By Eric Valentine
In last week’s 4th Estate column, guest writer Ken Stokes took a look at the blend of political correctness and honest merit when it comes to doling out Oscars to actors, directors and producers of films. (For the record, it’s now PC to only use the term “actor” not “actress”—in most cases). This last week another, and very different, example showed how organizations play the PC game to keep a diverse range of people happy enough to keep their industry profitable.
Enter: The NFL Draft—a three-day mardi gras of hero worship and team devotion wherein every National Football League franchise selects a handful of 20-year-olds who everyone expects to turn their loser team into a winner or their winning team into a dynasty. It’s as close to delusional as you can get in public, and it’s fantastic. I’m a lifelong football fan and even though my team, which will remain nameless—and no, it’s not the literally nameless team from Washington—didn’t have a first-round pick, I was glued to all three hours of the festivities.
Apparent during those three hours of TV were a handful of gestures by the NFL to address the redresses the league has taken on in recent years, from concussion dangers and players’ domestic and sexual abuse records all the way up to the worst travesty the nation has ever endured, the taking of a knee during the National Anthem. While the concussion and criminal stuff got mostly pushed aside, the NFL made it clear they love the American flag. A bit of it is even in their logo!
After a drafted player’s name got called this year, the normal rundown of who the kid is and why he’s going to make millions was explained, just like every year. But in 2021, whenever a player had ties to the U.S Armed Forces, out came the special graphics and family photos of dad and grandpa serving in Vietnam, World War II, etc. It wasn’t every player, not even close. So it didn’t feel inappropriate; rather, it just felt patronizing. If it’s the price we pay for letting players exercise their First Amendment rights, then cheers to compromise. But it only makes the question “Why do we perform the National Anthem during sports events, anyway?” that much more legitimate. Can you imagine that being done before every movie you ever watch?
Then there was the big leather lounge chair brought on stage. It was literally the chair unpopular NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sat in as he hosted last year’s pandemic-plundered celebration in his home. NFL fans—well, some NFL fans—were offended by last year’s scaled-back event and inability to watch games in person next to other fans they don’t know. (More than 577,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, if you’re keeping score.)
So Goodell appeased those fans (or, he at least tried to) by letting one lucky fan per team sit in that chair as their team announced who it was selecting next. At first it seemed a pathetic consolation prize, like a participation trophy for kids sans the participation. Until you saw the fans who sat in the chair. They could not have been more appeased, or pleased. All of them in full team regalia, and many with personalized wardrobe combinations that tipped their hat to their favorite pro wrestler.
But then there were some saving graces, the players. Sure, some of the players not old enough to drink legally had diamond-clad suits they were sporting weeks before their contracts will be signed. But, forget about that display of unnecessary decadence. Instead, focus on Alabama running back Najee Harris, who is now a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers after being drafted by them in round 1. Harris held his draft party at the homeless shelter where he spent much of his youth. Oh, and upon his arrival there, he and his mom brought the residents boxes of food.
When you’re feeling bombarded by all the PC stuff, coming from the right or the left, take a look at the video on YouTube at tinyurl.com/42h9vned. It’s not political, it’s just correct.