National Anthem

Cleveland Wins

By James Freeman,
from The Wall Street Journal,

Just in time for 9/11, a football team makes peace with local heroes.

Long-suffering fans of the National Football League’s Cleveland Browns saw their team lose another home opener on Sunday. But players gave the crowd reason to cheer—both before and after kick-off. After finishing 1-15 last season, the Browns made significant personnel changes and are now fielding the youngest team in the league. On Sunday, the squad showed poise and potential despite losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers. And even during the pre-game, players showed encouraging improvement the moment they emerged from the locker room. According to USA Today: Cleveland Browns players stood for the national anthem and locked arms with law enforcement and military personnel before Sunday’s season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Police officers, military personnel and firefighters also ran out of the Browns’ tunnel to cheers prior to the game. A video featuring messages from players appealing for unity was also played before the anthem. This was a welcome change to many fans, who witnessed the spectacle of roughly a dozen Browns players kneeling during the national anthem at an August preseason game. The players were protesting alleged racial discrimination in the U.S, including among law enforcement. There was a certain irony holding such a protest in Cleveland because the city has a black police chief and a black judge presiding over its municipal court system. The other irony is that many NFL teams have permitted players to express themselves in this manner, even though the league can and does regulate much of what players can do and say on the field. As employees have learned in many other industries, the First Amendment prevents government from limiting our speech, but businesses are free to set conditions on those who voluntarily choose to work for them. The result in the NFL was a bizarre situation in which players could get flagged for taunting one opposing player but not for offending tens of millions of customers.

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