Regardless of any specific individual’s views on abortion, for 50 years the U.S. Constitution regarded the decision as a fundamental privacy right for American citizens. It no longer does, according to the six unelected politicians who have decided to take it away with the stroke of a pen.
The NFL, which has spent considerable time and money in recent years attracting, developing, and expanding its female fan base, has been strangely silent on the issue. In all respects. There has been no statement. No tweet. No expression of support for the employees of teams in the 22 states in which the NFL does business, if those individuals must travel to other states in order to implement an intensely personal and inherently difficult heath-care decision.
We sent an email to the league on Sunday asking whether there will be any comment on Friday’s ruling. There was no response.
The NBA and WNBA, in contrast, promptly spoke out on the development.
“The NBA and WNBA believe that women should be able to make their own decisions concerning their health and future,” the two basketball leagues said, “and we believe that freedom should be protected. We will continue to advocate for gender and health equity, including ensuring our employees have access to reproductive health care, regardless of their location.”
Maybe the NFL will say something today. Maybe the NFL will wait to see whether it’s pressured to do so. Maybe the NFL will opt, as it has done in the recent past, to err on the side of mollifying the portion of the fan base that would react more negatively to the NFL speaking out than the portion of the fan base that will react negatively to the NFL remaining silent.
Mike Silver, who spent several years working directly for the league, offered this observation on Sunday: “So the NFL, which for decades has draped itself in pink for a month and has been falling all over itself as of late to celebrate women, is completely silent after Friday’s decision? Sounds about right.”
The NFL likely prefers to exercise its right to remain silent on this issue because The Shield has become intertwined with notions of God and Country. And the lines between God and Country continue to blur, as our democracy teeters toward theocracy. As our democratic utopia veers farther into authoritarian dystopia.
This video sums it up. For the people who believe that their religion prohibits abortion, they don’t have to have one. For the people whose religion does not prohibit abortion, they should have that choice. For the people who are agnostic or atheist (and every American has the right to not believe in God or to believe generally that there’s a higher power but to eschew the hypocrisies and inconsistencies and raw profit motives of organized religion), they should have that choice.
This issue is rooted in true religious freedom. True bodily autonomy. True ability to make health-care decisions not based on black-and-white absolutes but on difficult nuances and subtleties arising from the many different circumstances that can result in pregnancies and the many different complications that can arise during them.
Then there’s the very real possibility that further rights that violate the religious standards of some will land under assault as the theocracy expands, from gay rights to contraception and beyond. That’s not paranoia; it’s specifically raised by Justice Clarence Thomas (whose seat was nearly derailed more than 30 years ago by a claim from Anita Hill that he engaged in sexual harassment in the workplace) in a concurring opinion. He basically invites the various states to pass laws that restrict other societal rights, so that the Supreme Court can shrug and say that the states can do whatever they want to do, except of course when it comes to gun safety.
To the stick to sports crowd, know this. The NFL doesn’t stick to sports when it believes its interests require it. The league only sticks to sports when it believes its interests compel silence. In nearly 72 hours since a half century of settled law was crumpled into a ball and tossed aside, the league has chosen to embrace silence. The league, as it always does, has made a P.R. calculation.
What happens next won’t be spontaneous or authentic but calculated and strategic. The league will say not what it truly believes, but what it believes it must say (or not say) to support the ever-expanding bottom line.