Patriots at White House … or not … give us all a civics lesson

Donald Trump photo courtesy Wikipedia Common

Everything, it seems, is a big deal these days. This is especially true when football meets politics. Or, more to the point, clashes with it.

Two recent examples of this came when a half-dozen New England Patriots players declared they were not going to the White House with teammates to celebrate their stirring Super Bowl victory. Five of the six are African-American, and several made clear their decision reflected their feelings – or lack thereof – for President Donald Trump.

“I just don’t feel welcome in that house’’ running back LeGarrette Blount said. “I’ll just leave it at that.’’

Meanwhile, Blount’s coach, Bill Belichick, and his teammate, Tom Brady, have both expressed long-standing friendships with the President, one it seems based mostly on available tee times at exclusive golf resorts more than on fiscal or foreign policies. Be that as it may, Brady has been roundly criticized from all sides for not expressing more … or less … of an explanation of his feelings.

The idea that he, or Blount, has to do any such explaining runs counter to our beliefs, of course, but critics on both sides seem to have forgotten that.

One of the many great things about America is that no one has to come when the President calls, although most people do. Some come for the experience; others out of respect for the office and a few for the free golf glove or lapel pin. But if they would rather go fishing, they can.

Try that if Putin calls, and someone will be fishing for you.

This is the Patriots’ fifth trip to the White House, and owner Robert Kraft claims usually about a dozen players don’t show for various reasons, named or unnamed. He then reminded us, “This is America. We’re all free to do whatever is best for us.’’

One of the great privileges we have as Americans is just that. We are pretty much free to say and do what we please. Even when the President calls, you don’t have to answer. Or show up.

Brady didn’t go when President Barack Obama called. Blount, Devin McCourty, Chris Long, Martellus Bennett, Alan Branch and Dont’a Hightower aren’t going this time. Neither is a big deal. It’s a civics lesson in action. It’s freedom of choice. Who’s against that?

Maybe Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

This week he warned the NFL that it is “walking on thin ice’’ because Vice President of Communications Brian McCarthy said a proposed Texas law forcing transgendered people to use bathrooms corresponding with their genetic identities, rather than how they identify personally, might lead to the league steering special events like the Super Bowl elsewhere.

And why’s that? Texas has a right to pass what laws it wants, as long as they are constitutional, and the NFL has a right to take its business where it feels. Again, freedom of choice.

Abbott also claimed he could not count the number of Texans who told him they no longer watch NFL games because Colin Kaepernick and a few other players were “allowed to make a gross political statement’’ – his words – by refusing to stand for the National Anthem. You mean Texans weren’t watching the NFL because a few NFL players exercised one of the rights that makes our country unique and a beacon for the rest of the world? Really?

One assumes two things from this: Gov. Abbott wasn’t a math major, and he never took a civics class. The voters of Texas are free to do as they wish. So is the NFL. Neither is on thin ice unless they are in Green Bay in March. Both are only doing what America is about – which is whatever they want under the law.

Same is true of players who go – or don’t go – to a photo op at the White House. They’re the faces of freedom, whether President Trump sees their faces or not.

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  1. Gary M Gillis
    February 23, 2017

    It is a great country. Already great. Thank you Ron!

  2. Bear fan Bob
    February 23, 2017

    Humm no respect for the office? What else don’t they have respect for?

    • February 23, 2017

      The commissioner … and I can understand why.

      • Bear fan Bob
        February 23, 2017

        At the very least my guess the office of the President, the NFL commissioner (as you so correctly mentioned) and a whole lot more, some diserved some not. but just a guess.

  3. Rasputin
    February 24, 2017

    I was with you until about halfway through when you bizarrely tried to shoehorn the anti-Gregg Abbot stuff in. The liberal morons currently populating the NFL’s office made a heavy handed attempt to change Texas law. They fired at Texas and the governor fired back. I don’t think he was threatening legal action. He was talking about the NFL ruining its own brand with a series of bad decisions lately. Abbot didn’t violate anyone’s freedom of speech or freedom of choice. He exercised his own. And I guarantee you that he spoke for the vast majority of Texans.

    I’ll also say straight up that Greg Abbot, who bounced back from becoming paralyzed after a tree fell on him while jogging in the 1980s to become an extremely accomplished litigator, state supreme court judge, law professor, and attorney general before being elected governor, is significantly more intelligent than you, Borges, and is whole league above you in the integrity department.

    You just penned your own column about the NFL’s “bleeding” brand, bashing them on a different issue where your personal views conflict rather than align with theirs, so you’re exhibiting some hypocrisy here.

    But the worst part of your story is that little bit you squeeze in about Kaepernick supposedly exercising “the right” that makes the US a “beacon” to the rest of the world.

    – NFL players, like other employees, don’t have “the right” to say or do anything they want while at work on other people’s property. That’s why the Dallas Cowboys weren’t allowed to wear the decals they wanted to wear to honor law enforcement in the wake of the Dallas shooting by the Black Lives Matter guy. It’s why they can be fined, suspended, or even sent to mandatory “counseling” for violating a whole slew of “offensive” language or display rules.

    – The NFL could have required players to stand respectfully at any time if it had chosen to, since the stunt was deeply offensive to millions of Americans. Its failure to do that most certainly damaged its brand, coloring it as an anti-American league. I’ve posted the scientific survey data here for you before showing that among Americans (not just Texans) it was the #1 factor in declining ratings this past season (way ahead of concussions). That ratings decline persisted after the election, debunking yet another liberal media myth that had tried to blame it on that.

    One rare bright spot for the NFL this past year was the Cowboys, who always all stood for the anthem and wanted to honor cops, and who consistently drew the highest ratings. Many of the fans who continued watching also thoroughly enjoyed seeing how bad Kaepernick and the 49ers sucked.

    You might have had a nice feel good, common ground finding piece here if you hadn’t ruined it with the ignorant partisan garbage.

    PS – Tom Brady was a guest at Bush’s 2004 state of the union address, so it’s doubtful that he has nothing in common with Trump politically , your wishful thinking aside. He’s probably quiet about his political views these days because he’s smart enough to know the insanely biased and politicized sports media that honored a stupid scumbag like Kaepernick and is unhinged over Trump is just waiting to roast him.

    • Bear fan Bob
      February 24, 2017

      Amen to Mr Mendoza

    • Steve
      February 27, 2017

      I’ll second that. The NFL should really think twice before they scold arguably the most football-crazy state in the union in the name of the Democrats’ latest ginned-up culture war.

  4. Rich Quodomine
    February 28, 2017

    Transgendering is hardly ginned-up. It’s real, I have Trans friends and family. Forcing gender assignment bathroom is a law that has no basis in Constitutional framework. Bottom line: Using the bathroom in the gender you are currently is simply an exercise of individual right. A rape, or bathroom assault, is committed mostly by straight males against females, regardless of bathroom assignment. The fearmongering of transgendered people is silly. And I am registered with neither party and vote for best person – from either party and third parties – as I see fit.

    OTOH, ratings post-election were down only mildly:

    The NFL isn’t losing fans, overall. The 10 year trend in the NFL is positive. Here’s a slice of the conference championship games:

    Throw in streaming (I saw the SB with a group at a party via this method), bars, etc. and I think there’s only one thing that determines the NFL’s popularity: the quality of the product and the overall quality of the entertainment competing against it. If nothing else, Trump was both a form of entertainment and highly galvanizing emotionally, both for an against. In a way, we charged up, on both sides, around Trump. The same is true about our football teams. I submit that the psychology of an election is not all that different from the psychology of passionate football fans. We care about it, we believe in it, and while the stakes are different in football than in politics, we believe in them deeply. The Clinton camapign forgot this, and most of her ads were about how bad Trump was, giving no one a reason to vote *for* her. Some people voted for Trump, so voted against Hillary – but he got people to say “Make America Great Again.” That is simple, powerful and connects. It’s why he won.

    I honestly don’t care who goes to the White House. It’s only recently become political. It’s football. You go there *with* your team, and honestly, if I were on a team, I’d be more bothered by someone not going with me and the team for the sake of politics, regardless. I can’t imagine that anyone is persuaded by what a professional sports player thinks.

    • Rasputin
      February 28, 2017

      So ratings were still down after the election, even with America’s Team giving them a big boost with its compelling season. Your conference championship game link shows slight upticks over the years, but remember that population grows too. Imagine what ratings would have been without all that unnecessary drag.

      “Almost a month after election night, NFL ratings have recovered only partially and that should concern NFL executives.”

      According to a recent poll, 64% of Americans opposed “football players like Colin Kaepernick” using the NFL as a stage for political statements, with only 22% supporting.

      Among the 60% of Americans who said they had been an NFL fan at some point in the last five years, 63% said they had watched less football this year compared to previous years.

      Of the ones who watched less, here’s a breakdown of the reasons they gave:

      Players like Colin Kaepernick using the NFL as a stage for their political views: 29%
      New rules that reduce physical contact: 5%
      There are too many games during the week: 13%
      Games last too long: 6%
      Pace of play is too slow: 3%
      Something else: 27%
      Unsure: 18%

      43% of Republicans cited the “Kaepernick” reason for watching less, along with 27% of Independents and 13% of Democrats. It was overwhelmingly #1 among Republicans, a very close #2 among Independents (following “something else” at 28%), and 4th among Democrats, with only one single issue (too many games) edging it out at 15% (the other two reasons ranking higher were the catchalls “something else” and “not sure”). Here’s a party breakdown of the first question:

      “Q1: Do you believe professional football players like Colin Kaepernick should use the NFL as a stage for their political views?”


      Republican – 77%/13%/10%
      Non-Partisan – 65%/19%/16%
      Democrat – 49%/17%/13%

      Even Democrats are more likely to oppose such antics than support them, with Republicans and (true) Independents overwhelmingly so. The league was really catering to a fringe.

      You said: “Forcing gender assignment bathroom is a law that has no basis in Constitutional framework. ”

      By that logic we shouldn’t have segregated male and female bathrooms anyway (or locker rooms or sports teams). There is absolutely nothing in the Constitution about the so called “transgender” issue, but there are key segments delegating power to states and individuals in areas where power isn’t explicitly given to the federal government (e.g. 9th and 10th Amendments in the Bill of Rights).

      Bathroom sex assignment should be the province of private property owners. It’s the owner’s free right to set such rules on his own property, and an un-American infringement on fundamental property rights for the government to assert otherwise, assuming proper notification to is given to the customer. Local government bathrooms should be controlled through the local political process.

      Liberals states can go one way and conservative states another. That’s the beauty of what’s supposed to be a decentralized, federal system of government where one faction doesn’t try to impose a one-size-fits-all policy on everyone. That said, the concern over the issue is much broader than you indicate. It’s not just about “transgendered” people’s feelings. Women don’t like sharing bathrooms with men for lots of reasons. Many parents don’t want their kids sharing bathrooms with members of the opposite sex. There’s a widespread and valid concern that such rules like the federal ones recently reversed would have been abused by child predators and perverts wanting to watch.

      Trump won for some of the same reasons Brexit won, the Labour Party in general has relegated itself to the British wilderness, and there’s widespread populist angst around much the world. The modern left, especially in the Anglosphere, has spent years mostly catering to boutique fringe concerns. Most middle Americans don’t care that much about advancing the LGBTQ agenda, climate change, or racial whining that typically degenerates into white bashing that looks more absurd and out of touch with reality with each passing year. Heartland Americans, like most Brits and billions of others around the world, care about issues that actually affect their daily lives, like jobs, wages, national security, and societal/cultural stability. The “transgendered” only make up an infinitesimal percentage of the population, and yet the left is willing to flip over portions of society that would impact much greater numbers of people to pander to them.

      The NFL threatened to partially boycott Texas, the country’s #1 football state as Steve mentioned above, over the issue. That’s insane.
      It’s even crazier given that NFL fans, like most sports fans, skew more Republican and conservative than the general population, as various surveys have shown over the years (e.g.

      Instead of continuing to pander to the fringe left on issues across the board and obnoxiously attacking the core of their own fan base, the NFL should be catering to the vast majority of their fans, or at least avoiding aggressively lobbying on the wrong side of controversial issues.

    • Rasputin
      February 28, 2017

      Great. As happened last time I replied to you on a Borges column page, my comment is “awaiting moderation”, maybe because of the links to polling/news data. I don’t know. Maybe other reasons. You’ve got links. Did yours drop immediately? I’ve had other comments with links lately that posted immediately. I’ll give it a day to post and if it doesn’t I’ll try again with some creative alterations.

      Regardless, it’s hilariously ironic that this occurred on this particular column and the one months earlier by the same author supposedly celebrating “free speech” and the open exchange of ideas, lol.

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