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Dissent in the ranks

Entertainment | The link between NFL patriotism and military readiness
by Lynde Langdon
Posted 6/01/18, 12:39 pm

Under pressure from President Donald Trump, NFL owners are standing their ground against players who kneel in protest during the playing of the national anthem before games. In a conversation with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Trump warned the NFL not to buck him on the issue, according to court documents revealed this week.

“This is a very winning, strong issue for me,” the president reportedly told Jones. “Tell everyone you can’t win this one.” Jones described the conversation in a deposition for a lawsuit filed by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose 2016 pregame protest started the conflict, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Kaepernick originally knelt to protest racial inequality in the United States. Trump and others interpreted the gesture as a protest against “support of our country or the military,” shifting the issue in some NFL owners’ minds, Miami Dolphins owner Steven Ross told the New York Daily News in March.

“When that message changed, and everybody was interpreting it as that was the reason, then I was against kneeling,” Ross said.

Trump made support for the military a priority during his campaign and has worked to strengthen the U.S. armed forces as president. Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, said a positive relationship between professional sports and the government helps military recruitment and vice versa.

“When you see someone like Colin Kaepernick starting this movement disrespecting the flag, it does have consequences,” Donnelly said.

Between 2012 and 2015, the Department of Defense paid more than $10 million to professional sports leagues for advertising and marketing, including displays of patriotism such as “Hometown Hero” tributes at New England Patriots and New York Jets games, according to a congressional report. Arizona’s two Republican U.S. senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, commissioned the report and also worked to amend the National Defense Authorization Act to restrict paid displays of patriotism.

The military’s attempt to win over sports fans is part of a larger recruiting effort that has struggled to meet its targets in recent years. The Trump administration increased the goal for new Army recruits from about 68,000 last year to 80,000 this year, but the Army lowered the goal to 76,500 as recruitment stalled, Voice of America reported.

The Pentagon in 2017 reported that 71 percent of Americans ages 17 to 24 did not meet the military eligibility requirements for reasons such as poor physical fitness, criminal records, and educational failure. As the pool of potential recruits shrinks, positive employment trends in the United States make civilians less likely to want military careers. In that climate, Donnelly said, building national pride through overt displays such as playing the national anthem at sporting events is important to maintaining a strong military.

“The more that we see even that small sign of patriotism, the better it is,” Donnelly said. “Not just for the military as an institution but for national security, our pride as a nation, we have to have elements of our culture that bind us together.”

In the NFL, though, players’ frustration over the kneeling issue seems to be getting worse, not better. After the team owners last week announced a policy requiring players to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” or stay off the field while it’s playing, rumors swirled that players planned to stop paying union dues and possibly even strike in response to the new anthem rules.

Associated Press/Photo by Bebeto Matthews Associated Press/Photo by Bebeto Matthews Harvey Weinstein (center) leaves Manhattan Criminal Court with his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman.

This week in #MeToo

A grand jury in Manhattan indicted Harvey Weinstein on rape and criminal sex act charges Wednesday following his arrest last week by the New York Police Department. Weinstein did not testify at the proceedings, saying he did not have enough time to prepare and expected the jury to indict him due to “political pressure.” His lawyer said he would try to get the indictment dismissed.

Weinstein’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, on Tuesday described one of the former movie producer’s accusers as “someone with whom he has had a 10-year, consensual, sexual relationship, both before the alleged incident and after the alleged incident.” He did say the woman was not Weinstein’s wife, Georgina Chapman, who filed for divorce last fall.

Weinstein’s downfall has had wide-ranging ripple effects in Hollywood. Actor Morgan Freeman defended himself this week against accusations of impropriety with a statement that included an implied allusion to Weinstein’s case: “It is not right to equate horrific incidents of sexual assault with misplaced compliments or humor.” Last week, CNN published an article accusing Freeman of trying to lift the skirt of a woman working on set with him and of making inappropriate sexual comments to women who worked with or interviewed him.

Freeman’s attorney, Robert Schwartz, wrote a letter to the president of CNN, arguing that reporter Chloe Melas had a false understanding of her own interaction with Freeman and committed “journalistic malpractice,” according to NBC News. Schwartz also asked CNN to retract the parts of the article that discussed Freeman’s business partner, Lori McCreary. While defending himself last week, Freeman apologized for any unintentional offenses.

A CNN spokesman called Schwartz’s comments “unfounded accusations” that are “difficult to reconcile with Mr. Freeman’s own public statements in the aftermath of the story.” —Anna Bailey

Associated Press/Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision Associated Press/Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision Samantha Bee

Dirty mouths

Roseanne Barr and Samantha Bee both went too far with insults this week, but only one of the comediennes lost her job, so far. ABC canceled Barr’s sitcom Roseanne after she used racist imagery to describe former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett in a tweet. On her TBS program, Bee referred to Ivanka Trump with a vulgar slur and apologized the next day. President Donald Trump and others complained about a double standard for how the public responds to conservative and liberal name-calling. “There’s no uprising against Bee,” wrote Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for President George W. Bush. “Why? Because she is a liberal. Because the MSM protects Obama and his aides, but not Trump. The hypocrisy is sickening.” On Thursday, though, Barr urged the public not to lump the two women together. “Please don't compare me 2 other people who have said horrible things,” she tweeted. “I only care about apologizing 4 the hurt I have unwittingly & stupidly caused. I humbly confess contrition & remorse.” —L.L.

And the winner is …

The K-LOVE Fan Awards show aired on television Thursday night for the first time in its six years of existence. TBN played an edited version of the show, which took place Sunday night in Nashville, Tenn. Hosts Matthew West and Mandisa sang a spoof song at the beginning that highlighted the irony of a Christian awards show: “We’re united in our mission, but this here’s a competition.” The band MercyMe won artist of the year, group or duo of the year, and song of the year for “Even If.” The film impact award went to I Can Only Imagine, which told the story of the band’s lead singer, Bart Millard. Cory Asbury, nominated for the first time, won two awards for his popular worship song “Reckless Love.” TobyMac and Lauren Daigle won male and female artists of the year. The show included more than 20 Christian performances and ended with a full stage singing Mandisa’s song calling for an end to racial and political division, “We All Bleed the Same.” —A.B.

Lynde Langdon

Lynde is a WORLD Digital’s managing editor and reports on popular and fine arts. She lives in Wichita, Kan., with her husband and two daughters. Follow Lynde on Twitter @lmlangdon.

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  • Bonnie Jean
    Posted: Fri, 06/01/2018 05:33 pm

    I think you mean the film image award "went" to (not when).I Can Only Imagine.

  • Web Editor
    Posted: Fri, 06/01/2018 06:23 pm

    Thank you for pointing out our error. We have corrected it.