Nazis and the NFL
Over the weekend, we had news regarding both Nazis and football. We had a walkout of a football game by the Vice President, and we had more Nazis in Charlottesville. Immediately as we usually do, factions formed. One group was happy that the Vice President took a stand and supported the administration’s view that protesting the flag and disrespecting veterans was unpatriotic. Another group was incensed at not only that action, but the lack of recognition of the white supremacists in Charlottesville the night before. All over Twitter and social media I saw people saying how can the President be talking about football protests when there are Nazis marching in the streets?
Hopefully I can answer that question. First lets understand a few things. I understand that the protests are about perceived inequality, oppression, and police violence. That’s the root of the reason the protests are happening. It did metastasize into an anti-Trump protest after he said something about it, but the root of it is the oppression argument. Then we have the “Nazis”. The people in Charlottesville were Richard Spencer and about 20 of his Alt-Right goons. So, obviously one side is clearly worse in this scenario, that being the white supremacists. So, when we have two situations, where one is clearly worse than the other, why would the President ignore the worst of the two, and spend a bunch of time slamming the other?
The answer: He’s trying to “trump” both at the same time, with one argument.
The argument that he’s using is what Scott Adams calls “The High Ground Maneuver.” The high ground maneuver is a technique in persuasion where you skip right past the details of an argument and elevate it to a higher place that is harder to argue with. His “High Ground Maneuver” is the brand of America. He’s skipping right over all the race-related arguments and calling us all to a greater ideal: Uniting in the name of the country to stand for the anthem. You see, Trump is a nationalistic president in uncharted territory. No world leader, save his predecessor, maybe ever, has to lead a nation that is more multicultural than the current United States. So how do you engender nationalism, in a nation with so many disparate races, religions, and ideology? Obama, by any measure, was not nationalistic at all, and race and ideology divisions fractured even more under his leadership. When it came to uniting America, President Obama was an abject failure.
The closest I can think of to nationalism that we’ve ever tried was under Reagan. The problem with any comparison to Reagan is that a significant amount of African Americans would likely disagree with you that Reagan presided over a golden age. In addition, Reagan didn’t preside over anywhere near the levels of multiculturalism Trump has in the country, due to the massive amounts of immigration we’ve had. Think of this, Trump has a population that is 61% or so white, 13% black, 19% or so Hispanic, and the rest Asian, Arabic, and Mixed. Then on top of that, he has multiple disparate religions and beliefs. You have Christians, Muslims, atheists, and every other type of religion. What he has before him is likely the most difficult leadership job in all of human history, in terms of pure demographics and beliefs. The only thing that is common to all of them other than just basic humanity, is the country. In addition, a multicultural nationalist has basically never happened. Trump is not in great company here since every single other nationalist ruler has presided over essentially an ethnostate, such as Hitler or Kim Il-Sung. He can’t unite via religion or race because there too many different ones. The only tool he has is the country’s ideals.
So I know what you are thinking, how can it be unifying to trash players who don’t stand for the anthem? Wouldn’t it be easier to condemn Nazis and get everyone to unite around that? The answer is no because that’s too small of an idea. We already agree to that, at least all the non-Nazis do, which is the 99% of people. Uniting around disliking or hating something isn’t enough to solve our problems. It has to be bigger. Right now we are too broken to unify. There is nothing he could say that would even start to unify the country. Half of the country literally believes we are in the beginnings of a fascist and racist dictatorship. The only thing that can make that belief fade, is time and gradual action. This is a long-term rebuilding and reimagining process of the brand of America, and what it means to be a citizen of this country. I think he’s aware, as I certainly am, this process will literally take years. If I’m being perfectly honest, I’m not sure it’s even possible. We are retreating into tribalism more than ever before, and social media is only exasperating the problem.
He said in a video over 20 years ago, that he wanted to see a leader who is “a cheerleader for America”. No one ever came along to do it, so he decided to do it himself. He is positioning himself as the most patriotic person alive and even built his campaign around improving the “brand” of America. Think of this, every single thing he utters that’s even vaguely pro-America gets him accused of racism. Apparently, we’ve gotten to a point where liking your country is actually controversial. Why? Because the left has a vested interest in devaluing the brand of the country. If people are nationalistic, there’s no way they will allow the sort of unchecked immigration and economic policy they want. This is why they’ve been so desperate to tie Trump to another nationalist: Adolf Hitler. Despite no policy being even remotely close to Hitler, they were both nationalists, so Make America Great Again must be a Nazi ethnocentric dog whistle.
The reality is that there’s no amount of disavowals he can do that would be enough. So, we are in a rebuilding phase of America’s brand, and he’s going to champion that brand at all costs. In his pursuit of rebuilding the brand, the NFL protests were a golden opportunity to pump up the brand. This is a scenario he really can’t lose, and it gives him a chance to show how ultra pro-America he is. Since he is the President, that sort of gesture matters. If the President isn’t the most patriotic person, why would anyone else be? Obama’s failure to unite the country is rooted not in the fact that he is black, but that he actively, and regularly demonized a significant chunk of the country. So if were the President, I’d immediately rule out any tactic Obama used, because nothing he did worked on the unification front. Isn’t Trump doing the same thing with his anti-NFL player stance? I would argue no, just simply because all he’s asked for is people to stand for the anthem. I would hardly call that a monumental ask. When the Cowboys kneeled before the anthem and stood for it, he praised them. Essentially, as I mentioned earlier, the left has tainted the brand of America so badly that even suggesting something patriotic is now a racist hate crime.
So again, why not denounce Nazis? Setting aside the fact that he has, multiple times, the only reason Richard Spencer and his crew even exist is the media exposure. The first time I heard of Richard Spencer and his crew was in a left wing Atlantic article. The reality is the left needs Spencer, so they promote him with relentless coverage every chance they get. They need someone to point at and stoke their base, despite him being a marginal fringe player at best. No one would even know who these guys are without the incessant media coverage. The truth is that the media loves Nazis, because it gives them an opportunity to play to the base, and demonize Trump. The left-wing media and Richard Spencer’s Alt-Right are symbiotic. They absolutely need each other, and they use one another to achieve their ends. Richard Spencer would absolutely love for Trump to denounce his group because it would lead to even more media coverage, which is exactly his goal. Spencer understands one thing: There is no such thing as bad press.
Trump is playing the only card he has that’s strong enough, theoretically, to unite the country, over time. That card is America itself, and the rebuilding of the brand.
Will it work? Only time will tell.
The NFL is under siege.
Conservatives have been boycotting over the protests, and injection of politics into the game over the last few years. In addition, progressives are boycotting because of the appearance of a “blacklist” of Colin Kaepernick. Then, on top of all of that, you have the concussion and brain CTE issues, with fewer parents allowing their children to play football due to worry regarding injuries. The game is also struggling due to new rule implementation. Players can’t hit as hard, they can’t celebrate as much, and the game stops every two seconds for a review, replay, or penalty. Rivalries used to be hotly contested and vitriolic games that fans anticipated, now everyone is each other’s best friend on the other team. One could easily argue that the “soul” of the game has been compromised, and it isn’t as great as it used to be.
This season is off to an inglorious start. Before even the first game was played, we had an escalating war on the NFL from all sides. Now, it’s elevated several notches due to President Trump’s incendiary assault at his rally on the 22nd. In the speech, he called for the firing of those “sons of bitches” that kneel for the anthem. Personally, I can see why this is such a big issue. The disrespect shown to the anthem and the flag, and the sacrifices made by those who fought for it, is to me completely offensive. American football is a game created in America, played almost exclusively by Americans, that players are compensated millions of dollars to play, even on the low end. American Football, and the NFL, would not exist at all were it not for the veterans and those who have fought for this country. Personally, even if I disagreed with every single thing the country was doing, I’d still stand for the anthem to pay homage to those who died fighting for the ideals we aspire to.
Now, I also acknowledge the other side of that argument. If you are black in America, you constantly see in the media a black person being shot by law enforcement, so if you perceive law enforcement becoming judge, jury, and executioner, I can see why you’d protest. This is where we saw the initial reason for all these protests. Keep in mind, these players are not protesting for themselves, they are protesting the perceived racial injustice they see in their communities. If you are the average black person in America, you see virtually every shooting or death of a black person by law enforcement played over and over ad nauseam on every news show. Studies show, such as this Harvard study, that black people are no more likely to be subject to lethal force. However, if you see it from their point of view, all they see are the news reports that yet another black person is dead, and there is rarely punishment for the cop that did the shooting. The media does the country no favors here as they rarely show any white people getting shot, so it gives the appearance that black people are regularly being executed in the streets.
Then we have the assault on the game itself. I personally believe that radical progressives hate football, and I’ll tell you why. Football is violent. There is no equality of outcome. It is the ultimate meritocracy. Survival of the fittest, where only the biggest, strongest, toughest, and fastest survive. It is overwhelmingly masculine, or as a radical feminist might put it, it has a lot of “toxic masculinity”. In addition, it shows that no, gender is not a social construct, it is pure biology. No one cares that the NFL isn’t diverse, as Asians are wildly underrepresented. I believe that if radical progressives had their way, the NFL would be gone tomorrow. Every ridiculous narrative they try to push, from gender to diversity, the very existence of the NFL flies right in the face of it. They might be able force a company to up it’s diversity quota, but they can’t do anything to make the NFL sign more Asian players. Not that progressives don’t hate Asian people, since they discriminate against them in academia and the tech sector every chance they get.
I said the NFL has lost some of it’s soul. The same applies to virtually every sport, especially the NBA. These are two sports I loved and watched incessantly growing up, and I’ve watched them become sterile and soulless. Every incremental policy put into place has degraded the emotion and pace of the game. No, you can’t celebrate too much, you might hurt someone’s feelings. No, you can’t hit too hard, or play too aggressive defense. Yes, the game has to be far longer with an arduous pace so we can review and make sure every call is fair. Yes, you should totally switch teams every season to try to get a ring or more money. And yes, you should assemble these super teams comprised of insane talent, thus rendering the rest of the league at a massive competitive disadvantage. The combination of all these things and more, has crushed the souls of these leagues. Gone are the days of Lakers vs. Celtics, or Bulls vs. Pistons. 49ers vs. Cowboys. These intense rivalries barely exist any more, and the leagues are worse off for it.
So now, we have a league caught in the middle of a culture war. The NFL has become a battleground not just for teams, but for ideology. The NFL is in essentially a no win situation. Force the players to stand, you lose progressives. Don’t force them to stand you lose conservatives. The NFL is a microcosm of the country right now. Deeply divided, and highly partisan. Culture War 2.0 is real, and has infiltrated every level of our lives. The once sacred bastions of sports, music, movies, and comedy used to be the places we could put partisanship aside and enjoy each other’s company. Now we draw battle lines over every single one of these outlets, and wage war with one another. Is the answer to double down and just hate the other side more? I believe the answer is to really look at what the other side is saying and talk to someone you know who is on that side. The President, be it Trump or Obama, cannot force us to come together and see each other's perspective.
We have to do that ourselves.
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Steve is the author of Forging the Iron Mind, and is the founder and CEO of Americana Prime.