This week, Vin Scully, long the voice of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, announced that he would never watch another NFL game, saying that player protests are disrespectful of people in uniform. Bill Littlefield has written Mr. Scully a letter.
Dear Mr. Scully,
Let me begin by saying I've admired your work for years. Whenever I heard you broadcasting a game or talking about baseball in an interview, you sounded as if you were enjoying yourself. As far as I can tell, you're one of those fortunate people who was able to make a fine living doing something you loved doing. If that's not the case, you're a heck of a good actor.
But on to the current great American pastime. I was intrigued by your decision to stop watching NFL games. When I saw the headline on the story about that decision, I thought you'd made it based on the evidence that a great many former players have suffered brain damage as a result of their work, and that a lot of current players are very likely to find themselves in the same situation before long.
That's why I made the same decision you've made. I know several other people who've gone that route. Then there are the people who've only talked about bailing on the NFL because of the brain damage, kind of the way some people who smoke talk about quitting. Maybe they will. Maybe they won't.
Anyway, I was mistaken. You've stopped watching NFL games because some of the players have knelt during the national anthem.
You have decided that this protest insults the flag, and, by extension, members of the military.
I find that thinking creative.
The players who've spoken about why they've protested — either by kneeling or by some other means — have mentioned several motivations for their actions. The first was police violence against black citizens. As you know, some of that violence has been fatal. More recently, a number of players protested one owner's use of a figure of speech, whereby — perhaps inadvertently — he classified the players as "inmates." Many players were also understandably and legitimately dismayed when the President of the United States referred to their brothers who protested as expletives deleted who should be fired.
As far as I know, no player has said he's kneeling because he's against the United States, or its flag, or its anthem, or the men and women who wear its uniforms. Yet numbers of people, yourself included, apparently, have decided they know more than the protesters do about what the protests mean.
Mr. Scully, you and I were both around during the '60s, when Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew attempted to characterize young men and women who protested against U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam as ignorant, unwashed, drug-addled malcontents.
Now, as then, it seems to me wiser to listen to and respect those who are protesting than to assign to those protests meaning and significance you are imagining.