Gov. Kim Reynolds this week came out against NFL athletes choosing to sit or kneel during the national anthem, following a question at her weekly news conference. She’s one of dozens of Republican politicians criticizing the protesters, who are trying to draw attention to police brutality and other racial justice issues.
“Don’t take a knee. Get out there and make a difference. Engage. Go into these cities. Run for office. Support a candidate that you think stands for your beliefs, but let’s not disrespect the men and women who have served to allow us to have the freedom and liberties that we enjoy each and every day,” Reynolds said in a statement published on her campaign website.
I have a lot of respect for Reynolds as a policymaker. I may well vote for her in next year’s election. However, Reynolds is not an athlete, coach, or a military veteran. Even if she were, politicians are not and should not be our moral compasses.
Her call for political engagement is based on the false belief government can solve social problems.
History is clear: governments do not promote social progress, they impede it. No population has ever voted itself into peace and prosperity. Those things can only be secured through capitalism and voluntary social interactions.
Some Americans seem to think we ought to look to our politicians for directions on how to live our lives. It’s easy to see why, given the enormous role government plays in our lives. Yet, I think this mentality is fundamentally un-American.
Governments throughout history have forced their subjects to honor government or religious symbols. True, we’re not throwing dissidents in jail in America, 2017. However, the idea authorities might intimidate private citizens into patriotic compliance through public criticism is predicated on the same flawed values.
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The free market is fully equipped to handle these kinds of issues without help from government leaders. Fans and business partners have every right to revoke their support if the league doesn’t reflect their values, as thousands have already vowed to do.
Some critics have complained protesters are needlessly injecting politics into sports. In fact, the opposite is true: Politics has imposed itself on professional sports. Even though sports do not serve any vital public interest, all levels of government have found ways to subsidize and regulate them, from school sports to publicly supported mega-stadiums.
Between 2012 and 2015, the Department of Defense spent $53 million on marketing agreements with sports teams, according to a U.S. Senate oversight report. Watchdogs also found the department couldn’t fully account for all of its sports marketing dollars, and there was no clear way to track whether the agreements were actually increasing military recruiting. If football fans were really opposed to mixing sports and politics, why didn’t they speak up when the government started commissioning military propaganda displays on the football field?
Americans are having difficult and important conversations about patriotism and free speech. We’re capable of doing so without politicians’ help.
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