Gee, can they endorse apple pie and hot dogs while they’re at it? A group of NFL owners want to end the national-anthem standoff (kneel-off?) by having the NFLPA issue an endorsement of the idea of standing for the Star Spangled Banner. In exchange, the owners would agree to end any disciplinary action for players that kneel during the opening ceremonies of the games.
Way to get tough, guys:
Moderate NFL owners are interested in a potential agreement with the NFL Players Association by which the owners would waive discipline for a player protesting during the national anthem if union endorses players standing for the anthem, according to multiple people familiar with the league’s inner workings.
It was not clear Wednesday, on the eve of the NFL season, whether a compromise will be reached between the league and the NFLPA in the coming days or weeks on a new anthem policy. But if there is to be such a deal in the foreseeable future, it could be based on the trade-off of the owners waiving discipline and the union supporting players standing, according to those people with knowledge of the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the NFL and NFLPA have vowed to keep their negotiations confidential.
Washington Post reporter Mark Maske warns that the NFLPA might not be willing to ride to the owners’ rescue, although it’s tough to see why they wouldn’t take the easy win:
Any endorsement by the union of players standing for the anthem would amount to a non-binding pledge, if the owners indeed agree to waive any discipline of a player who protests. But it appears that moderate owners nonetheless would consider that a significant development which would put the league and the union on the same side of the issue. The league has said it wants players to stand for the anthem, and owners entered this round of discussions with the union seeking a deal under which players would agree to stand.
It is not known whether the union will agree to such a compromise. The NFLPA and its executive director, DeMaurice Smith, previously have expressed support for the players’ right to protest. Some players have said they would prefer that the league retain last season’s anthem policy, which suggested but did not require that players stand. In this case, however, any player who still would choose to protest would not face the threat of disciplinary measures.
These “moderate” owners are taking the long way around to a very simple decision. Why do the owners need the NFLPA to embrace the consensus held among Americans to stand for the national anthem at public events to decide not to discipline players for on-field protests? This deal pretty much leaves the field open for such protests in perpetuity, and the NFLPA’s endorsement of the broader consensus won’t matter a whit. The owners could have had this any time during the last three years by simply deciding not to do anything at all about the anthem protests.
And maybe that’s the best option left to them anyway. The two issues driving the kneeling protests as a story are Donald Trump and the owners’ fumbling attempts to put an end to the protests. They can’t do anything about Trump, but they can do something about their own incompetence … at least theoretically. The smart option would have been to bar the teams from the field during the national anthem, an option that the league somehow never bothered to consider but which would have preempted the whole mess.
Short of that, though, the best option they have is to endorse standing and to shrug off the kneeling as personal choices. The owners don’t need the NFLPA to agree to a “non-binding pledge” to accomplish that. Easy win aside, it’s likely that the NFLPA will be only too happy to remind them that it’s not their job to run interference for owners running to their own end zones for a safety.