Just when you thought it was a dying topic — heck, I didn’t even want to write much about it anymore — the NFL brought its National Anthem controversy back into the spotlight on Wednesday when it amended its policy, requiring all on-field personnel--including players, coaches, trainers, etc.--to stand.
If any on-field personnel decide to kneel or sit during the anthem, their team could be subject to a fine, and the team will also have the option of fining the offending employees.
This policy shift as a means to appease the vocal minority who tuned out the past two seasons out of protest might seem like a good idea on the surface — that is, of course, until you realize on-field employees now have the option of staying in the locker room during the playing of the National Anthem, an action that will be totally immune to any sort of fine by the league or its teams.
So, the question is, what good is this new policy?
First of all, the NFL did this without the input of the NFLPA and, as a result, the union is none too pleased.
The union issued a statement shortly after this policy shift and said it will “challenge any inconsistencies in the application of the new rule as it pertains to the CBA.”
There you go. Not even a day after this new league policy, and the first salvo has already been launched by a union that demonstrated great defiance last September 24th, one day after President Donald Trump put NFL players on blast for these ongoing anthem protests.
What would it look like if, instead of a couple hundred, all 1,700 players stay in their respective locker rooms or kneel on the sidelines one Sunday afternoon as a show of union solidarity against their employers?
According to the new policy regarding the National Anthem, the league won’t be able to do a darn thing about the locker room part.
However, that won’t prevent Joe or Joanne Patriot from getting just as upset as they were last fall.
Before their Week-3 game against the Bears, the Steelers agreed to stay in the locker room during the anthem as a means to stay out of the political fray that Trump created the day before. What happened, instead, was a reaction so powerful, they’ll forever be known as the “Pittsburgh Kneelers” by those who obviously aren’t nearly as clever as they think they are.
Therefore, if I’m an NFL player and I still want to get a message across about a subject I feel deeply about (police brutality against minorities), I know I have a powerful tool at my disposal, which is just to stay in the locker room.
Obviously, this will brand a player unpatriotic but, again, as per the new league policy, he won’t be subject to any sort of discipline.
Unfortunately, this won’t stop the offended from being offended, which could ultimately cost this player his career, a la Colin Kaepernick and his former teammate, Eric Reid.
And if a player is indeed blackballed for simply following the NFL’s new National Anthem guidelines, well, he’s going to have a great case for a lawsuit--and he’ll likely cash in.
Again, I don’t see where this new policy changes much.
In addition to the over-zealous patriots who will likely continue to be offended, whether a player kneels and gets fined or stays in the locker room and gets nothing, you will now have additional boycotts from fans upset about this forced patriotism.
Believe it or not, the eyes and dollars of fans who are perfectly fine with peaceful, pre-game protests count just as much as those of Joe and Joanne Patriot.
As I alluded to in the very first paragraph of this article, it seemed like this issue was dying down quite a bit.
Sure, the league lost some viewers because of the protests, but the better route may have been for the owners to take some temporary lumps while this whole thing ran its course — practically a certainty over time.
Instead, the NFL has just made things worse.
Want an example of what I mean?
If you’re my friend and also very patriotic, please don’t invite me to any Steelers games next year, because you can guess what I won’t be doing during the National Anthem.
I will also refuse to remove the hat I’ll be wearing (and it won’t just be to shield people from the sight of my male-pattern baldness).
Congratulations, NFL, your new policy has done nothing but make things even worse.