One of ESPN’s senior writers is unhappy with the NFL’s annual recognition of America’s veterans and said the celebration reveals “a staggering level of hypocrisy.”
Writing for NBC News, ESPN’s Howard Bryant slammed the National Football League for lauding “America’s war machine” as “part of its business model.”
Bryant blasted the NFL’s recognition of our soldiers as nothing else but the league’s “annual armed forces propaganda effort.”
Salute to Service is the National Football League’s annual armed forces propaganda effort culminating in a series of events in November around Veteran’s Day. The NFL has spent a lot of time and money attempting to solidify the war/military metaphor that football has embraced for decades, but this metaphor has taken on a distinctively corporate flavor in the past few decades.
Not only is it a mere “propaganda” effort meant to pump up “America’s war machine,” but Bryant also insists that “no tangible benefit will be passed down to veterans” from these events.
Bryant also essentially claims it is false patriotism for the NFL to salute our soldiers.
The NFL, long triumphant over baseball, calls itself “America’s game.” Fox brands its Sunday afternoon national broadcast as “America’s Game of the Week,” and what better way to brand itself as patriotic than by adding the jets and camouflage and servicemen and women to the entertainment package.
The ESPN columnist does not seem to understand that it is possible to celebrate our soldiers without celebrating the political machinations that lead to their use in war.
Bryant then attacked the NFL for the financial gains. He scolds the NFL’s “billion-dollar sports machine stands eagerly in lockstep with the Pentagon, having decided it is good business to normalize a military presence in sports under the guise of “supporting the troops.”
The columnist replays the scolding the NFL took a decade ago for selling military-themed gear and how it was called out for making money off the backs of the troops by Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake. These days, Bryant notes, the NFL runs a disclaimer at the bottom of TV screens reading, “The NFL does not profit from the sale of Salute to Service products.”
However, Bryant points out that the NFL still sells items with camouflage on it and is still engaging in hypocrisy.
For the league has decided to make America’s war machine part of its weekly business model while simultaneously stating it does not want “politics” to be part of the entertainment of football. Though American audiences have made a distinction between what it considers politics and patriotism, the distinction is a false one.
Bryant next slammed the NFL for benefitting off military ties while at the same time “punishing” anti-American players such as Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid, Antonio Cromartie, and Michael Bennett.
The ESPN writer slapped the NFL for its all-too-public displays of fake patriotism instead of “supporting veterans quietly.”
Somehow, Bryant also imagined that the support of our troops is “empty” because the draft does not exist.
“The salutes are empty because there is no draft, abolished since 1973, so only a small percentage of Americans — the generational military families, the poor kids who are trading their bodies for access to education — are actually doing the fighting.”
This is a false claim. Today’s U.S. military is drawn from families with above-average income, according to a recent study. The study also found that the highest and lowest income sectors are underrepresented in today’s U.S. military forces. In other words, Bryant’s claim that poor kids are “trading their bodies for access to education” is an outright falsehood.
Bryant did make one good point. The NFL’s celebrations of the military do not highlight the “skyrocketing suicide rates, the subpar medical care, the alienation of re-entry back into civilian life.” Then again, no such celebrations do that.
Bryant concluded by calling war the highest form of politics.
There is nothing more political than war, and there is nothing more American than being able to speak one’s mind without being killed, jailed, or losing your job. But ironically, by silencing instead of confronting, the NFL thinks it is being pro-American. Or maybe, in an embarrassing, industrywide Freudian slip, it actually is, and this is who we are now
Perhaps more embarrassing is an ESPN writer who cannot give ten seconds of his life to celebrate our troops. But fortunately, But unlike Bryant, Americans have the capacity to separate an appreciation of our troops from the politics of war.
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