Donald Trump’s suggestion that any player who does not stand for the National Anthem should be fired, was dumb. The NFL is a business, and it makes money by entertaining fans. If the NFL took President Trump’s advice and fired players, it would be giving fans an inferior product, which would be bad for business. At the same time, alienating large segments of the population to the degree that they boycott the NFL isn’t very good business either, and with the NFL in the midst of a Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) scandal, and with a possible player’s strike looming after the current player’s contract expires in 2020 (Richard Sherman Calls for Strike), this is hardly the time for the NFL to alienate fans.
If I were the NFL Commissioner, I would have released the following statement:
The NFL is deeply committed to standing for the rights and interests of our players, some of whom refuse to stand for the National Anthem of a nation they feel is deeply oppressive to African Americans, and to other People of Color. At the same time, the NFL’s mission is to present our fans with the most compelling sporting events in the world, and as such we take note that many of our fans find it offensive when players take a knee for the National Anthem. To respect both players and fans alike, we are giving the following guidance to our teams:
The NFL will not force any player to stand for the National Anthem. Players who do not wish to stand for the anthem may stay in the tunnel leading onto the field, or in the locker room, until after the National Anthem is finished. Players who choose to be on the field during the National Anthem will be expected to stand, and any player who chooses to be on the field and does not stand for entirety of the National Anthem, shall be ineligible for that day’s game.
Such a statement would allow players to avoid standing for the National Anthem while also appeasing fans who find kneeling during the anthem offensive. Everyone wins. I would add but one more thing:
Our President has taken it upon himself to advise the NFL to fire players who do not stand for the National Anthem. While we appreciate and respect the President’s opinion, we wish to remind President Trump that he has no constitutional authority in this matter, and we will handle the situation as we see fit.
That last statement should not be necessary, but our President has decided that a war of words with the NFL is politically advantageous, and the NFL should respond in a way that takes the moral high ground, without giving President Trump more ammunition to rant about with his base.
Here is what Roger Goodell said:
The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month. Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.
Roger Goodell’s statement, is going to hurt the NFL. Rather than taking a stance for kneeling, taking a stance against kneeling, or recognizing both sides of the issue and accommodating everyone (as I would have done), Goodell talked about everything except kneeling, and then called Trump’s statement ‘divisive’. Now Roger Goodell is in a personal pissing match with the President, and he got there without even taking a stance.
This is just one more case of the NFL facing a difficult situation where, rather than lead, Roger Goodell did what he always does: nothing. In fact, it was worse than nothing. Roger Goodell found a way to get into a personal war with the President of the United States, and he did it without saying anything about the issue at hand.
The NFL’s ratings were already down 13% before this past weekend, and having three teams refuse to take the field at all until after the anthem, having players around the league kneeling, and having two singers take a knee while singing the anthem (Singers Take Knee), won’t help.
I understand why players are taking a knee, and though I think they are protesting the wrong people and the wrong things (see American Apartheid for what I think they should be protesting), I do believe our nation still struggles with racism. I totally get the anger and frustration, and the NFL should encourage players to be politically active as long as they do so away from the game.
To a certain degree, our nation will always struggle with racism. With 330 million people in our country, the notion that we will ever have zero racists is unrealistic, at least in the foreseeable future, and the division being sewn by the left is itself deeply racist (Social Justice Racism).
We need an honest national discussion on racism, but it does not need to take place during a football game, and because of Roger Goodell’s non-statement statement, we will spend the rest of the year talking about the National Anthem instead of talking about the Super Bowl.
Roger Goodell has been a terrible commissioner, and on two counts: 1) he has failed to consistently do the right thing, and 2) even when he does do the right thing, he finds a way to make it bad for football. Roger Goodell has turned himself into a bad caricature of an NFL commissioner, and his botching of this latest scandal is just another example of his complete ineptitude with regard to everything football.
Frankly, Roger Goodell should be fired.