Mike Rowe is one of the few people in entertainment who realizes he’s not being paid to force his political beliefs on TV viewers. When the former Dirty Jobs host does speak out, it’s usually to promote skilled trades as a viable alternative to a debt-ridden college education.
But when fans pressed Rowe about the NFL players who have rushed to protest President Trump by kneeling during the national anthem, the blue-collar champion dealt everyone involved in the controversy a scathing rebuke.
Rowe shared a question from a fan named Robert asking for his stance on what has become the most heated issue in the culture war.
“Hey Mike – I know you avoid politics, (thanks!) and I remember your rant on the Colt’s leaving Baltimore. (As a former Brown’s fan, I feel your pain.) But I gotta ask – what’s happening to professional football, and what do you make of Trump’s comments about those who refuse to stand during the national anthem?”
The TV icon waxed philosophical with his response.
“In democracies, we the people get the government we deserve. We also get the celebrities we deserve, the artists we deserve, and the athletes we deserve. Because ultimately, we the people get to decide who and what gets our attention, and who and what does not.”
For Rowe, “kneeling” issue has less to do with “patriotism, social justice, racial inequality, or free speech,” than it is about “will tolerate, and what we won’t.”
He then proceeded to express disappointment with President Trump–but not for the reason liberals might have expected. Rowe asserted that NFL owners reserve the right to fire players who engages in these protests. He also made clear that he himself would not “grieve the dismissal of anyone who chooses to disrespect our flag.”
But Rowe claimed “the President had an opportunity to remind us that The NFL, the networks who broadcast their games, and all of the players – standers and kneelers alike – work for us. He might have also used the occasion to remind us that he too, serves at our pleasure.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who sided with national anthem protesters against the President, wasn’t spared:
“I felt a similar bemusement when the Commissioner issued his response, followed by the President of the Player’s Union. Their comments – along with the comments of many of the players themselves – were perfectly reasonable, perfectly understandable, and perfectly in keeping with their first amendment rights. But they were also perfectly arrogant. Because they too, presuppose that millions of fans will continue to watch them play a game – no matter what.”
Rowe went on to say that football fans are often “caught in the middle”of the “dubious” behavior of team owners and players. He closed with a stern warning to NFL decision-makers.
“But here’s the thing, Rob. The fans of professional football are not powerless – we’re just not yet offended enough to turn the channel. Should that ever change in a meaningful way – if for instance, a percentage of football fans relative to those players who chose to kneel during today’s games, chose to watch something else next Sunday – I can assure you…the matter would be resolved by Monday.”
In a postscript, Rowe called military veterans “real heroes” who “made sure today’s athletes have the right to kneel for our flag, or honor it.”
In another rare political post last November, Rowe countered the narrative that Trump won the 2016 election because of the nation’s “racist underbelly, arguing instead that the New York billionaire successfully convinced working-class Americans that he offered “real change.”
The reaction to Rowe’s post on social media was overwhelmingly positive.
I know your going to catch a lot of grief from trolls. But Mike. You hit on a great point. Thank you.
— Grandpa Ken (@Kenr3378) September 25, 2017
If anyone else chose to protest at their job for some thing that had nothing to do with said job, THEY WOULD BE FIRED! simple as that!
— 😎L Bowen 🚓 (@Dahmomof4) September 25, 2017
I fought for people to have free speech. These people not standing is disrespectful to the country. Don’t like the country then leave it. 🇺🇸
— Rodney Hamilton (@jrodneyhamilton) September 25, 2017
You are in America you stand for the national anthem. For Respect for our country, for everyone who has fought and died for our freedoms.
— JennJenn Lehmann (@ChiefaQueen) September 25, 2017