We’ve barely finished the NFL combine and are still in trading season, but the political sideshow infecting the football league is showing no signs of folding its tent and leaving town. Faced with cratering ratings and falling attendance in stadiums, it seemed obvious that Roger Goodell and the owners were going to have to do something to put this National Anthem controversy to bed before the coming season turned into even more of a debacle than the last one. So what have they cooked up? A “social justice” program that they’ll dump millions of dollars into. (Washington Times)
NFL team owners unanimously gave their final approval Monday to an unprecedented $90 million social-justice initiative but made no decisions about how to handle players refusing to stand for the national anthem.
Instead, owners are expected to continue the discussion about whether to change the game-day policy, which does not require players to stand, at the spring league meeting in May, according to a post on NFL.com citing the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
The decision to avoid an anthem vote at the March 25-28 annual league meeting in Orlando came with the owners split on how to handle the divisive two-year-old sideline protests, which have been blamed in large part for the NFL’s 9.7 percent ratings decline in the 2017 regular season.
The owners have been completely unable to come to any sort of consensus on this admittedly sticky situation. The owner of the Houston Texans is saying that there’s no place for politics on the field and he wants the fans to know that the teams respect the flag and the military. Meanwhile, the owner of the Jets (ugh) is complaining that trying to tell the players to “shut up” is the worst idea ever.
But will this offer of a social justice fund make any difference? There’s certainly enough cash on the line. The teams will be putting up $250K each as matching funds for what the players raise for local causes. Then, on top of that, the entire league will kick in $73M for social justice causes, divided up between three groups. That’s where the problem comes in. $25M is going to the United Negro College Fund which everyone seems okay with, but the rest is split between Dream Corps and the Players Coalition. Dream Corps is the offspring of Van Jones, he of both Barack Obama’s campaign organization and CNN fame. This is causing some of those objecting to the National Anthem protests to point out that the league is simply shoveling more money into left-wing causes.
What will they get for their money? Well, Eric Reid has already agreed not to protest anymore, but that’s not much of a consolation since he isn’t even signed to a team yet. (He’s a former teammate of Kaepernick.) Without some new, official rule in place, the NFL could take all of these steps, still have protests going on before the games and manage to add to their woes by publicly funding more left-wing political agitation.
There’s still time to fix this but it would require the Commissioner to step up, stiffen his spine and make a ruling. I’ll believe that when I see it.