I am an unabashed Dallas Cowboys fan and I look forward to their games every week. If I'm not at AT&T Stadium on game days, I'm parked on my couch, beer in hand, glued to the screen. I'm probably also live-tweeting the game, inviting no end of agreement and trash talk from fans of other teams.
It's a really good time, but my enthusiasm does invite questions and trolling from political types sometimes, all of whom wonder why I'm watching something dominated by wokeness. According to them, I shouldn't be giving my time and dollars to something that props up leftism so heavily.
Is the NFL a woke institution as they say?
They're half right, but I think saying that the NFL is entirely woke is off-base. To be sure, there are definitely people who want the league to be hyper-political and that problem starts at the top with Roger Goodell. The NFL Commissioner has dived into the ESG trend head first and has spoken of policy changes to either coax or force teams to hire based on skin color and not talent or merit.
As was reported earlier this month by Forbes, the NFL will begin playing "Lift Every Voice and Sing," better known as the "Black National Anthem" before every game alongside the actual National Anthem.
So, case closed. The NFL is woke.
But here's where that begins to fall apart.
I'm not entirely sure if that's being upheld by every team. The Cowboys didn't seem to do it last Sunday and I haven't seen reports of any other team doing this besides the Chiefs. I have seen reports that they sang it at the beginning of the U.S. Open.
It's my honest opinion that members of the NFL's institution definitely would like the entirety of the operation to be one big message delivery system but there's definitely some internal disagreement here. There seems to be some pushback and refusals happening, just not very publicly. Every now and again you see the cracks form and refusals to participate happening.
Hell, even the league told players they had to stand when it got too dicey for them to continue the kneeling performances. This points to the fact that this was the NFL trying to find a balance between pleasing two different political ideologies.
According to FiveThirtyEight, the NFL has the least political fanbase in the nation compared to other sports leagues:
Among the sports leagues we considered, the NFL had the most search traffic and the least partisan fan base. There is basically no correlation3 between how Democratic or Republican an area is and how often its residents made NFL-related searches. By comparison, NASCAR has a very Republican fan base, which may explain why its team officials have been outspoken against the NFL protests. The NBA, meanwhile, has a largely left-leaning following, and the responses by its players and coaches have been especially critical of Trump.4
There's no denying that the league itself is leaning to the left, but within the league, the players, staff, and especially the fans run the gambit in terms of political persuasions. This forces the league to try to practice a balancing act that doesn't anger either side too much but does just enough to please them.
This doesn't stop them from trying to go over the line from time to time to see what they can get away with; thus we get the black national anthem making appearances before games.
Here's the bottom line. The NFL is more than the league itself. Yes, there are definitely woke aspects to it, but to say that the entirety of America's greatest sport is a left-leaning parade of ideologically leftist people is off the mark. It contains devout Christians, atheists, Republicans, Democrats, white people, black people, and every type of person in between. It is, without doubt, a place of true diversity, not the diversity the left thinks is diversity.
Everyone who attends the games or tunes in to watch does so because of the spirit of the sport and the love they have for teams, players, and the culture surrounding them. These things run deep and these fandoms are the kind that political parties could only wish they had.
In fact, these fandoms are so enthusiastic that they outshine the political nonsense being forced by the paper pushers in the league. The league isn't about these people, it's about the sport, and no matter how hard they try to make the sport about something else, the sport always wins.
Yes, the NFL institution is woke. No, I don't think it will stay that way forever. I think that as attitudes change and society evolves, different attitudes will cause the league to shift and adopt new ways of thinking as it tries to please as many people as it can. It's foolish, given that people aren't there to get preached at, but you should never credit corporate goons with too much in the way of sense.
But the point is that these goons don't matter. The myriad of stories that unfold every year remain an incredible part of American culture. Moreover, football isn't just about the games; it's about the fellowship that develops around them. Friends and family have been gathering together to cheer on their teams for decades, and it's become a bonding agent for entire regions of strangers. Hilariously, the real division that the NFL creates is one team's fans from another, and most of the time, it's a good-natured rivalry...
...most of the time.
I'm not going to write off all of these things because some flash-in-the-pan political movement got its hooks into everything at one point, including the league. The infection may linger but I doubt it will stay or come to define the league as a whole. Woke corporatism can't survive forever, and while going woke might sink mighty corporations, the love of football and the nation it brings together will help it outlast the political nonsense.
Also, the Cowboys are going all the way this year.