MINOT, N.D. — Members of the North Dakota State University Bison football team took a knee during the national anthem, recently, a provocative political gesture intended to show solidarity with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the Black Lives Matter movement, which has resulted in violent demonstrations across the country.
Some of the players also wore Black Lives Matter logos on their helmets, as you can see in these images a reader sent me:
This on-field activism enraged many, which, in turn, prompted a defense of the actions from others.
As divided as well are on this issue, and so many others facing our country today, there does seem to be something both sides agree on, which is that football player activism, specifically, and celebrity activism, generally, really matters.
I am here to tell you that it does not.
Since the Bison players took a knee, my inboxes and social media streams have been full of people angry about it.
I've seen calls for a prohibition on player activism, which are wrong-headed because they would violate the 1st amendment, both in spirit and as a matter of law.
It may be galling to see a taxpayer-subsidized team use their taxpayer-funded platform to rub their politics in the public's collective faces (it's a big lie that big-time collegiate athletics pay for themselves; they do not).
That actually gives these players more protection.
Private leagues, such as the NFL, have more leeway to control on-field activism than state institutions like NDSU.
But legalities aside, these players have the same right to express stupid ideas as the rest of us.
I've also heard talk of retaliation against NDSU's funding from the taxpayers and alumni networks. While it wouldn't break my heart to see funding for sports programs cut — NDSU is an academic institution, not a host body for a football team — this, too, is the wrong path. Students at a public institution should express even the dumbest political opinions without fear of fiscal reprisal.
The best strategy for this sort of thing is to stop caring so much about it.
Don't get angry. Don't click the links. Don't call into the local radio station upset.
That goes for all celebrity activism. If you see a news lede that goes something like "celebrity took to Twitter," stop and don't go any further.
There is not a single thing in that sort of article or video that will be illuminating.
It's hard to avoid outrage when athletes or other celebrities do outrageous things, but you have to understand that an entire industry is built around farming that outrage. When you react, you're just planting another crop for them to harvest.
Football players and Hollywood actors and reality show stars (and, yes, even Presidents) say and do puerile, obnoxious things because it draws attention.
The news media covers these things because they're low hanging fruit for stories.
Also, we click. We read. We watch. They profit.
Stop caring so much.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at email@example.com.