Michael Bennett, a defensive end for the Seattle Seahawks, said on Monday that NFL owners who require their players to stand for the National Anthem remind him of the Dred Scott case. I understand where he’s coming from. I couldn’t get a frosty at Wendy’s last night because the machine was broken and it reminded me so much of the Great Famine.
This is what the Anthem issue has turned into. It was originally (allegedly) about police brutality, then it evolved into a protest of Donald Trump, now it’s morphed into debate about whether business owners are allowed to limit the political speech of their employees while their employees are on the clock.
The answer, by the way, is yes. And that’s an answer we need to verbalize because this has consequences beyond the NFL. There are already a great many people, especially in my generation, who think they have the right to waltz into their job with a whole list of non-negotiable demands. “Give me more money.”“Give me more time off.”“Let me wear pajamas to the office.” The fundamental difference between employer and employed seems to be lost on most of us.
Whether you’re for or against the Anthem protests, it should be clear to any rational person that this issue has nothing at all to do with “free speech.” You don’t have free speech at your job. The idea that you have the right to say whatever you want while on your employer’s dime is among the most asinine things I’ve heard in at least the last five minutes. Michael Bennett has no more “right” to sit for the Anthem while wearing his Seahawks jersey than I’d have the right to get a job working the cash register at Walmart and then spend my shift hectoring the customers about the collapse of the nuclear family. I can do that with my current job because that is my current job. But even in a job where political speech is the whole job, I could still be fired if The Daily Wire decided that it no longer wanted to be a platform for my brand of blabbering.
Yes, I have a right to blab. I just don’t have a right to do it on this website, which is owned by someone else. You have a right to wear pro-abortion t-shirts. You don’t have a right to wear them while working as a bank teller. NFL players have a right to their opinions about the police or Donald Trump or the moon landing conspiracy, but they don’t have a right to use the NFL as a megaphone to amplify those views. Simple as that.
Now, in case Michael Bennett and Al Sharpton are still confused, let me explain in greater detail why NFL players are not slaves, even if they’re forced to stand for 2 minutes during the Anthem:
1) You choose to be there. You signed a contract. You came to the NFL and asked them for a job. You didn’t have to. You could have taken a massive pay cut and become a blogger and spent all day sharing your opinions on any topic at all. But you chose a different job (wisely). You chose a job where your opinions are not only irrelevant but may be harmful to the bottom line. You were hired under the assumption that you’d help the bottom line. If you hurt it, you can be fired.
2) You can leave. You may not be able to go to another team whenever you want, but you can quit and do something else with your time. It is an infamous fact of slavery that slaves did not have this option.
3) You are not owned. Your team is owned. The jerseys are owned. The stadium is owned. The league you’re playing for is owned. Everywhere you go in your capacity as an NFL player, and everything you use, is owned by someone other than yourself. But you are not owned. Just because there are rules governing the things that are owned does not mean that you yourself are owned when you’re asked to follow them. If the NFL has enslaved you, then I guess I’ve enslaved you when you come into my house and are forced to refrain from smoking in my living room or kicking my dog. Those are my house rules, strictly enforced. If you want to follow different rules, go back to your own house.
4) You’re paid millions of dollars. Slaves were generally not paid anything. That’s really the whole point of slavery. I’d like to meet a slave owner who gives his slaves $60 million contracts. I may have to see if he’s hiring. Or “enslaving,” I guess.
Now, I admit that if we were to put these small differences to the side, suddenly there is very little distinction between a millionaire athlete in 2017 and a plantation slave in 1845. Just as there is no difference between a mild case of acne and the Bubonic Plague if we ignore literally every fact about the Bubonic Plague. It’s funny how that works.