Watch CBS News

Chris Stigall: Trump's NFL End Zone Dance

PHILADELPHIA — I'm ready to admit it.  I've never seen political courage like this since I've been old enough to vote. Every single instinct I've had and nearly every political columnist/reporter I've read has been wrong.  Just when you might have convinced yourself Donald Trump went too far, he wins.  He ignored convention, he went to war, and he won.

I was going to sit down to write a column about the larger culture war today, but as I started typing – news kept breaking.  As is the case almost daily in the Trump era.   Today, NFL commissioner Rodger Goodell issued a letter formally addressing his league and how he wishes the National Anthem be treated going forward.

"Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem," Goodell wrote. "It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us…"

Ladies and gentleman, the great, national pushback is on and it's working.

For far too long, we conservatives and Republicans have been told we're to swallow hard, bite our tongues and be polite as a radical, fringe minority ram their politics down our throats.  Donald Trump just taught us something.  Not only is it untrue that it must be tolerated, it can be defeated.  That is, if we have the courage to stand and say, "enough."

Last Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen attended an Indianapolis Colts home game to watch the Peyton Manning honor ceremony. After several members of the San Francisco 49ers took a knee for the National Anthem, the Vice President and Second Lady bolted for the exits.  Later, Pence and Trump both tweeted they wanted no part of an event featuring participants disrespecting the American flag and anthem.

Monday, an avalanche of pundits in sports and news broadcasting carpet-bombed Pence with criticism.  "Pence was acting as nothing more than a puppet of Trump!  It was a set up from the beginning!  He knew they'd take a knee and this was a taxpayer funded stunt," they shouted.

Of course, we'll never know the "behind-the-scenes."  But here's what we do know.  On the same day Pence walked, Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys and Steve Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins ordered their players to follow league rules already established and stand for the National Anthem going forward.

Following the owners' statements, ESPN personality Jemele Hill went to war.  Ms. Hill, you might recall, tweeted a few weeks ago President Trump and those who support him are white supremacists.  ESPN didn't seem to think this was worth addressing, so they didn't.  Ms. Hill continued her work behind the anchor desk without so much as an "I'm sorry" from her network to their viewers.

Sunday, however, was different.  Ms. Hill called on her Twitter followers to boycott Jerry Jones' Cowboys.  But this time, ESPN decided Ms. Hill needed some sideline time and suspended her.

Shame on ESPN, frankly.  Were they consistent they'd have left Ms. Hill alone once again.  But that was then.  Network executives felt more than comfortable coddling Ms. Hill when she verbally assaulted the President and his voters as bigots - likely because they shared the sentiments.

But when Ms. Hill felt emboldened by that coddling and decided to attack a premiere team in the premiere commercial sports league in the United States? Well, now you're dealing with money, commercial sponsorship, and broadcast rights.  That can't be allowed to stand.

All of the sudden, Ms. Hill's radical, little Twitter feed was put in its place.  She's not Rosa Parks. She's a malcontent, desk-jockey diva with a phone and she doesn't speak for most of the people who still watch her network.  Nor does she cut the checks that keep her network and the NFL's lights on.

Goodell's letter this week was the white flag waved.  Trump gripped this radical activism by the throat and squeezed.  And he didn't stop.  Even when the "smart set" said it went too far.  Or that it was beneath the office.  Or that it was an assault on speech, or racist, or whatever.  Nope – Trump didn't let up.

Viewers and customers of the NFL headed for the exits.  Maybe not en mass, but certainly in large enough numbers the league noticed.  President Trump continued to fan the flames.  In the end, as my friend Kurt Schlicter at would say, the "normals" won.

Trump may not be the most elegant, or the most delicate, or the most conventional, but his instincts are killer.  He bet on the flag, the anthem, and the American public who overwhelmingly support both.  He just won that bet "bigly."

We're living in unprecedented times.  Courage to fight isn't something the radical left should own.  President Trump just put on a clinic as to why.  I'm done apologizing and staying quiet and you should be, too. The silent majority has a voice again, and for that, we have the President to thank.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.