Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

From an Angry Reader:

So, let me get this this right; you have the freedom to express your First Amendment Rights (your opinion article), the neo-nazi can express their first amendment rights (as they did this weekend in Charlottesville), but “multimillionaire young players, mostly in their 20s” cannot. If this country still had the draft, those 20-somethings would be at war, TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHT TO EXPRESS YOURSELF! What a phony you are!

Besides, you know the original protest WAS NOT ABOUT THE EMBLEM OF THE COUNTRY. What a hypocrite you are; and you call yourself an historian, not to even mention at Stanford. What a FAKE!!!! It’s your fake opinion that is diminishing, and don’t you forget it!!!! 

  1. Harris Jones, MSW

“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean, in a drop,” —Rumi

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Victor Davis Hanson’s Reply:

Dear L. Harris Jones, MSW

Calm down Mr/s. Jones. You confirmed the Angry Reader rule: anyone who resorts to capital letters and exclamation points in succession usually does so in absence of anything to say.

For the nth time: the players do have a First Amendment right to free expression; and their employers equally have a right, as the courts have long held, to fire them if they wish—in the manner that the airlines would fire a steward who insisted on wearing a “Make America Great” cap while on board that might offend customers, or UPS can fire drivers who wear FED-EX T-shirts to work on grounds that it is a bad business practice.

That the owners do not fire or fine the players—for now—is their own business decision that they would lose less money doing so by ignoring their own rules than enforcing them—a wager that may well change. If I were to decide to wear a logo on my T-shirt to work that offended co-workers (in the manner of Kaepernick’s police as pigs socks), and to take a knee during a meeting of my colleagues, I think I would learn that such “First Amendment” rights would collide with codes of behavior I have previously agreed to.

So like all of us, the players are employees and are subject to certain contractual codes of behavior that their employers can or cannot choose to enforce. Mr/s. Jones, do not confuse private space and the workplace: the players can choose to sit or kneel anywhere anytime they hear the National Anthem, as fans themselves or at a graduation or during a funeral. But in the workplace as paid employees they have contractually agreed to a code of conduct that they are currently violating. Why not, then, have the players go on strike to demand that standing for the National Anthem not be a part of their contracted behavior?

Your use of “If” can apply to anything; but if you find the characterization of NFL players as multimillionaires in their twenties somehow mistaken please explain how. Are they instead mostly in their thirties and making less than $100,000 per annum? Is it the reality or my identification of the reality that upsets you so?

I am confused about your statement that I “know” that “the origin of the protest was not about the emblem of the country”?

In fact, I did not know that and still do not know what the subsequent protests were about. Police shootings that supposedly statistically fall disportionately on unarmed black youth in relation to their encounters with law enforcement? Is that accurate?

Ferguson? That Eric Holder’s Justice Department really did not find that the shooting of Michael Brown was not an example of inordinate or illegal police force, and that “hands up, don’t shoot” had no basis in fact?

Twenty-million a year, Colin Kaepernick, of mixed ancestry and raised in a middle-class white household and facing a career downturn, previously cited by the NFL after referee and player allegations for using the N-word, and now dating a hard-left DJ, suddenly reinvents himself and decides that his country is unfair and racist and thus not deserving of respect? Was that the origin of kneeling we are supposed to take seriously?

Or is the anger that the meritocratic NFL is not racially diverse enough, or does not proportionally reflect the ethnic and racial and gender diversity of the nation and thus should be subject to disproportionate impact rulings?

So like millions of NFL fans, I am not sure what the particular existential gripe is that drives the protest. Has it now become Donald Trump’s unnecessary and crude use of the SOB slur? That regrettable transgression was analogous to Barack Obama’s more vulgar and widespread characterization of the entire Tea Party movement of tens of millions as “tea-baggers”—a homophobic slur suggesting a type of male-on-male sex act that was equally not befitting the office of the president but apparently drew no protests in response.

I’m not sure what your psycho-dramatic imperative “and don’t you forget it” with no less than four exclamation marks is supposed to mean: that I am not to forget that L. Harris Jones, MSW has announced me unfit to be at Stanford or to be a historian and therefore that indictment is to be seared in my memory—or worse?

In the end, Mr/s. Harris, I think you will agree that like most entertainment in America, the market adjudicates the NFL.

If 10-30% of the fans stop watching or attending games, the resulting drop in revenue will demand changes in NFL teams’ budgets and will shortly affect player contracts.

At that point, you will see the kneeling during the National Anthem stop and all talk such as yours of the First Amendment will cease, as the players tacitly agree that their employers have a Constitutional right to enforce their own published codes of behavior and that such enforcement is in their own financial interest.

If NFL patronage, however, is not affected by the continual kneeling during the Anthem, then it will continue—along with self-righteous talk of the First Amendment, the shifting rationales for the protests, and the loud support on ESPN and other progressive venues.

  1. Davis Hanson, PhD

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man

is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” —John Donne

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

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