Our president has once again decided to comment upon an issue where he is … somewhat less than expert. This time it’s political expression by NFL players. At a rally Friday, he used vulgar language to say anyone who didn’t stand during the National Anthem should not be playing football. People at the rally cheered and chanted, so of course Trump’s Pavlovian response was to make the same point, only stronger, on Twitter the next day.

I want to be clear: I disagree with Trump on this point. I don’t think people who are good at sports have to sign away their First Amendment rights. Football players and other athletes and actors and celebrities of all sorts should write, say and tweet whatever they like on political matters. This “stay in your lane” business is just absurd and unamerican.

That said, I do agree that a football game is not the place for political statements.

But let’s be clear: it’s the NFL that politicizes football games. Not the players. And the NFL should quit it.

If you think Colin Kaepernick and the rest of the players should stick to football, then the league should too.

So let’s get rid of all those political statements. No anthems, no jingoism, no military rah-rah. Just football, please.

I mean, when I go to a football game, or watch one on TV, I’m there to watch Aaron Rodgers throw perfect spirals while large men hit each other all around him. I’m there to drink a beer and eat a brat and question the parentage of the referees.

I’m not there to see Colin Kaepernick decide not to honor a nation that doesn’t honor him.

And I’m not there to see the other 80,000 people in the stadium grunt about how great ‘Murica is, either.

I’m not there to see our flag disrespected … but I’m not there to see our flag worshipped, either.

I’m not there to see the troops disrespected … but I’m not there to be reminded that America’s Army could whoop any other country’s behind, either.

I’m not there for any of that. I’m there for football, so just get to the football please.

I mean, of course, I respect our military. How could I not?

But really … is a game the best venue to show the troops our gratitude?

As the president was so quick to note in a debate on an entirely different topic, “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory.” Sure. So maybe should they focus on that rather than a perfectly-timed stadium flyover?

If you want to show your respect for the troops and veterans, maybe you can do more than standing for two minutes with your hand on your heart before a football game. Maybe donate to USO, or buy a soldier a beer, or elect politicians who actually care about taking care of veterans when they come home.

So I say get rid of it all. Stick to football. No political displays. And that includes singing the national anthem — which is itself a political display.

The politicalization of professional sports began in 1918, when a military band first played The Star Spangled Banner during the seventh inning stretch of a World Series game to gin up patriotic feelings during the darkest days of the First World War. It only continued because the crowd loved it.

Paying the national anthem — and standing to salute and “honor America” — is a political act. Political acts invite political responses. So you have to either ditch them all or welcome them all.

I doubt very much that the NFL will take my advice and stick to football. They make a lot of money on these political patriotic displays — and it’s you and me paying them.

Did you know about this?

Make no mistake — neither the NFL nor the team owners care one tiny bit about America or the troops or the flag. They care about their bottom line, and patriotic pregame displays are a cash cow.

Many (though not all) of those rah-rah-USA pregame military displays are literally advertisements for the military, paid for by the military. Taxpayer dollars put into the pockets of NFL owners in exchange for those elaborate pro-military rituals. Millions of dollars, in fact.

I think it’s perfectly fine for a player to opt out of a paid political advertisement.

But I’d rather the political advertisement not be part of the football game at all.

Leave me to my brat and beer and defensive coordinator duties (because I’m obviously better at calling defenses from my couch than Dom Capers is from the Packers coaching box). Lose the loyalty oaths and flag worship. Lose the politics and patriotism and practice what you preach.

Because as long as the NFL exercises its right to make political statements, players have every right to respond.

You don’t want to see that? Fine. Stick to football.

This opinion piece reflects the views of the author only and does not reflect the opinions of the Madison365 staff or board of directors.

Written by Robert Chappell

Robert Chappell

Robert Chappell is associate publisher of Madison365.