Will the Jets and the rest of the league play football or politics?

For quite a few years now, on the first Sunday of football season, you’ve been used to seeing something of an annual tradition here at Hot Air. This would be the day when Ed Morrissey and I would kick off our yearly contest of reviewing the week’s games and picking some winners. It was a fun way to stay involved with our teams’ ups and downs (more downs for me as a Jets fan) and many of you chimed in with your own predictions as well. But this year we’re not going to be doing it, so I figured I’d let you know upfront. This isn’t any sort of protest we’re launching. It’s just that both of us have lost our enthusiasm for focusing on the NFL after all of the discord that’s been happening and neither of us felt like doing it this year. My apologies to anyone who was looking forward to it.

With that out of the way, I will still be watching at least the first Jets game of the 2020 season. Or at least the start of it, anyway. In addition to being a hard habit to break after roughly half a century, I’ll confess to being curious about how the Jets, the rest of the individual teams and the league as a whole are handling both the pandemic and the social unrest that’s managing to ruin so many things these days. The Jets will be playing the Bills in an empty stadium due to New York State COVID regulations. The Bills can’t have fans for at least the first two home games. After that, the question will be revisited.

I also want to see what’s going to happen during the National Anthem. Any regular readers already know my feelings on the subject, but the Jets have been rather coy about it. As of Thursday, the team was saying that a final decision wouldn’t be made until Saturday morning. But now it’s Sunday and I still haven’t seen any reports in the usual sports news outlets and the team website only says that the players will be wearing patches on their uniforms honoring Betty Wold Johnson.

Other teams are making their own choices. The Miami Dolphins will be staying inside the locker room during the playing of “both” National Anthems. (The entire league will be playing a “Black National Anthem” ahead of the Stars Spangled Banner. Spoiler alert: The country has one National Anthem and it was written by Francis Scott Key in 1814.) The NFL isn’t a government agency so they can play whatever songs they like. It doesn’t bother me. And frankly, the Dolphins’ choice to keep the players in the locker room is among the most sensible I’ve heard thus far.

But protesting our flag and our Anthem is another matter. Back in May, the team’s CEO told the press that he was “fine” with it if anyone wanted to protest. He went one step further, saying that he would pay the fines of any of his players who were penalized for kneeling. Of course, that was before Roger Goodell caved entirely, and now there won’t be any fines for anything it seems.

As of only a couple of hours before game time, I still don’t know what I’ll be doing going forward. Maybe it depends on how the Jets handle themselves. A part of me still wants to separate these issues and just ignore the political showboating on the sidelines and get on with watching the sport (and the team) that I’ve loved for my entire life. But perhaps the sense of disinterest that led Ed and me to stop doing the weekly NFL open threads will carry over to the game and the team.

I stopped watching baseball after the big strike in the 90s and really never looked back. I’ve never followed any other professional sports closely, if at all. Football was my only obsession in the sports world. How would I feel if I just walked away? As I said… I don’t know yet. I’ll give this a little time and see how it plays out. And I’m sure all of you will be similarly making your own choices. But if I’m done with football, it will be a real shame. I’m old enough to remember Joe Namath pulling off a miracle and winning the Super Bowl. That’s a lot of water under the bridge.