Op-ed: NFL and DPRK

  • By Bob Franken
  • Monday, May 28, 2018 10:26am
  • Opinion

Why are the NFL and North Korea similar? You guessed it: Neither will tolerate not standing for their national anthems. I assume Kim Jong Un won’t accept it because he eliminates any dissenters. While the pro football owners aren’t quite as bloodthirsty, they obviously are profit-thirsty and accordingly have voted that they, too, will punish players’ protests, in particular any refusal to rise for “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

In the NFL, those who take a knee for the national anthem instead will risk a fine. In the DPRK, anyone who doesn’t robotically comply with Kim’s every demand is executed, or at the very least imprisoned. So the enforced patriotism of pro football isn’t nearly as thuggish, particularly since the athletes can simply hide in the locker room while Francis Scott Key’s laborious song is performed. As long as they don’t offend anyone with their demonstrations against the nation’s racism and cops killing black Americans, they can take a knee or whatever it is they do in the locker room. Just not visibly. Ratings are way more important than free expression.

The comparison, some will argue, is unfair. We are nowhere near as regimented as the citizens of North Korea. But, it’s a matter of degree. Autocracy breeds dictatorship, and we certainly are heading in the wrong direction.

Millions of people worry that the elected leader of the United States is taking us that way. By constantly railing against the institutions that stand between him and absolute rule, Donald Trump is pushing us all down a slippery slope. The media, the courts and the other protectors built into the Constitution are obstacles to whatever whim he’s having. His Twitter protestations would be amusing, except that they’re taken seriously by his millions of followers.

Still, as much as he enjoys ravaging just about everyone in his tweets, he does not take kindly when the invective is incoming.

For a number of reasons, it should be no surprise then that he’s bailing on his much-anticipated face-to-face meeting with Kim next month in Singapore. Reason No. 1 could be that Trump is wimping out after feeling the pressure of living up to the hype. He’s not a detail man, to put it mildly, but even he might be aware that if he and Kim didn’t tangibly pull us back from the nuclear precipice, he’d be discredited as just a huckster. So he seized upon the belligerence spewing out of Pyongyang from a high-level official who dismissed Vice President Mike Pence as a “political dummy,” which is only partially true — politically, he’s crafty, but let’s not digress.

When Kim’s guy also pointed out that it’s up to the United States to “meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at a nuclear-to-nuclear showdown,” that was all the excuse Donald Trump needed. So the letter went out:

“Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting.”

Remember, this is President Trump talking about “tremendous anger and open hostility” being “inappropriate.” Now, Trump and Kim have returned to making nice for the moment, even suggesting that a meeting might be desirable. Someplace. Sometime.

One could easily surmise that all the harsh elbowing is the way that these guys signal that they really do want to get together — the geopolitical version of pre-date foreplay. That would explain why, with all the invective, the North Koreans put on a show of destroying their mountain nuclear testing site, and all the conciliatory comments on both sides. But let’s not make any plans for the Trumpster’s Nobel Peace Prize quite yet.

We have much to offer North Korea, though, not only a financial rescue and assurances of regime protection, but also a tradition of freedom. That includes freedom of expression, which is a delicate right that can be shattered all too easily. That’s what makes the stifling action of the NFL owners a step in the wrong direction.

More in Opinion

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks during an April 27 news conference at the Alaska State Capitol in which options for a long-range fiscal plan were discussed. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Alaska’s rudderless fiscal ship

The Alaska Permanent Fund dividend Alaskans are set to receive is again… Continue reading

Heidi Drygas, executive director of the 8,000-member Alaska State Employees Association, addresses a rally outside the Alaska State Capitol on Feb. 10, 2023. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire File)
Let’s stop the ‘Neglect. Panic. Repeat.’ cycle of public service delivery

The payroll section is one of several state agencies in crisis

This photo shows Alaska Department of Public Safety Commissioner Jim Cockrell. (Courtesy photo / Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy)
Strengthening Alaska through service: Join the Alaska State Troopers

The law enforcement positions within the Department of Public Safety fill a critical need within our community

A tabletop voting booth is seen next to a ballot box at the Kenai city clerk’s office on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021, in Kenai, Alaska. (Peninsula Clarion file)
Opinion: Last call to voice your vote!

We will see you at the polls Oct. 3

LaDawn Druce asks Sen. Jesse Bjorkman a question during a town hall event on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Opinion: Addressing Kenai Peninsula’s education and public safety employee shortage

Many of our best and brightest educators take a hard and close look at the teacher’s retirement system in Alaska early in their careers and are stunned

Deven Mitchell, executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: Providing for generations of Alaskans

As a public endowment, the wealth of the Fund is the responsibility of every resident of the state

U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney greet each other outside the chamber at the U.S. Capitol on April 5, 2022. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP file photo)
Opinion: Alaska’s senators and Mitt Romney

When newly elected Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, began his term five years… Continue reading

UAA Provost Denise Runge photographed outside the Administration and Humanities Building.
Opinion: UAA offers affordable and convenient pathways that prepare students for the next step

At UAA, we provide numerous academic programs designed to meet specific workforce needs

A line of voters runs out the door of the Diamond Ridge Voting Precinct at the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center on Election Day, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, in Homer, Alaska. Chamber Executive Director Brad Anderson said he had never seen the amount of people coming through the polling place. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
How many ways can you vote?

Multiple ballot options available to voters

scales of justice (File photo)
Opinion: The Dubious Dunleavy Deal to use public dollars for personal legal costs

In 2019, these regulation changes were ultimately abandoned without public notice

A 2022 voter information pamphlet rests on a desk in the Peninsula Clarion offices on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Where to find voter pamphlets

Be educated about what you are voting on