By Congressman Duncan Hunter

October 5, 2017

It wasn’t until 2009 that the NFL mandated that players stand on the field for the National Anthem during primetime games.  Prior to that, they weren’t even on the sideline.  They remained in the locker room until it was time to start the game.

Football is a GAME – and that’s all it should be.

The acts of patriotism and massive displays of the American Flag during NFL games serve as a marketing ploy and recruitment technique to bolster and grow our military. In the years following 9/11, patriotism became more and more popular and the NFL capitalized.

To those who have served, including the small number of NFL players who are veterans, the National Anthem and the American Flag hold an extremely different symbolic value.  The Star Spangled Banner represents an accomplishment of a service member and the country from whom they have voluntarily chosen to risk their life.  It is a source of pride for military families and represents the sacrifices made to ensure that all people, even those who choose to use our nation’s anthem as a form of protest, can lay their heads on their pillows each night and know they are safe.

For some, those who have paid the ultimate price, it is their family’s lasting physical connection to the man or woman who died attempting to complete their mission.  It evokes remembrance, sadness, longing, and appreciation for loved ones lost.

NFL players can continue to be who they are: entertainers who are extremely athletically gifted.  They have talent, they work hard, and they are rewarded handsomely.  The majority of them, however, have not, and will never, serve their country.  Some have decided not to stand during the National Anthem and claim it is to make a point of protest.

They’ve completely missed the point.

Our Flag from its inception was never intended to be a barometer of politics or a metric for one’s sense of social justice.  Actually, it is a symbol of patriotism and gratitude to the more than one million Americans who died following their Flag into battle.  NFL players’ perception of the American Flag and the National Anthem is different – and they’ve managed to ostracize a large number of fans who have proudly fought for our nation.

Donald Trump earned the title of the President of the United States, but his other title, the Commander-In-Chief, is more important in this case.  He is the voice of all those who wear our nation’s uniform.  He speaks for those who have long been engaged in a war – including those who will never return home.

To them we emphasize the honor of following, unswervingly, unreservedly, without thought of personal safety, the Flag of the United States of America.  They are selfless and valiant – and the National Anthem and the American Flag represent them.  Not a group of overpaid athletes who refuse to stand and honor those who make it possible for them to even play their game.

Our active duty and veterans are intrinsically intertwined with the Star Spangled Banner and President Trump, as their voice, is right to criticize those who do not fully comprehend the connection between Americans and their National Anthem.  Politics has no place on the football field.”