September 28, 2017

CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE, ROGER: Bench the NFL. Pro football’s success is founded on shrewd lobbying and a federal favor. After a court forbade the NFL teams from jointly negotiating a TV deal, the league persuaded Congress in 1961 to grant a special exemption from antitrust laws. This perk has often has been criticized, but the efforts to remove it have never gone far in Congress. The NFL enjoyed bipartisan support because it seemed a national institution above politics. But now that the owners and players have so resolutely united against Republicans (and public opinion), Steve Malanga of City Journal wants Congress to reconsider:

The national anthem protest controversy offers a new perspective on the privileges that Congress has awarded to the NFL, particularly because the league’s team owners have allowed those protests to take place and even, last weekend, participated in them, in response to President Trump’s criticism of the players’ activism. Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft, for instance, said last Sunday, “I support [players’] right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful.” But while players have the right to engage in political speech free from government interference, their freedom does not extend by right to a private employer in its own workplace. The majority of companies in America would not, and do not, allow demonstrations at work by individual employees on political issues unrelated to their employment—just the sort of demonstrations begun last year by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and carried on through this weekend by more than 200 players. That the owners have tolerated and lately even encouraged such protests over an issue—charges of police brutality—that divides many Americans is a business risk that they seem willing to take. But the league’s use of its platform—created by its federal antitrust exemption—to broadcast its message across the country is more than a simple business matter. It represents an improper use of resources made available to the NFL by special federal legislation. It’s past time to revoke the Sports Broadcasting Act.

The owners won’t be happy with this, but at least they’ll have something specific to protest in the pregame ceremony.

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