Professional sports should stop shilling for the warfare state.
Before 2009, Colin Kaepernick would have had to find some other way to protest racism against African Americans. That’s because until the height of the Iraq War, NFL football players weren’t even required to leave the locker room for the national anthem, much less stand for it.
.. The singing of “The Star Spangled Banner” was mandated during another war, World War II, when the NFL commissioner at the time mandated it for the league. The players were told to stand for it about the same time that the Department of Defense was ramping up massive recruitment and media operations around the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They began paying sports teams millions in U.S. tax dollars for what amounted to “paid patriotism,” or mega-military spectacles on the playing field before the games. It got so bad that there was a congressional investigation led by none other than Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a veteran and considered one of the most patriotic men in the Senate.
.. What McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) found was that between 2012 and 2015, the DOD shelled out $53 million to professional sports—including $10 million to the NFL—on “marketing and advertising” for military recruitment. To be sure, some of that was bona fide advertising. But many of those heart-tugging ceremonies honoring heroes and recreating drills and marches and flyovers are what the report denounced as propaganda.
.. given when and how it was mandated for players to honor it, the national anthem has been used a prop in this near-religious convocation. In recent years, soldier parading, flag-waving, and jumbotron shout-outs to warriors have become de rigueur at NFL games. Consider the display put on at Super Bowl 50: A flyover by the Blue Angels fighter jets, and 50 representatives of all military branches singing “America the Beautiful” against a backdrop of a giant flag. During the game,a Northop Grumman advertisement proudly announced America’s conceptual sixth-generation fighter jet “of the future” to an unsuspecting audience, a year after it presented its new long-range bomber during Super Bowl XLIX. How much that ad time cost the company is anyone’s guess, but it is no surprise that defense contractors are hawking their billion-dollar war wares between game play these days.
.. Postwar affluence and the increase in white-collar jobs, when combined with concerns about the power of the Soviet Union, led many Americans to fear that men were too effeminate and weak. These anxieties created fertile soil for the growth of football, which became a way to affirm masculinity and fight the supposed “muscle gap.” If you didn’t embrace football—which seemed to embody Cold War ideas of containment—you might be suspected of deviant behavior like homosexuality or communism.
.. But isn’t that the problem? “Football is a warlike game and we are now a warlike nation. Our love for football is a love, however self-aware, of ourselves as a fighting and (we hope) victorious people
.. football—with its obsessive territorialism, regimented hierarchy, and peculiar combination of strategic prowess with brute force—has always been at risk of militaristic co-option.