Over several weeks, I wrote and sent variations of the following column to the nation's 20 largest newspapers, from New York to Washington to Chicago to Seattle and just about everywhere in between.
The Dallas Morning News, for instance, said on Oct. 25 that they liked it and wanted to publish it (see below). But as the election neared, they had a change of heart and refused comment. Also, The Tampa Bay Times in St. Petersburg said they'd consider it but only as a 300-word letter, and I just refused because I think it's important enough - and complicated enough - to merit a full column.
But it just goes to show you that the media, including once-powerful daily newspapers, just don't get it. They profess to represent the little guy, the average person, and contend they still give a voice to the voiceless. Yet they refuse to give a voice to those of us with more traditional views about the American Flag, our military and law enforcement officers.
Anyway, here's e-mail I received from the Dallas Morning News. It's followed by the column I wrote that apparently will never see the light of day. Don't make the mistake that I made, that so-called mainstream journalists try to be fair, that they actually give a damn about anything other than the talking points of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
I like this piece and I'd like to publish it. I don't have the freelance budget to pay for it, so if you are a professional freelance writer, then I will have to pass. Otherwise, we can proceed with an edit. Has this been published elsewhere?
On Tue, Oct 18, 2016 at 3:22 PM, Mike Kersmarki wrote:
TO: Dallas Morning News Viewpoints
FROM: Mike Kersmarki
RE: Proposed Op-Ed
Should Fans Boycott the NFL Over Player Protests?
By Mike Kersmarki
In light of recent terrorist attacks, record murder rates, more dead cops and riots, it seems kind of trivial to complain about a few 'silent' protests by some NFL players and others.
But let’s not kid ourselves. These millionaire athletes – especially in our crass, celebrity-driven culture - enjoy rights to express themselves that are far superior than what’s available to the rest of us mere mortals.
That can be frustrating to many hard-working Americans who feel they don't have nearly the same voice for their more traditional views about patriotism, police and our military.
One key difference is that most of us would not be able to make such public displays that disrespect our country without consequences from our employers, up to and including termination. This would certainly be true if such a protest was made by average working men and women at their workplaces or while otherwise representing their companies.
For the NFL, not so much.
The league apparently allows employees to disrespect the American Flag and our National Anthem. And there seems to be no job-site prohibitions against lumping all of our police and military into a basket of deplorables - to use current, politically acceptable speech - as if they were objects and not human beings.
At least we now have an idea about what many of these professional athletes really think of the fans who pay their salaries. By their continued actions, the protesting players show how little they respect us and our apparently irredeemable beliefs.
And these ‘minor’ acts of civil disobedience have the potential to get much worse. Call it the NFL's version of the broken-window theory and how it applies to professional athletes and the millions of impressionable kids and young adults who adore them and try to emulate everything they do.
Some of the NFL players supporting Colin Kaepernick’s choice to sit during the National Anthem have become even more militant, a trend is now filtering down to some colleges and high schools. And now that he’s become a starter again for the 49ers, the issue becomes even more focused.
These athletes and others have raised their fists just like some American medal winners did in the 1968 Olympics to support the Black Panthers – a group associated with some laudable goals but sometimes using intimidation and violence to achieve them.
Maybe such devoted emulation will inspire at least some of these 'courageous' millionaires to engage in actual free speech by taking positions far more complex than always blaming police with 'silent' gestures that, without explanation, could be interpreted by some as screams for anarchy or violence.
Anyone remember the civil disorder and riots from 1968? Do you remember how many of our cities burned?
Or how about the present-day’s so-called ‘Ferguson Effect’ that may be keeping cops from doing their jobs and helping to boost the murder rate in our major cities? It’s ironic that the 2014 riots in Ferguson, Mo., are yet another example of a false narrative that was based on events that were either untrue or exaggerated.
Yes, much of that mayhem a half century ago was spurred by major events, not athletic protests.
But who’s to say that such unchecked and highly visible civil disobedience in the NFL and elsewhere in the present day won’t accumulate and fester to develop into something much worse. That’s especially true in this new era of so-called lone wolf terrorists who apparently need very little urging to maim and kill.
Just ask the families of any cops shot at or murdered in racially motivated attacks that were brought about, many believe, at least partly from the accumulation of statements and actions by some of our country's so-called leaders.
That would include the Fomenter in Chief in Washington and his many philosophical sidekicks, from his 'honor' the mayor of New York City to many others who care more about seeking political advantage than safety for law-abiding citizens.
Of course, Kaepernick and his supporters have every right to express their opinion peacefully. That’s not the real question. The central issue here is that NFL fans also have the right to disagree with him, a right that's being ignored.
The real question is whether the media will give equal time to those with a more traditional point of view. Remember us? We’re the little people, the voiceless, the ones that the media is supposed to stand up for.
So, what are the options? Of course, fans can just jeer at the Kaepernick and other 'pros' during the games. We also could stop going to games or buying team stuff.
Maybe we can even stop watching the games on TV. The season is young but ratings are down more than 10 percent for some markets compared to last year.
In fact, a Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey released earlier this month showed that “nearly one-third (32%) of American Adults say they are less likely to watch an NFL game because of the growing number of Black Lives Matter protests by players on the field.”
Fans who ultimately help pay these athletes' salaries could even start boycotting the NFL and its many corporate sponsors for tolerating such disrespectful conduct without any repercussions.
Or, maybe the sponsors themselves could be more proactive. They could drop players or even stop advertising during televised games.
Just ask Denver linebacker Brandon Marshall. He kneeled during the anthem just before the season opener with Carolina and lost an endorsement.
Marshall said later that he's not against the police or military but is "against social injustice." He has since met with Denver Police Chief Robert C. White. The chief said he asked if Marshall would be willing to ride along with police and watch "shoot, don't shoot" training, according to ESPN.com. That's how Denver police are taught to make split-second decisions during dangerous situations.
It's unclear whether Marshall, who added later that he will become more involved in the community, will have the courage of his convictions to try the ride along with cops to understand what law officers face every day in high-crime areas.
Maybe police and sheriff's departments nationwide who deal with more than their fair share of violent crime should offer this opportunity to all of these 'brave' athletes to encourage understanding.
Another option may be for taxpayers to demand that their elected representatives revisit any anti-trust and tax exemptions the NFL and its teams enjoy, including local subsidies to build and upgrade opulent stadiums for billionaire owners.
Perhaps a clever lawyer or two may contemplate filing a class-action on behalf of NFL fans. Those public funds were intended for economic development via entertainment instead of political speech that's objectionable to many of those taxpayers footing the bill.
Because if some players continue to repeatedly and publicly use stadiums as a stage for political speech – instead of delivering the product their audience has paid for - perhaps it’s time for fans to show they have power too.
In fact, can we ever be completely sure that these protesters will play to their full potential? How can we ever know with certainty that they won’t hold back on some downs as a ‘protest.’
And where do the protests even stop? Will growing anarchy on the field – and continued, one-sided media fawning - inspire inner city residents to commit criminal, even violent acts against police and their fellow citizens for no other reason than the color of their skin?
But these days, who knows? Maybe these athletes will instead be applauded with an invite to the White House.
An argument can even be made that it may be a civic duty for fans to take action. They certainly have the right to strenuously object to player conduct they find personally objectionable if it continues to occur within the confines of the stadiums they have helped finance.
This is especially true since the league has prohibited a request by the Dallas Cowboys to wear decals honoring five white and Hispanic Dallas police officers who were shot and killed in July during a racist rampage by a black man.
Police have said the suspect, an Army veteran, “said he wanted to kill white people” during a standoff, according to a timeline graphic of the Dallas police shootings published by the Washington Post. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/dallas-protest-shooting/)
The NFL can’t have it both ways, prohibiting support for law enforcement and their families who have been devastated by a tragedy yet looking the other way at the current rash of player protests against police and the country itself.
Ironically, law officers and even soldiers who feel affronted by the behavior of these so-called 'professional' players often are restricted by their employers from publicly reacting. So, if the military really cares about many of its troops, perhaps it may even want to reexamine its participation with the NFL if the league doesn't start disciplining players for on-field political conduct that so many fans object to.
In the end, though, isn't it just plain morally wrong for these so-called socially aware athlete protesters to abuse the relaxation time that literally tens of millions of fans look forward to by watching and/or going to the games.
Work is hard. Raising a family is even harder, especially these days. Doesn’t the average working man and woman deserve a little time away from the pressures of daily life by just watching a simple football game?
Instead, these fans have to needlessly endure what they consider to be an objectionable point of view shoved down millions of their collective throats. At least fans can choose if they want to read or view stories and videos about the player protests - a freedom that these players have taken away from fans because of their on-field actions.
Is there a solution that respects the rights of fans who aren't paying to see political speech that still respects the free-speech rights of the protesting players?
A simple way to resolve this is through an old real estate adage: location, location, location. There literally are an infinite number of other venues where players could engage in protest away from the playing field.
Besides, most of these athletes have an advantage not enjoyed by the rest of us; they're the public face of a very powerful and visible business.
Taking it a step further, they’re rich enough to even hire their own marketing firms if they really want to promote a particular point of view – another option not available to most other Americans.
Certainly, these protesting players could very publicly support supposedly 'peaceful' anti-police groups such as Black Lives Matter with their voices and NFL checkbooks - irrespective of chants calling for 'dead cops' and 'shoot back' sometimes associated with marches organized by this and other groups.
So while there may be an underlying complexity to this issue, it all comes down to a simple choice.
Maybe it’s time to boycott the NFL and any other professional sports league that allow employees to engage in conduct that so many people feel is inappropriate, at least on the playing field or within the confines of stadiums that the public has often subsidized.
The National Football League is a for-profit entertainment product. So, if it inflames instead of entertains, perhaps it is time for those fans to vote with their feet if they disagree with these players’ use of tax-supported venues to voice their opinions.
Players certainly have the right to viewpoints that they insist are well-conceived, personal moral imperatives.
And fans still have the right to sit on their hands in the stands and keep clamoring for what the NFL provides without hesitation.
But for those who really want to win it all - including their rights of free speech - the ball remains in play for potentially millions of fans who remain unsettled by all of this.
They either can let the NFL and some of its professional athletes control the tempo of the game or the public can still call an audible of its own.
What will you do?
Mike Kersmarki, a lifelong fan of the NFL, is an author living in Tampa, Fla. He currently is writing a domestic policy book for next year: "Worker's Party: How to Help ALL Americans Achieve Their Full Economic Potential."