Commissioner to NFL teams: Stand for the anthem

I didn’t think pressuring the NFL to make players stand for the anthem would be the second-biggest win of Trump’s presidency nine months into his term (Gorsuch is number one, of course), but here you go. Seems like a pretty clean culture-war victory for POTUS. The right doesn’t get many of those these days.

He could get a twofer next spring if SCOTUS rules for the Christian baker in the Colorado gay-wedding case and Gorsuch is the deciding vote. Odds are no worse than 50/50.

In the meantime, Roger Goodell thinks it’s time for the pre-game woke Olympics to end:

Goodell made clear in the letter, obtained by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, that he wants players to stand during the anthem. He did not provide specifics on how he intends to ensure it, but wrote that it would “include such elements as an in-season platform to promote the work of our players on these core issues.”…

“Like many of our fans,” Goodell wrote, “we believe that everyone should stand for the national anthem. It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us.

“We also care deeply about our players and respect their opinions and concerns about critical social issues. The controversy over the Anthem is a barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues. We need to move past this controversy, and we want to do that together with our players.”

“An in-season platform to promote” players’ activism means … what? They’re going to start a foundation devoted to civil rights and countering police brutality, maybe? “In-season” obviously doesn’t mean “in-game.” The whole point of this offer from Goodell is to push politics off the field, where they’re alienating right-wing fans, by trading respect for the anthem for some sort of league contribution to “social justice.” Now we wait to see what happens when some players, probably mostly on the 49ers, reject the offer and kneel anyway. Goodell’s going to have a tough call to make: Suspend the offenders and risk the left’s wrath or back down and prove that the “stand for the anthem” rule is toothless?

Very much relatedly, the ratings for last night’s “Monday Night Football” were down, although that may have more to do with the fact that the game featured two bad teams, the Vikings and Bears, than a fan boycott:

Snaring a 7.0 in metered market results, last night’s MNF was down double digits from last week’s Kansas Chiefs’ 29-20 victory over the Washington Redskins. Down 17% in the ratings, that’s actually a regular game season low for the ESPN broadcast game and matches the MM result of the second game of the doubleheader MNF opener on September 11.

That comes a day after Sunday Night Football also hit a season low with its ratings down too.

Are fans tuning out over the protests? Eh. MNF is *up* five percent in viewership from last year’s doldrums and last night’s game was up eight percent from the Week Five match-up in 2016. Goodell’s letter is probably motivated more by the awareness that headlines about disrespect for the anthem aren’t helping the league, especially when the president’s flogging them for his own political reasons. When you’ve got the vice president swinging by a game not to watch but to theatrically walk out in contempt for disrespect towards the flag, you have a needless headache.

But he’ll probably have a headache at this point no matter what. Watch below as Al Sharpton threatens a boycott of ESPN, the Cowboys, the NFL or maybe some combination thereof over Jerry Jones ordering players to stand for the anthem and Jemele Hill being suspended for urging a boycott of his advertisers in response. (And yes, contra what Sharpton claims here, she did encourage a *boycott* of the advertisers, not just contacting them.) Nothing would be more sweetly ironic than if ESPN, which has strained so hard to build its WokeSports brand, ended up being the target of Sharpton and other black leaders for being not woke enough, objecting when one of its anchors tried to damage its relationship with companies that help pay the network’s bills. One of ESPN’s own websites, The Undefeated, is protesting its parent company, in fact, by promoting Hill defiantly on its Twitter feed today after her suspension. This cannot be any more enjoyable.