SUBSCRIBE NOW Get a year of news PLUS a gift box!



Port: Stop caring so much

It's hard to avoid outrage when athletes or other celebrities do outrageous things, but you have to understand that there is an entire industry built around farming that outrage.

Some North Dakota State players kneel during the National Anthem before the football game with Central Arkansas on Saturday, Oct. 3, in the Fargodome. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
We are part of The Trust Project.

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:

EMBED: BLM stickers on NDSU helmets

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.

The solution?

Stop caring so much.

To comment on this article, visit

Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
What to read next
Tim Mahoney has earned another term as Fargo mayor. Dave Piepkorn has earned another term as Fargo city commissioner and Denise Kolpack is our pick for the open seat on the Fargo City Commission.
Among other extreme stances, far-right candidate calls for imprisonment of political opponent
Our beloved peregrine falcons, those magnificent birds that have called downtown Fargo home for more than 20 years, have lost their nesting platform on the Bell Bank building.
Scott and Ollenburger were front and center in the flopped recall of four board members last year over the district's mask mandate. The recall failed because more than 6,000 petition signatures were deemed invalid, mostly because they were signed by people who didn't live in the Fargo school district. It was a stunning show of incompetence.