Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The NFL Retreats

Just over a year ago I wrote "Dissent Is Fine But Don't Diss The Flag" right after Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the National Anthem before his San Francisco 49er's took the field.

I predicted at the time that I doubted that things would work out well for Kaepernick in the future after pointing out what had happened to Tommie Smith and John Carlos after they had raised black gloved hands during the Medals Ceremony in the 1968 Olympics.

I contrasted their experience with that of George Foreman who won a gold medal at the same Olympics and waved an American flag as he celebrated right after his championship boxing bout.

Foreman prospered during his career---in the ring and in the business world. Most of you probably never heard of Smith or Carlos.

I am sorry to say that things have not worked out well for Kaepernick. He is no longer playing football. As I wrote last year, those that harbor bitterness and resentment rarely enjoy success.

It also appears the National Football League and its owners did not learn much from the Kaeperncik experience.

They sat by and let more of this foolishness continue.

What made little sense was that the NFL had a long, long record of stopping its players from almost any other form of personal expression. The same personal expression the league stated they were protecting in the case of the National Anthem protests.

Consider this list compiled by a friend of mine, Don Adick, on how strict the NFL has been on other issues of free speech and expression by its players.

In 2012 the NFL had an issue with Tim Tebow kneeling for each game to pray, they also had an issue with Tebow wearing John 3:16 as part of his blackout to avoid glare and made him take it off.

In 2013 the NFL fined Brandon Marshall for wearing green cleats to raise awareness for people with mental health disorders.

In 2014 Robert Griffin III (RG3) entered a post-game press conference wearing a shirt that said "Know Jesus Know Peace" but was forced to turn it inside out by an NFL uniform inspector before speaking at the podium.

In 2015 DeAngelo Williams was fined for wearing "Find the Cure" eye black for breast cancer awareness.

In 2015 William Gay was fined for wearing purple cleats to raise awareness for domestic violence. (not that the NFL has a domestic violence problem...)

In 2016 the NFL prevented the Dallas Cowboys from wearing a decal on their helmet in honor of 5 Dallas Police officers killed in the line of duty.

In 2016 the NFL threatened to fine players who wanted to wear cleats to commemorate the 15th anniversary of 9/11.

So tell me again how and why the NFL and the media all of a sudden support athletes’ free speech and expression. I’m listening…

What is further confusing is that the NFL had a clear policy on the issue which is contained in its game operations manual which is provided to all 32 teams. This is the section that refers to the playing of the National Anthem at every NFL game according to that manual.

The National Anthem must be played prior to every NFL game, and all players must be on the sideline for the National Anthem.
During the National Anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking. The home team should ensure that the American flag is in good condition. It should be pointed out to players and coaches that we continue to be judged by the public in this area of respect for the flag and our country. Failure to be on the field by the start of the National Anthem may result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses.

Despite this clear statement of policy, how long would this nonsense have continued if President Trump had not called out the NFL owners and players for not standing for the anthem?

That in itself was interesting to me as at the time I was in Europe and most of what I saw were headlines from the mainstream media that referred to Trump's comments on the issue as "divisive".

All I could do was shake my head in wonder as I was touring the beaches of Normandy and paying my respects at the Normandy American Cemetery where 9,387 headstones signify the final resting places of the  young Americans who paid the ultimate price storming those beaches.

The Normandy American Cemetery

Would any of them believe that we would reach a point in our history where the President of the United States would be called "divisive" for calling out other Americans for not standing in respect while the National Anthem is played?

Not a chance. It would be beyond comprehension for any of them.

Of course, the NFL is now in full retreat much like the German army was after our boys pushed forward into the European continent from Normandy.

Late today, Commissioner Roger Goodell indicated in a letter to NFL owners that it may make it a mandatory rule that all players stand during the National Anthem. ( The NFL argues that the game operations manual is only a "policy" and not a "rule" therefore they have no power to discipline players on the issue as it now stands.)

Why is the NFL retreating?

Look first to President Donald Trump.

Consider what Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said about Trump's influence. Bear in mind that a couple of weeks ago Ross was an advocate for players kneeling during the Anthem.

“Its a different dialogue today,” Ross said, noting the issue last year was raising awareness for equality and other issues that didn’t involve patriotism. “Whenever you’re dealing with the flag, you’re dealing with something different. [the President] has changed that whole paradigm of what protest is. I think it’s incumbent upon the players today, because of how the public is looking at it, to stand and salute the flag.”

I have to wonder what planet Ross has been living on in the past. When was standing and respecting the flag and anthem anything but patriotism?

Look no further than Jerry Jones as well. A couple of weeks ago he was kneeling on the sidelines with his Dallas Cowboys. He is now saying he will bench any player who does not stand for the anthem.

Love him or not, Donald Trump is not afraid to take a stand. And when he takes a stand he usually is has a feel for where the American people are. I am not talking about the fringes or the fanatics or the liberals who live in a fantasy world. He has a sense for the heartbeat of America. Those things that make America tick....and, more importantly, what ticks them off.

So it is with this issue.

The NFL is not retreating because of Donald Trump. Yes, he put the issue into better focus. However, the NFL simply does not have the support of the people who watch the game and pay to do it to continue to allow their players to diss the flag.

The NFL needs people in those taxpayer-funded stadiums they play in and they need them watching the games on television to justify the ad dollars that are being spent. They are losing both.

As I have written before, the real beauty of the American system is that the people are fully in charge. Nothing happens without their support. Politicians need votes. Companies need sales. Sports teams need to sell tickets. TV networks need ratings. If you don't have the people behind you, what you want is irrelevant.

It is easy to forget. Most of the time those people don't seem to realize how much power they do have.

Until they do.

That is why Trump is President.

That is also why the NFL is in retreat.

No comments:

Post a Comment