I feel about the NFL kneeling kerfuffle much the same way I did about the Dixie Chicks kerfuffle about 10-12 years ago (waaaay too lazy to look up dates).
For those without my obsessive detail to pop culture memory, the Dixie Chicks were a very popular three woman Country music group with an attitude that kind of bordered on rock. They’d had a bunch of hits and had a lot of fans.
In happier days, they sung the most upbeat and happy songs about spousal abuse and revenge murder the world has ever known…..
In the early days of the Iraq war (W edition) while performing abroad (I want to say London but again…. too lazy to look it up!) the lead singer said something to the crowd about being ’embarrassed’ by President George W Bush. This did not set well with their fans, the ones who bought their records and bought tickets to their concerts.
The basic idea wasn’t so much what she said (from what I remember) but the conditions she said it in. Country music stars have said controversial things at odds with their audience and recovered but this was different. She was insulting the president while in a foreign country while the US was at war (sort of). That was deeply disturbing to country fans (I don’t fully understand the logic but that’s irrelevant). Had they said that in more peaceable times or in the US it wouldn’t have been as big a deal.
Their career never really recovered. Lots of radio stations stopped playing their music and record and ticket sales did not do well. Despite the mainstream press doing its best to portray them as heroines of free speech they’d essentially alienated their core audience. Their big comeback song after a couple of years was a giant Fuck You! aimed directly at the people they’d alienated so that didn’t help matters either.
How not to win back fans: Tell them they’re wrong and terrible and that you hate them.
My opinion was that they have every right to say anything they want, but they are not free to compell people to buy their product. And alienating your core audience is never a good business plan. Which they continued to do by saying they liked their new rock fans much better than their old country fants (it didn’t last their music wasn’t the kind to keep rock listeners listening).
So yeah, NFL players have every right to sit during the national anthem or to ‘take a knee’. But they have no right to force people to watch them play afterward. Again, alienating your core audience is never a good business plan. Owners ostentatiously siding with the kneeling players is also terrible business.
The message fans take away: Hey fans, you’re terrible! Buy more tickets!
Not many people want to watch performers that make it obvious they think they’re more moral than them and want to make a big deal out of what a terrible person they are? (that’s the message given by the kneeling) and as George Miller (famous psycholinguist) once said (paraphrasing) the only practical meaning any utterance or action has is that understood by the recipient because that is what their response will be based on. If fans of performers understand (whether it was meant or not) that the performer doesn’t like them, then they’re liable to not remain fans very long.
In the final analysis, entertainers (a category that includes professional athletes) work at the pleasure of their audience and when they displease their audience they either need to revise their act or find a job outside of show business.