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Current Affairs

A Magazine of Politics and Culture

The Current Affairs Handbook of Surreptitious Resistance to the NFL’s Absurd National Anthem Rule

A guide for outraged football players…

It has come to our attention that the National Football League (NFL) has adopted a draconian rule to punish football players who choose to take a knee during the “Star Spangled Banner.” In support of the principled athletes targeted by this cowardly decision, we provide the Current Affairs Handbook of Surreptitious Resistance to the NFL’s Absurd National Anthem Rule. We hope these ideas will spur creative ways to circumvent the haters.

But first, some background. For those of you unfamiliar with this sideline drama, the kneeling practice is a form of silent protest against police brutality. It was inaugurated during the 2016 preseason by Colin Kaepernick, who was then a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. When asked about his decision to respectfully kneel during the Star-Spangled Banner, Kaepernick explained: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” [Insert: vigorous clapping from the Current Affairs masthead.] Eventually, many NFL players—overwhelmingly Black—and professional athletes in other leagues began to kneel during the National Anthem. Kaepernick’s brave stand even inspired children and teens to protest at their school games.

The blowback the protesters have since endured would be comical, if it were not so depraved. Kaepernick has been blackballed from the league in a possibly illegal collusion scheme between team owners. School students have been threatened with expulsion and other forms of punishment. Opponents of the protest have hijacked a conversation that should be about police brutality, with nonsensical arguments that kneeling during a song by a slaveowning racist who hated free speech is somehow an attack on veterans and the version of American Freedom that cannot tolerate quiet kneeling. President Trump, who we definitely know cares about one sport and one sport only—golf—weighed in through his Twitter bully pulpit to coerce the NFL players into standing upright before games. Vice President Pence, ironically, staged his own protest exit in protest of the football players’ protest of a sports game that was allegedly no place for a protest. Even the Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, our alleged ally and torchbearer of the #Resistance, perpetually waffles on supporting these peaceful protesters. Like the British, who once appeased Hitler by making their national soccer team do the Nazi salute before a friendly game, the (figuratively) poor NFL owners have concluded they have no choice but to cuddle with pseudo-fascist forces.

At Current Affairs, we believe the NFL’s reaction to these protests is downright cowardly and that the players should be able to protest anything they want, any time they want. In this spirit, we submit to the National Players Association a list of 12 proposals to circumvent the NFL rule. We hope these ideas match the NFL rule in absurdity and proportionality.

1. Hire a licensed professional to fly a private prop plane equipped with a powerful sound system. As the Star Spangled Banner is about to begin, have this person fly their small plane over the stadium and play “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

2. Commission a cardboard cutout of yourself kneeling while wearing your team uniform. This replica should be between one and one-and-a-half times your size. Bring the replica onto the sidelines and stand behind it during the National Anthem. If possible, hire an independent printer to support the local economy.

3. They said you had to stand, but they didn’t say where. Before the anthem, slip out with some of your teammates and find the owner’s box. As the anthem plays, stand ominously above him in total glaring silence. Do not speak. Just collectively stare at him while he squirms.

4. Conspire with players from your team and the rival team to attend the postgame conference in matching jerseys, displaying the photographs and names of people recently killed by the police. Make the occasional exception for the team member who insists on wearing a rainbow or some other fun and colorful jersey. After all, this is a game.

5. As the anthem plays, perform a beautiful and informative interpretive dance about police brutality. Be sure to incorporate a modern dance style—the last thing you need is a poor review from any Times art critic who may be in the audience. Do not choreograph sitting poses.

6. Secretly substitute the official game football with a football on which the most artistic player on your team has painted a police officer in uniform. Use this lesson to encourage police forces to think about how it makes them feel to see themselves being kicked around, and how it must make Black people feel to see police officers kick them around all the time. If using oil paint, complete the painting 2-3 weeks in advance to ensure the art fully dries by game day.

7. Write a strongly-worded letter highlighting issues of white supremacy and police brutality in the United States and abroad. On Valentine’s Day, attach a copy to a candy gram and mail it to your team’s coaches and owners. Do not splurge—these people deserve no better than forlorn candy corn from last Halloween.

8. Find someone you care about deeply. Inform the television studio that you plan to propose during the National Anthem. When the time is ripe (“Oooh, say can you seeee”), get down on one knee and propose. Remember to annotate your proposal with a list of obstacles that love has to overcome in this world. Include police violence and anti-black racism.

9. Add a little politics to your touchdown dance by pulling out a Black Lives Matter flag and waving it at the crowd. Will the refs hit you with a 15-yard excessive celebration penalty? Probably. But letting the other team start with a 15-yard advantage is a political message all by itself.

10. On Mardi Gras, bake NFL commissioner Roger Goodell a small King Cake. Obtain 50 heat-resistant mini-figurines of Black human beings and incorporate them into the batter. Cover the cake in fondant painted with the United States flag. Let Goodell chew on that symbolism.

11. During the anthem, release a large amount of your team’s mascot. A pride of lions, a bunch of bears, a shipful of raiders, a horde of Vikings. The rule is only about players kneeling, not the crowd running in terror. And plus, no one can fault your team spirit. (Note: Washington players are not permitted to use this tactic. Also, change your goddamn name.)

12. Hire a marching band to join you on the field. Instruct them to begin playing the national anthem five seconds after the “official” anthem begins. The discord will make a powerful representative message about the chaos that police cause for communities of color. When confronted about your musical decision, explain that doubling the amount of national anthems was actually, if you think about it, twice as patriotic.

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