Over the past week, a war of words has transpired between President Donald Trump and the National Football League regarding past player protests in which a select few had chosen to kneel during the playing of the national anthem in objection to perceived racial inequality in America. Since Trump’s remarks last week, the issue has been developed into a national controversy. Please note: I use the phrase “been developed”, as opposed to its passive form, “developed,” to draw attention to the fact that there has been an active effort to propagate the issue, unsurprisingly, by proponents of the leftist agenda and their coveted media allies.

At a political rally on the Friday entering Week 3 of 2017 NFL season, Trump expressed that players who knelt during the national anthem, which precedes every NFL game, were disrespecting their country, their flag and ultimately the NFL as an organization, and should be fired or benched for doing so (for the record, The United States Flag Code specifies that during the playing of the national anthem, all “persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart”). Shortly thereafter came a barrage of rhetorical bombshells from the media conflating the president’s remarks with claims of his implicit racism, a favorite fiction of liberal news outlets, along with assertions that Trump had violated players’ rights to free speech.

Come Sunday, just about every NFL team demonstrated some kind of response to the president’s words, whether it was a team-wide locking of arms, kneeling or abstention from the anthem ceremony altogether. Even Trump’s favorite team, the New England Patriots, had seventeen players kneel for the anthem, in addition to a condemning press release from owner Robert Kraft.

To be clear: I love pro football and I love the United States. As a conservative, I feel that the right to free speech is the most important in our Constitution. I’m not for the suppression of any kind of peaceful political demonstration. However, is it completely unreasonable for the president of our nation to ask for national respect in the form of standing and honoring the national anthem? Perhaps his words were harsh in calling for the termination of protesting players, but I was nevertheless completely surprised by the breadth of Sunday’s protests across the league. It was an oddly-impressive display of team and league unity, sure, but appropriate? Representative of the people to which the NFL owes its support?

I don’t think so. What I saw was a gross display of the uber-politicization of professional sports catalyzed by ESPN and the liberal media syndicate. Now, sports fans across the country, including the large portion of NFL fans who agree with Trump’s sentiments (see: mass booing, DirecTV Sunday Ticket refunds, etc.), are forced to choose a side (i.e. the left, lest they be alienated by their favorite team) regarding this issue. What should be an arena of uniquely American entertainment and good-spirited competition has been made into a polarizing political battleground thanks to the unapologetic and democratically intolerant media.

Rarely have we seen the left championing free speech — recall Charlottesville, when whites protesting the removal of historic statues were completely silenced and discredited by violence, destruction and bombast from liberals demanding the president’s dismissal of their right to free speech – yet suddenly, calling out players who refuse to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” is a threat to free speech? There’s no doubt, the left is all in favor of the First Amendment, unless of course it conflicts with the agendas of blacks, Hispanics, gays, transgenders, females or any other group who doesn’t possess some kind of ever-elusive “privilege”.

The United States’ national anthem is a song which contains no inherent racism, prejudice or political persuasion, only calls for national pride and respect for our flag — sentiments all Americans should be able to get behind. Therefore, it’s only natural that liberals must undermine its message, amplify their rhetoric and use their media influence to divide the country to a degree far beyond that of Trump’s original words. Such is the plight of the modern American: the perpetual conflict between conformity to the paradigm of the elite Left, or ostracization by these self-appointed arbiters of cultural literacy and social morality. Until every citizen has made that choice, the unrelenting left will continue to pick and choose its battles without the slightest regard for its own integrity, or the welfare of our great nation.