Don’t think for a minute this will qualify as a “second look at” moment on the Right — but it might on the Left. With progressives cheering the NFL’s national anthem protests as yet another truth-to-power moment — and the NFL itself almost preening over its own inaction — one might have expected one of the progressive Left’s icons to fall into line with the other cheerleaders. Instead, Ruth Bader Ginsburg might have added a new dimension to her “Notorious RBG” nickname:
When asked by Couric how she feels about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and others athletes, refusing to stand for the anthem, Ginsburg replied, “I think it’s really dumb of them.”
“Would I arrest them for doing it? No,” Ginsburg elaborated. “I think it’s dumb and disrespectful. I would have the same answer if you asked me about flag burning. I think it’s a terrible thing to do, but I wouldn’t lock a person up for doing it. I would point out how ridiculous it seems to me to do such an act.”
Couric then asked, “But when it comes to these football players, you may find their actions offensive, but what you’re saying is, it’s within their rights to exercise those actions?”
“Yes,” said Ginsburg. “If they want to be stupid, there’s no law that should be preventive. If they want to be arrogant, there’s no law that prevents them from that. What I would do is strongly take issue with the point of view that they are expressing when they do that.”
Maybe Katie Couric deserves a kudo for asking the question at all, but it’s a strange issue to bring up in the context of interviewing a Supreme Court justice. No one — and I mean no one — has suggested that these protests violate the law or even incur a civil liability. “Would I arrest them for doing it” is a reductio so absurdum that it defies any understanding of the issues at play here. Couric then follows up with a question that’s almost as silly by asking Ginsburg if it’s “within their rights” to kneel, sit, or do the Funky Chicken during the national anthem.
Give Ginsburg credit for getting to the point even with these silly constructs. No one disputes that they have the right to do what they’re doing, nor does anyone with a sentient level above a rutabaga think that it’s a criminal act. The issue — or more accurately, one issue — is that it’s a stupid, arrogant, and ultimately misdirected act. Multimillionaire players disrespecting the national anthem won’t solve anything except a debate over what to watch when their teams are on television. If they want to have an impact, they could put some of their resources to work in search of solutios. If they want to do something in conjunction with their on-field play, then do what Richard Sherman did — talk about the issue in the post-game presser. The NFL forces players to participate in those (as an alternative to letting reporters in the locker room), so that makes more sense than stunts during the national anthem.
Another issue is the league itself. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell keeps saying how proud he is that players can speak out and express themselves on the field. At the same time, the league keeps doing this:
No pumps. No customized cleats. That much is clear. For the third straight week, a league uniform inspector told Brown to take off his cleats, this time for his Muhammad-Ali-inspired footwear.
This is a battle that Brown can’t win, no matter how fun it was for a few weeks. And the league rulebook gives commissioner Roger Goodell authority to discipline a player for blatant disregard of the uniform rules, which would apply to Brown if he keeps trying to wear the cleats in game action.
Last week, his cleats had Arnold Palmer on them. In this season, other players got threatened with fines for planning to wear cleats that noted the anniversary of 9/11 on them, and the Dallas Cowboys were blocked from honoring five police officers killed by a sniper while protecting a Black Lives Matter rally. And while those content-based restrictions get imposed, the league forces everyone to wear pink gloves and pink towels all through October as part of the NFL’s community service on breast cancer awareness. It’s a rolling feast of abject hypocrisy, and it favors what Notorious RBG herself says is “stupid” and “arrogant.”
Don’t expect the Left to cheer her on this, but Ginsburg’s right — maybe more than she knows.