J. Simpson vanishes from the public stage. It’s not likely to happen, given the ubiquitous nature of social media and this guy’s lust for attention.

Another wish would be for Simpson to make good on his post-acquittal promise to search for as long as it takes to find Nicole and Ron’s killer.

Oh … wait!

Remember the time Kim Davis … you know?

Someone out there has brought back an earlier episode involving politics in the workplace, so I’ll just jump on that horse and ride it briefly here.

Kim Davis is the Rowan County (Ky.) clerk who once defied a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared that gay marriage is a protected right under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

She said her religious beliefs wouldn’t permit her to issue marriage license to gay couples. She violated the oath of her office; she had vowed to obey the Constitution and, you know, follow the law of the land.

She brought her personal political beliefs into the workplace. Bad, Kim … bad!

So now there’s some argument being kicked around in social media about those pro football players who are doing that very thing. They’re bringing their politics into their workplace, which happens to be on a field surrounded by tens of thousands of paying fans and millions more of them watching them do their jobs on television.

Some of those players are “taking a knee” when “The Star-Spangled Banner” is sung before games. Others are locking arms with teammates. Critics of this practice say that the athletes are acting inappropriately by politicizing their profession, not to mention that they’re “disrespecting the Constitution,” which I believe is a ludicrous assertion.

I’ll stipulate once more that I am not pleased by the nature of the protests by pro football players. I wish they had found another way to protest against police brutality against African-Americans, which is the initial reason for the protests.

That all said, if it’s OK — in the minds of many Americans — for Kim Davis, who serves the public in a public office, to bring her political beliefs into her workplace, why is it not OK for pro football players to do the same thing?

Ditka: ‘Don’t demonstrate against the Constitution’

Mike Ditka was a damn good professional football player and coach.

He is a strong supporter of Donald J. Trump. He has strong opinions on the recent controversy regarding NFL players “taking a knee” while they listen to the National Anthem at the start of football games.

But he needs to take a breath and maybe rethink what he told the Chicago Sun-Times. He said:

“But I don’t believe you demonstrate against the American flag. I believe in the American flag. Or demonstrate against the Constitution. I believe in the Constitution. I’m old fashioned. There are other ways to get your point across. But I don’t believe one should demonstrate against our country. Just play football.

“And that’s the way I feel. And now I’d like to go back to my card game.”

Here’s more of what he said.

Old-fashioned Mike should examine the Constitution and what it means. It guarantees the right of citizens to do precisely what he’s arguing against. These football players and their coaches are doing it peacefully. Their initial protest — which started this past season with quarterback Colin Kaepernick — has been aimed at police treatment of African-Americans.

Do I agree with the tactic they’ve employed? No. I wish they would protest differently. But I take no offense at what they’re doing. I do not believe these young men are disrespecting “the flag” or “the Constitution.”

I believe in the flag as much as Coach Ditka. I also believe that the cherished flag symbolizes a nation founded on the very principle of dissent and protest.

Stick to matters of state, Mr. President

I won’t spend a lot of blog space commenting on this, so here goes.

Mr. President, stop tweeting about the National Football League, its ratings, the players who are protesting peacefully about what they perceive to be problems with policing in African-American communities.

You’ve spent far too much time commenting on these matters and far too little time concentrating on issues of much more vital importance.

Focus, for once, Mr. President.

There’s North Korea. You’ve got tax reform. Oh, and there’s hurricane relief for our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico.

You’ve instead decided to devote many of your waking hours via Twitter blasting those so-called “SOBs” who have decided to “take a knee” while listening to the “Star Spangled Banner” before pro football games.

Get off it, Mr. President. You’ve got much, much more important matters to occupy your time, not to mention your Twitter finger.

Trump keeps fomenting anger

Donald Trump seems to have found his latest lodestar.

It is to pump up his base, to use a flashpoint argument that keeps ’em fired up, as angry as he is. The target now happens to be highly paid professional athletes who are demonstrating — peacefully, I should add — against law enforcement treatment of African-Americans.

The consequence of the president’s ongoing battle against the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and anyone else who sides with the protesting players is to foment more anger, more division and more rancor.

I mean, it’s not as if we don’t have enough of it already simmering out here across the land.

NFL players are kneeling at the start of their games when the band strikes up “The Star Spangled Banner.” Trump calls them SOBs. He is getting lots of cheers from many Americans. He is getting consternation and condemnation from many other Americans. He is listening only to the cheering squads and is ignoring the rest of the country.

As Politico reports: Chris Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax and a longtime Trump friend, said on Monday that the president is focused on the patriotism angle of the debate and is brushing off the charges of racism.

“He’s in a bubble here because he knows he’s not a racist. His friends know he isn’t,” Ruddy said in an interview. “He sees himself standing on the high ground of the truth. But the media are telling the rest of the country a different story about him.”

I get that the president sees himself as standing on moral high ground. Except that it’s not realistic for him to keep believing it.

Trump must see what is happening out here. As for the “media telling … a different story about him,” the media merely are reporting the fiery rhetoric that keeps pouring out of the president’s mouth.

The consequence is continued division — and rancor that seems to be quickly approaching hatred.

That’s not how you “unify” the country, Mr. President.

Wondering about POTUS’s stated anger at NFL players

Donald J. Trump stood before an Alabama political rally crowd and called professional players “sons of b******” if they don’t stand while they play the National Anthem at the start of a game.

He got big cheers. He lapped it up.

But when white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen marched in Charlottesville, Va., provoking a conflict earlier this year with counter protestors, he said “both sides” were responsible for the violence and that “very fine people” were among those who marched with the KKK, Nazis and white supremacists.

He talked in Alabama this weekend about “disrespecting” Old Glory and “The Star Spangled Banner.” He didn’t talk at all about flying the Confederate flag — which is an enduring symbol of a 19th-century movement to destroy the United States of America.

Trump talks about standing up for our democratic principles. But he hasn’t yet condemned the Russians for hacking into our electoral process — a virtual “act of war” against those very principles he now defends against professional athletes who are protesting police policies as they relate to African-American citizens.

It needs to be said that the bulk of the protests over the Anthem are coming from African-American athletes.

The president of the United States then calls them “sons of b******” because they are engaging in a peaceful protest of a government policy.

Is this argument being waged along racial lines? Donald Trump today said “no!” He said he’s never raised the issue of race. It’s about respecting the symbols of our “great country.”

Someone will have to explain to me in language I can understand just how all of this is not related to the racial makeup of those who are protesting.

That’s how you ‘unify’ a nation, Mr. President?

My goodness, Donald Trump. When are you going to get it?

You’ve been handed yet another opportunity to say the right thing. To offer a soothing word of assurance. To tell those who are protesting U.S. government policies toward an important segment of our population that you hear them, that you will work to assuage their concerns.

So, what do you do?

You suggest that National Football League owners and football execs should fire the “sons of b******” who refuse to stand during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the start of games. Then the NBA champion Golden State Warriors said they oppose your view on the kneeling issue. Your response to them was Classic Trump when you disinvited them to the White House for a ceremony honoring their accomplishment.

You, Mr. President — the Leader of the Free World and head of state of the greatest country on Earth — have used your high, exalted office to score points with your political base. You have inflamed emotions on both sides of this issue.

Have you forgotten, sir, how you pledged to “unify” the nation once you took office? Or how you intended to be president for all Americans? Or how you would spend your waking moments working to “make America great again”?

I know the answer to that. You haven’t forgotten any of that. In my view, they were empty platitudes. You didn’t mean a word of it when you made those pledges.

I am left to wonder out loud, Mr. President: Do you have any idea what you are doing? Do you have a clue about what this high office to which you were elected entails?

You have managed yet again to make an absolute hash of a situation that has spiraled out of control partly because of your divisive, fiery rhetoric that is precisely the wrong thing to provide at a time when we need words of calm assurance.

One of the unwritten rules of your high office means you are obligated to be the voice of reason during difficult circumstances. As you have demonstrated time and time again since taking office, sir, you are failing this test.

I am left, then, to ask yet again: When are you going to get it? Ever?

NASCAR owners weigh in on anthem controversy

This might be the least surprising development imaginable in the festering controversy over athletes refusing to stand when they hear “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Some key NASCAR heavyweight owners have issued fair warning to their crew members — including drivers — who don’t stand when they play the National Anthem at the start of each automobile race.

You stand or you will get fired! Got it? Good!

This issue has become a serious talking point ever since former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick started a protest this past season by kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem. Kaepernick said he was protesting treatment of African-Americans.

It’s gotten a lot bigger this season. The president of the United States has weighed in, suggesting NFL owners should fire the “sons of b******” who refuse to stand during the Anthem. The NBA champion Golden State Warriors were disinvited to the White House because some of their star players have expressed support for the sideline demonstrations.

The protests are being led by mostly African-American athletes. NASCAR, of course, comes from a different environment altogether. It’s rooted in the Southern culture. Its fan base is overwhelmingly white. As are its drivers, owners and associated crew members.

The different approach to this National Anthem protest business is on stark display. As The Sporting News reported: Hall of Fame driver Richard Petty and current team owner of the No. 43 Cup Series team of Aric Almirola agrees with Trump.

“Anybody that don’t stand up for the anthem oughta be out of the country. Period. What got ’em where they’re at? The United States,” Petty said, adding that any protester within his organization would be fired. 

We live in a tremendously diverse country. Its diversity is being played out right before our eyes as we prepare to watch sporting events — and see how athletes of all stripes react to the sound of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

J.J. Watt now can concentrate fully on his day job

J.J. Watt is a tremendous football player.

He also is a young man with a huge heart. You see, this Houston Texans defensive lineman took it upon himself to help raise money for the stricken residents of his adopted hometown, Houston.

He started out with a goal of raising $200,000 for those who were suffering from the wrath of Hurricane Harvey, which pummeled Houston in late August.

Watt has called a halt to his fundraising effort. He’s raised a cool $37 million.

Watt shows his true stuff.

The National Football League honors one of its players annually with the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. It’s named after the late, great Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton, who routinely devoted much of his off-the-field activity to helping those who needed help.

J.J. Watt has gone not just above and beyond the call to help his fellow Houstonian and other Texas Gulf Coast residents. He has orbited Earth and at least a couple of other planets in providing assistance to those who remain in serious trouble as a result of Harvey’s savagery.

As Sports Illustrated reports: “Watt recently closed the fundraiser after raising an astonishing $37,097,298, which is more than 185 times his initial goal. More than 200,000 people donated, meaning Watt got as many donors as he expected dollars.”

Astonishing, yes?

I believe young J.J. has earned the Payton Man of the Year Award.