Our outraged president has left the NFL in a no-win position

Sept. 25, 2017: Jerry Jones and the Cowboys. (AP Photo/Matt York)

The press box usually is a placid place during any rendering of our national anthem. We all stop typing. We stand. We look around whatever stadium/arena we happen to be in. We start to get antsy if the performance drags – Paul Zimmerman, the legendary football maven known as Dr. Z, would time it with a stopwatch – but that’s about the extent of press-box movement. Usually.

Now we get out binoculars, scan the sideline, check the TV monitors. We count the number of players who aren’t standing and jot down their numbers. In sum, we take roll. Because we know that what happens during the national anthem will be bigger national news than the game we’re supposed to cover.

Example: The Packers and Cowboys, yet again, played a pulsating football game Sunday, but the day’s main NFL-related headline involved our vice president exiting a game in Indianapolis before it started. Our president then tweeted that he instructed his veep to leave “if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country.”

Forget football. NFL games have become venues for playing tit-for-tat. You can say that the kneelers started it, and technically you’d be right. (Although the kneelers were protesting what they perceive as a systemic civil wrong.) You can say that our president made it a far bigger deal by demanding that any kneeler be fired. But now we’ve come to a place where the debate – not that anything in our overheated society recalls Lincoln-Douglas – has descended into farce.

After Sunday’s loss, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who two weeks earlier had knelt with his players before the anthem, told the Dallas Morning News: “If you do not honor and stand for the flag in the way that a lot of our fans feel that you should … then you won’t play.” ESPN’s Jemele Hill tweeted that companies who advertise with the Cowboys should be boycotted. The Worldwide Leader, which issued a warning (but no suspension) after Hill characterized this president as a white supremacist, suspended her for two weeks, apparently with pay.

In September, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell responded to our president’s fire-them firestorm with what seemed unqualified support for the men who comprise his league: “The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture.” This week, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the same Goodell wrote a letter to the 32 teams bearing a different message: “Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the national anthem.”

Tampa Bay defender Gerald McCoy, among the NFL’s more respected players, told Schefter: “I think it’s gonna be an uproar if that is to happen because you’re basically taking away a constitutional right to freedom of speech.” Titans receiver Rishard Matthews, whose half-brother died in Afghanistan, tweeted that he’d retire from the NFL if forced to stand for the anthem. He then deleted the tweet.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that a Twitter user going by the name “Jones smith” had expressed pointed support for Goodell 14 times. The tweeter was revealed to be Jane Skinner Goodell, the commissioner’s wife and a former Fox News anchor. She told the Journal: “It was a REALLY silly thing to do.”

It’s almost impossible to feel sympathy for the hoity-toity NFL, but this tempest has left the No-Fun League in a no-win position. Seventy percent of its players are African-American; the kneeling began as Colin Kaepernick’s way of protesting the killing of blacks by police. (Also of note: Kaepernick cannot find an NFL team willing to hire him.) The NFL, however, is not a non-profit entity. It exists to make money. ESPN’s suspension of Hill – ESPN is an NFL rights-holder – was a nod to commerce. Goodell’s invocation of “many of our fans” was a nod to reality: The league has become a flash point for something that cuts deeper than Deflategate.

Having said that, what’s the way up and out? Polls have shown that African-Americans tend to support the anthem protests, whereas whites feel otherwise. The players play the game, but they’re paid to play by money from TV, meaning advertisers, and ticket-buyers, some of whom mightn’t agree with the kneeling. What began as a gentle exercise of civil disagreement has slammed into the jagged rocks of money and politics.

Say what you will about this president – by now, we’ve said it all a thousand times – but he’s the world champion of outrage. (Less clear is what a descended-from-money billionaire would have to be outraged about, but never mind.) Outrage, not just his, made him president, and he clearly sees it as the way to keep being president. As Rich Lowry wrote for Politico: “After Trump got involved, the polling on the protests began to show the public more evenly divided. If you’re Donald Trump and at 40 percent or below in the polls, though, a 50/50 issue works for you. If you are the NFL and hope to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, a 50/50 issue is a disaster.

The USFL owner who, in 1986, technically beat the NFL in antitrust court – though the settlement of $1, then trebled for damages, bankrupted the fledgling and debt-ridden league – has again beaten the bearers of Goodell’s precious shield. By playing to his base, this president leaves the NFL facing a choice guaranteed to infuriate some part of its core. If it bows to political expediency, it risks losing its players. If it stands with those players, it risks losing money and market share. All this over the national anthem of – pause for effect – the United States of America.

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164 comments
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Insert Name Here
Insert Name Here

I think the players will fail in their attempt to make police villains, and I believe anyone who supports the NFL now is at best a fair-weather patriot. 

NativeAtlantan57
NativeAtlantan57

Despicable Donnie Boy is pathetic. He basically jettisons the American citizens in Puerto Rico, continues to culturally divide this country and sticks his nose into a football league.

NFL protests ares not about the flag, anthem, military, patriotism, seeing eye dogs or carrier pigeons as Trump and his simpleton supporters make it out to be. It is now about a rejection of Donnie Man Child himself and his intolerance.

I put my hand over my heart to celebrate living in a country where we can protest, call the pResident out for the creep that he is and exercise our First Amendment rights without threat of being thrown into jail.

Donnie Divider already trashed the USFL. He needs to put his efforts into the true business that needs to be accomplished in this country. The truth is if something does not stroke his narcissism, then he has no interest.

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

What started as a civil protest has turned into a political proxy war. What nonsense. The NFL should take a neutral position. Let the players voice their opinion and if you don't like it you don't have to cheer for them or buy their jersey. Forcing any one to do anything is un-american. There are plenty of NFL players who stand for the national anthem. You are free to support them. 


Our divider in chief doing what he does best.

FlatTire
FlatTire

Taking a knee in Britain while our Anthem is being played then standing for the British anthem; the very country that enslaved you shows what a joke this protest is


I have other things to do on Sundays and it won't ever be watching the NFL

FlatTire
FlatTire

@FineousMcDirtyBird. lack of education?  The British enslaved over 3 million Africans to the America's well before America became a nation

FlatTire
FlatTire

@FineousMcDirtyBird. it didn't take America over 100 years after the British it was just 29 years. And again the British had an enormous part in getting slaves from Africa long before this country became a nation.  So again my point is its laughable to go to a country that enslaved so many and show respect and then disrespect your own country

Jackalope
Jackalope

@FineousMcDirtyBird @FlatTire Yeah, yeah, yeah...as if murder, drug use, single parents, no fathers in the household, living off the efforts of others, failing to get an education isn't just as immoral as slavery.


DanJohn
DanJohn

The players can protest if they wish. They do have free speech. For those who don't like it simply don't support IE buy NFL merchandise/gear. Don't subscribe to NFL Sunday Ticket or buy tickets to the game. When you cut their revenue they notice.


The players will notice when their salaries get lower because the salary cap drops. For those pulling their hair out write advertisers and boycott advertisers products. Hit them where it hurts...their bank accounts. 


To some degree I've followed ratings of NFL games of late and they are down which means advertisers will want to renegotiate ad rates. Again less money! Truth be told that is why owners are in panic mode. Players can protest social injustice or just want to shove it up Trump's _____ but they will be the ones who lose in the end not Trump. 

tlmaddox
tlmaddox

No Mark - it is the public that is outraged. The NFL and the players put themselves into the no-win box.

ByteMe
ByteMe

@tlmaddox Public's not "outraged" at all.  Some people who like to feel outrage are outraged, but jeez, nothing satisfies them until their next outrage anyway.

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

@RoyalDawg @ByteMe @tlmaddox It's down for EVERY sport. NASCAR is in freefall despite their rebel flag loving, non-kneeling drivers and fan base. Look at the whole picture and stop repeating the words of a man who has no idea what he's talking about (POTUS).

ByteMe
ByteMe

If JJ's players all kneeled, he'd have to forfeit the game, so who's really in charge of the team?

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

@ByteMe And all would forfeit their pay. This isn't rocket science, gator boy, they have contracts and the field is their work place.


On their own time they can protest and spend their money (lol) for whatever perceived slight that they choose.

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

@RoyalDawg @ByteMe No rule against kneeling. No law against kneeling. No one hurt (other than mealy mouthed butt hurt outrage junkies). Doesn't impede the game. Doesn't affect the outcome of games. Doesn't affect anyone or anything (unless you're a mealy mouthed butt hurt outrage junkie that can't breathe, think, or poop if they see a black man kneeling during a song). 


But sure. Let's use the monetary coercion and the threat of termination to constrain a peaceful unobtrusive protest that literally does nothing to anyone, that no rule exists to prevent. God Bless America. You're a hero.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

If it doesn't affect anyone or anything, then why do they do it?

ads1172
ads1172

Wrong. Goodell left the nfl in a no win position for not suspending the communist kaperdick after he did this the first time. It's all a big joke anyway. They don't even know what they are protesting now. And you have moron cheerleaders who can't even speak correct English trying to explain. Sad. Ratings are down. Just wait til next year when thousands decide not to renew tickets. The most hysterical part...doing something stupid that pisses off your fan base. And most trump supporters were nfl fans. By far more than any other base. I and about 11 others I know haven't watched a game in 2 weeks and most certainly won't go to a game. My football day is now today.

DawgWhistle
DawgWhistle

Mark? You didn’t mention if you guys in the press box, the ones scanning the field with binoculars, were standing at attention with hand over your heart (optional)...or if the cameramen and other directors and producers were...or if those standing in line to buy beer, or in the bathrooms taking a leak (standing or sitting) were ‘adhering’ to the POTUS’s and Goodell’s dictate (by the way, this President has made it abundantly clear that the letters POS are part of his label).

This hypocritical BS is just one more example of what is clearly the ‘worst ever’ Administration in our history and if we don’t get him out of the WH, out of our lives and, hopefully, removed from the face of the earth, soon, the SOB will kill everything we hold dear...if he hasn’t already.

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

@DawgWhistle You need a little variety in your news sources, sport. Look at actions and results, not what the MSM and elite tell you, lemming.

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

@RoyalDawg @DawgWhistle What results? What actions? I thought Executive Orders were an unconstitutional abuse of power (for the black guy, anyway). I thought golfing during disasters was unpresidential (for the black guy, anyway). I dividing our country was unamerican (for the black guy, anyway). What exactly has Trump done?

Philo_Farnsworth
Philo_Farnsworth

Memo to: NFL Players

When in uni on gameday,

Stand for the NA.

Play football.

Shaddup.

Sincerely,

NFL Fans

DawgWhistle
DawgWhistle

Them guys sho is gettin ‘uppity’, ain’t they?

Gomez Addams
Gomez Addams

Bradley is right again!  The Old White Folks (of which I am one) say they believe in freedom of speech, but don't actually want you to DO it. There's more amendments in the Constitution than the 2nd, you know.

ads1172
ads1172

@Gomez Addams  The players work for the owners fool. What part of that do you not get? There is no freedom of speech in the workplace. Doing something that upsets your customers is not smart business. It's as simple as that. The moron who started this IS a communist. He wears a castro t shirt. He criticizes usa on July 4 while on vacation in Africa. It's funny a league that's 70% black will get hurt on down the road by a multimillionaire black guy. Salaries will be lower.

OH:IO
OH:IO

Just another American institution the Left seeks to destroy. 

GMAB
GMAB

No longer watch. Do something off the field to improve the situation. Sports have become too political.

ByteMe
ByteMe

@GMAB People have become too political.


This too shall pass.

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

@GMAB a minute and a half of silent kneeling triggers you that much, but the brutality of the sport itself is perfectly fine. You might want to do a flow chart of your priorities.

GTBob
GTBob

@UGAdawg34 You really think anyone protesting cares about cherry picked data? You think the BLM movement was started because of a misconception in crime statistics? Im sorry, but the whitest thing I have ever seen is trying to convince black people that things are going great, just look at these pretty charts I made.

UGAdawg34
UGAdawg34

This play always works. People who used to watch the NFL stop and no longer buy tickets. I deal with stress at work during the week and the last thing I want is political BS at a game. The game is supposed to be escapism and fun. It's just not any longer. 

GTBob
GTBob

It was an issue that had mostly died down and Trump felt the need to turn it into a massively divisive issue because division of this country is good for him. The real question is when this blows over what will he come up with next to get people hating each other again.

UGAdawg34
UGAdawg34

@GTBob Do you not realize that the entire kneeling issue started under the prior President because there was a claim that black folks are killed by cops for no reason? This has been proven to be 100% false. The media is dangerous and irresponsible. Innocent cops lost their lives because of their BS. 

GTBob
GTBob

@UGAdawg34 I don't really care when it started. Its not really relevant. The story had died down until the commander and moron decided to start calling everyone sons of bit*** on TV. He wanted the division. He wants half of the country to really really hate the other half. His minor cult of followers are buying into it. 

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Look in a mirror, it is YOU who is promoting the divisiveness, name-calling, and denigrating. Your message is not positive.

ads1172
ads1172

@GTBob @UGAdawg34  You mean the same way Clinton called trump supporters deplorable? Or how about those white folks clinging to guns and religion. Yeah that's not divisive.  You moron