NFL has been political for a long time
To the Editor;
In the Sept. 2 OpEd, “I miss the days when sports were a refuge from politics,” Matthew Gagnon laments the latest intrusion by Black Lives Matter into what previously was, in his view, a wholesomely apolitical American institution: the NFL. Supposedly a sports fan, Gagnon must not have noticed that, for decades, the NFL has consistently staged elaborate pregame flag ceremonies, Air Force flyovers and military appreciation nights.
Whether Gagnon likes it or not, these displays were just as political as an “End racism” banner in the end zone. Until now, however, the NFL promoted exclusively a politics of jingoism and imperialism, and evidently, in Gagnon’s mind, it doesn’t count as politics if he agrees with it.
Gagnon attributes the NFL’s sudden shift primarily to opportunistic virtue-signaling by Commissioner Roger Goodell. Goodell’s hypocrisy is obvious, but the NFL’s acknowledgment of racial injustice owes less to Goodell than to its majority-Black players, whose activism appears earnest. The same can’t be said for the NFL franchises that accepted millions of dollars from the Department of Defense in exchange for televising patriotic pageants designed by military recruiters, back before the NFL’s “politicization.”