The new NFL policy is basically the same as the NBA’s! Both now require players to stand for the anthem and, in the NBA’s phrasing, take “a dignified posture.” Remember Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf refusing to stand for the anthem? The league didn’t want any more of that.

A new poll from WaPo: 53 percent, a clear majority, say it’s never appropriate to kneel during the anthem.

Opinions are deeply divided along partisan, racial and ethnic lines. Fully 86 percent of Republicans said it’s never appropriate to kneel during the national anthem as a form of protest. That drops down to just about half of independents (51 percent) and less than 3 in 10 Democrats (29 percent) who said the same; 66 percent of Democrats said protesting the anthem is sometimes appropriate.

By a 69 percent to 22 percent margin, more African Americans said protests of the national anthem were acceptable than not. Yet over half of white (58 percent) and Hispanic adults (54 percent) said anthem protests are never appropriate. Whites are internally divided along partisan lines: 87 percent of white Republicans said it is never appropriate to kneel during the national anthem, compared with 24 percent of white Democrats.

The topline number, 42/53 in opposition to kneeling, is strikingly similar to the results of a Fox News poll last October, which found a 44/52 split. What’s interesting about that, though, is that just a year before Americans were lopsidedly opposed to kneeling at 32/61. The Kaepernick camp *has* made progress in shifting public opinion since the early days of the protests, but basically none in the past eight months. I wonder if that’s because the protests themselves died down as the NFL season wore on. If they start up again in reaction to the new policy, who knows which way opinion will go.

The reason this is a knotty issue is because you have two basic truths at odds:

1. A private enterprise has to protect its bottom line. If a business is losing customers due to player politics — compounded by greater competition for TV ratings — at some point it must act to stop the hemorrhage. The NFL’s not going to bleed to death here to prove its wokeness and it’s stupid to ask them to.

2. Patriotism is wonderful but compulsory patriotism, even within a private enterprise, is douchey, authoritarian, and counterproductive.

We need to settle on a position, writes David French, on when it is and isn’t okay for a private entity to punish someone for expressing himself:

Conservatives can recite the names of the publicly shamed from memory. There was Brendan Eich, hounded out of Mozilla for donating to a California ballot initiative that defined marriage as the union of a man and woman. There was James Damore, abruptly terminated from Google after he wrote an essay attributing the company’s difficulty in attracting female software engineers more to biology and free choice than to systemic discrimination. On campus, the list is as long and grows longer every semester…

Until, that is, Colin Kaepernick chose to kneel. Until, that is, the president demanded that the N.F.L. fire the other players who picked up on his protest after he was essentially banished from the league.

That was when the conservative mob called for heads to roll. Conform or face the consequences.

You can find distinctions here — some distinctions — if you grasp. The NFL punishing Kaepernick for kneeling during the anthem is different from private universities barring conservative speakers from campus, you might say, because the purpose of the university (in theory) is the free exchange of ideas. The purpose of the NFL is football as entertainment. Keeping Ben Shapiro from addressing the local YAF is inimical to the mission of one in a way that keeping Kaepernick on his feet during the anthem simply isn’t to the other. Or you could go the route that the flag is different, full stop. Mozilla forcing out Brendan Eich for his Prop 8 donation is persecution based on political viewpoint. The NFL forcing out Kaepernick for kneeling during the anthem to protest police brutality is … c’mon, he’s kneeling during the national anthem.

But that doesn’t make the censorship better, notes French. That actually makes it worse. Ken White fleshed that out with a dash of history on Twitter today:

Thought experiment: If it’s not about the substance of the protest but merely about the act of disruption during the national anthem, what would the reaction have been if right-wing players had thought to kneel during the anthem to protest a conservative cause? White considered that too:

If you don’t like his hypothetical, choose your favorite. Gun rights, pro-life, something having to do with support for Trump. Imagine some pro-Trump player, disgusted by the Russiagate probe, deciding to kneel during the anthem to protest the U.S. government’s attempt to delegitimize a duly elected president. “I’ll stand again when I have faith in the integrity of my government again,” he’d say. Reaction on the right would be conflicted, for sure, with praise for the cause but some criticism of the manner of protest. But would Trump be calling for that guy to maybe leave the country? Or would that guy be a Very Special Guest coming up tonight on “Hannity”? To some greater or lesser (probably greater) extent, this does boil down to the point of the protests, not the manner. I think that’s what Kerr was trying to get it in his own clumsy way.