In my mind’s eye I see Pelosi and Schumer out of frame, frantically waving their hands at him and mouthing “nooooo.”
Friends who know me, know that I love football. But I won’t be watching this NFL season because of the unfair cowardly and idiotic kneeling ban. #BoycottNFL
— Keith Ellison (@keithellison) May 27, 2018
The left-wing boycott is on! But wait — the right-wing boycott is … also on?
Disgraceful that @nyjets owner will pay fines for players who kneel for National Anthem. Encouraging a movement premised on lies vs. police. Would he support all player protests? Would he pay fines of players giving Nazi salutes or spew racism? It’s time to say goodbye to Jets!
— Pete King (@RepPeteKing) May 26, 2018
What’s Ellison’s strategy in making a stink about this, or is there one? Maybe he’s following the Tom Steyer playbook, trying to pick a fight with Trump in the hope that it’ll raise his profile and convince Democratic voters to view him as a leader of the hashtag-Resistance. Sensing a vacuum at the top of the party in pushing back on Trump’s demagoguery of the anthem protests, Ellison’s going to try to fill that vacuum and show the left that he has the balls to stand up to the NFL and, by implication, to POTUS. But that vacuum exists for a reason: The numbers on this issue are not on the Democrats’ side and Pelosi and Schumer don’t want to do anything that might upset the normal laws of political “gravity” in a midterm. The less right-wing voters have to be agitated about, the less likely they are to match Democratic enthusiasm in November. Picking a marquee cultural fight with Trump and the NFL risks waking them up.
Between this and yesterday’s post about a maybe-possibly-but-probably-not walkout of some NFL players on behalf of Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, the NFL could be looking at a Category Five political sh*tstorm this season. Imagine a few dozen players refuse to suit up to protest Kaepernick’s freeze-out by the league. (Unlikely, but possible.) Some percentage of fans on both sides of the aisle would bail out of watching the games in response, lefties in sympathy with the player boycott and righties in annoyance at the continuing politicization of the league. Eventually there’ll be a ruling on Kaepernick’s collusion grievance, or maybe some team will sign him and short-circuit it. The reaction to that is unpredictable: You might get more right-wing fans dropping out, but would lefties come back? What happens if, in defiance of the new anthem policy, Kaepernick or any other player decides to kneel for the anthem anyway and his team tries to pass the league fine on to him? There’s no obvious way out of this. The league can try to buy the players off by promising a bunch of money for their favorite causes, but because this is now a test of wills and a matter of principle, any agreement that ends with the players forfeiting their opportunity to protest during the anthem will be seen as a sellout by some.
It’d be hilarious after Russiagate and the Comey drama and North Korea and the Iran deal’s demise and about two dozen semi-major news stories breaking every day of Trump’s presidency if the NFL anthem bickering became a midterm issue. What a plot twist by the writers of the garbage virtual-reality simulation we now inhabit!