So now the protests against the National Anthem by some NFL players have morphed into an anti-Trump exposition. The story was always interesting but this weekend it exploded in a way that may hurt the country. In this case there are rights, but also what is right.
As you know, former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick started a political protest last season by failing to stand during the National Anthem before games. Soon, a few other players followed his lead, some even giving the black power salute.
Overwhelmingly, Americans do not want the anthem and flag disrespected by anyone. You can imagine how our military people feel about the situation while watching NFL games in war zones.
Kaepernick and some other athletes say they are protesting because they believe that the country is basically unfair to African Americans and other minorities and they want to draw attention to their point-of-view.
They, of course, have a right to that opinion.
However, professional athletes work for individual teams, and if the owners of those teams believe the protests are hurting business, they have a perfect right to lay down some ground rules.
Dallas Cowboy owner Jerry Jones, for example, has clearly stated that he does not want political protests on the football field. So far, his players have honored his wishes.
But now things have taken a turn for the worse. In Alabama, President Trump told a cheering audience that he'd like to see players who refuse to stand for the anthem fired. Also, the president opined that fans might want to leave the stadiums if anti-anthem displays persist.
As with the protesters and Jerry Jones, Mr. Trump has a right to his opinion even though it inflamed the situation, leading to wider player protests on Sunday. It is clear that many black players do not like the president one bit.
Shortly after Mr. Trump's initial statement, the head of the NFL, Roger Goodell, issued a press release saying the president's words disrespected the protesting players and the league. Mr. Goodell went on to cite all the good things the NFL is doing for the country.
Fine, but not relevant to the issue at hand.
So what's the answer here? Assuming we all would like to solve the problem, here's what I would do if I owned an NFL team.
First, I would address my players, telling them that I respect honest protest and the First Amendment right to state grievances.
Second, I would explain that professional sports is a business and that alienating customers who pay a lot of money to see football games is simply not good for business. The forum is wrong. The football field is not a political place.
Therefore, if players on my team do not want to respect the president, the National Anthem, and the American flag, they must stay inside the locker room until the pregame exposition is over. That is a new rule that I, as the owner, have a right to make.
By the way, the Pittsburgh Steelers did just that Sunday.
I would, however, give each player the opportunity to speak with the press about anything after practice. I would even provide a special room where the interviews could take place apart from the practice field.
It is interesting to note that the National Football League does not allow personal messages to be written on uniforms. Years ago, former Chicago Bear quarterback Jim McMahon got into major trouble for doing that. The league came down hard on him.
But now the NFL apparently believes that political messaging on the field is okay. Does that make any sense to you?
Summing up, the owners are entitled to make behavioral rules, President Trump and everyone else is entitled to criticize the protests, but the dissenters should be allowed their say in an appropriate setting.
Bill O'Reilly hosts a daily podcast on BillO'Reilly.com. His new book is “Killing England," now available. He is also the former host of "The O'Reilly Factor" on Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @billoreilly.