Memo to: the National Football League

There are reports that, if and when football season opens, you will be instituting, at the beginning of every game, the singing of the Black national anthem following the Star-Spangled Banner. Since there is no official Black anthem, some have suggested that a classic Negro spiritual take its place The purpose would be to heighten awareness of the endemic police brutality against Blacks in America.

To honor those whose history is marked by persecution and suffering is a splendid idea. Certainly the magnificent spiritual , “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands,” would serve as a soothing balm to the anger and violence of recent days.

In this regard, it is obvious that the Jewish people are not strangers to suffering, so it would be only right also to institute the singing of that spiritual Jewish ballad, Adon Olam. Its climactic words, “In His hands I entrust my spirit, He is with me, I shall not fear”– words which are uncannily echoed by the Black spiritual — are a fitting testament to systemic faith in the midst of persecution Since it is recited at the opening of Jewish daily worship, it would be appropriate to sing just before the opening kickoff – especially since its theme is that God literally opened up the world.

But we must be fair. It would be an injustice to Britain if we began the game without recognizing that England gave us the ultimate blueprint for freedom, the Magna Carta. Without it, there would be no racial justice, and mankind would still be living under tyranny. The Magna Carta underscored that all lives matter. Therefore, the anthem, “God Save the Queen,” would be most fitting before the big game. Imagine the frisson of excitement in the crowd waiting to trounce the visiting team as they hear the final words of the anthem: “Scatter our enemies, /make them fall/ God save us all.” This is a suitable tribute to liberty, plus a prayer for the resounding defeat of the opposition whom God will hopefully “scatter and make fall.”

If the USA, Blacks, Jews, and England are represented, certainly the French also deserve recognition. The French Revolution spoke truth to power when they courageously stormed the Bastille. Their rage and frustration fought gendarme violence and underfunded them and the systemic racism that plagued French society. Beyond this, France helped the colonies in the Revolutionary War, and everyone recalls that the great French military genius, Marquis de La Fayette was a heroic general in the Revolutionary Army . Therefore it would be an injustice to omit the Marsellaise from the pre-game anthems. … Le jour de gloire est arrive, “the day of glory has arrived,” is a stirring salute to liberte, egalite, fraternite, a felicitous prelude to the glorious game about to begin.

But while remembering all suffering peoples, we must not forget that in its war against Nazi Germany, Russia lost almost twenty million soldiers. Had Russia not defeated the wehrmacht in the bloody battles of Stalingrad and Moscow, Fascism would have conquered the world. Football fans, when they yell “Dee-fense! Dee-fense! Dee-fense!” should honor the heroic Russian defenders of freedom, without whom there would be no football today, and should remember Russian suffering by singing the stirring words of their national anthem: “the Russian eagle hovers high, leading our people to victory.” The thunderous sound of thousands of football fans lustily belting out Rossiya-suyashchennaya nasha derzhava would send a rush of adrenalin through the veins of all die- hard football fans.

Granted, with a total of six full anthems to be sung before the game, it might not leave much time for the game itself. Therefore, in order to allow time for each anthem to be respectfully sung in its entirety, it might be necessary to abbreviate the actual playing time. Instead of four quarters of fifteen minutes each, we might limit each quarter to five minutes. Granted, this could make some folks unhappy, but in these trying times we must set priorities and express solidarity with those who have fought against social inequities. Five- minute quarters would be a small sacrifice to show our gratitude and appreciation.

The NFL is to be saluted for its willingness to recognize the bitter history of bigotry and to engage in healing dialogue. Your commitment to justice and your courageous resistance against powerful interests that who would stifle such expressions at football games is commendable. NFL stands as an example to those in our society who would invariably succumb to the slightest pressure. A thousand throats blasting out these anthems would make a powerful statement: football is great but it does not matter that much, because , in the final analysis, human lives – black, yellow, brown, white, red – are all that matter.




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7 Responses

  1. Shira Leibowitz Schmidt says:

    On, Rabbi ! On, Rabbi! Plunge right through that line!
    Run the ball right down the field, a touchdown sure this time.

    This posting was quintessential Rabbi Emanuel Feldman: humor, light parady, musar.

  2. Nice try, but no two-point conversion. Musically, all those anthems are out of tune with today’s preferences. There is only one that is so rousing that it is timeless, and could still inspire the crowds. It exhorts us to resist the oppression of governments clamping down on minorities with unpopular beliefs. Can you imagine the excitement of 90000 spectators as they belt out “U-v’shilton ha-kofrim ein anu maaminim,” of the Neturei Karta anthem?

  3. Raymond says:

    I realize that I dare not give into my emotions when responding to columns on this website, yet I simply cannot deny the utter joy I feel when reading columns such as this one. I am kind of an outsider when it comes to the religious Jewish world, and so when I find that my thoughts on a particular issue are in total sync with a Rabbi of the stature of Emmanuel Feldman, well, let’s just say that it puts a huge smile on my face, as I feel so totally vindicated. And what icing on the cake it is, that he expresses such ideas in the humorous way that he does. His column put a a huge smile on my face.

    As for the inane and insane politically correct antics of the National Football League, I have what I think is a perfect solution to the problem, namely for as many people as possible to no longer give the NFL even a dime of their money. That takes no effort on me personally, since I stopped being a football fan long ago when I heard that the Centers on their teams (the ones who hike the ball back to the Quarterback) have a 90% chance of getting brain damage due to their profession. Where it does impact me personally is Major League Baseball, which has also become politically correct. Baseball has been a lifelong passion for me. My favorite living celebrity for some time now has been Sandy Koufax, for reasons all of us already know.

    On some level for me, baseball is America. When we can no longer even enjoy what should be the harmless pursuit of professional sports, that is a good sign that our society is going down, and going down fast. There is only one man who can stem this tide. We all know who he is. He is the most hated man in America, ironically hated for doing his best to save this country. And yet even the strongly pro-Israel President Trump can only slow down the process of America ending not with a bang, but with a whimper. It is a sad state of affairs, as America has been such a fantastic country, not only for us Jews, but for all of humanity. G-d help us all.

  4. Just Curious says:

    Let me begin by detailing my “pedigree” (lest you think I am some some sort of leftist “social justice warrior”-type): I am a politically conservative, frum, white American.

    Allow me also to say that while this article does indeed display R’ Feldman’s characteristic wit, it is ultimately sorely misguided.

    While I abhor the advancing tide of political correctness in this country and roll my eyes at the the NFL’s performative virtue signalling, the fact remains that neither Jews nor the English/French/Russians are being killed by police (on video, no less!) at anything near the rate of Black Americans.

    (Nor, incidentally, are members of those other groups employed by the NFL at anything near anything near the rate of Black Americans, which may go a long way to explaining the NFL’s–as well as other American professional sports leagues’–sudden interest in so-called “racial justice”.)

    This article by R’ Feldman reminds me of the misplaced retort of “all lives matter” to the cry that “black lives matter” (please note that I am not referring to the sometimes violent, possibly Marxist, Black Lives Matter “movement”):

    When your fellowman’s house is on fire, the decent response is not “my house matters too!”

    • Bob Miller says:

      Have you notice that criminal activity brings police activity in its train? Some areas have more criminal activity per capita.

  5. Steve Brizel says:

    I was an avid Yankee and NY Giant football fan No more

    Those who are paid millions to play children’s games for mass entertainment should have Hakaras HaTov for living in a country that provides them with that way of making a living Politicizing sports or entertainment an and should be met with the response you can go broke by insisting that we all become wolk

    • Reb Yid says:

      I, too, have been boycotting the NFL for the last few years, but for completely different reasons.

      NFL owners are the worst at treating their players like they’re still on the plantation. When they blackballed Colin Kaepernick for silently, thoughtfully and respectfully kneeling, that was it for me.

      They still haven’t offered him a chance of employment.

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