President Donald J. Trump doubled down his rhetoric against National Football League (NFL) players who refuse to stand for the national anthem on Sunday morning, but fans should be reminded the NFL’s patriotism is relatively new in the league.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell claims that the “NFL and players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture” but their weekly show of support towards members of the American military began only after NFL owners realized they could make money off it.
In 2009, Barack Obama’s Department of Defense began paying hundreds of thousands towards teams in a marketing strategy designed to show support for the troops and increase recruitments. The NFL then required all players and personnel to be on the sidelines during the national anthem, in exchange for taxpayers dollars. Prior, the national anthem was played in the stadium but players had the option of staying in the locker room before heading out to the field.
Furthermore, teams that showed “Veteran’s Salutes” during games were paid upwards of $5.1 million dollars.
The NFL has shown degrees of patriotism at different times such as after 9/11, but as Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), noted in 2015, “Those of us go to sporting events and see them honoring the heroes; you get a good feeling in your heart. Then to find out they’re doing it because they’re compensated for it, it leaves you underwhelmed. It seems a little unseemly.”
Presently, Donald Trump is encouraging fans boycott the NFL if the league refuses to “back the U.S.”