While Colin Kaepernick is still off the field of play, it’s now clear that there will be multiple players in the NFL this season who plan to pick up where he left off and protest our National Anthem prior to kickoff. Of course, saying you’re going to do something is a bit different than whether or not you will have the opportunity to do it, and that depends on whether you’re still on the team and listed as a starter. So will the league be doing anything to alter those conditions? The question was once again put to league commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday, and it sounds like he plans on sitting this fight out. Or does he? (Associated Press)
Asked about players who did not stand for the national anthem before preseason games, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday that while the playing of the anthem is a special moment to him, “we also have to understand the other side.”
Goodell made the comments at University of Phoenix Stadium during a 45-minute question-and-answer period with Arizona Cardinals club seat holders. One season ticket-holder, Bruce Olson, asked the commissioner whether players were going to continue to protest during the anthem and if anything could be done about it.
“It’s one of those things where I think we have to understand that there are people that have different viewpoints,” Goodell said. “The national anthem is a special moment to me. It’s a point of pride. But we also have to understand the other side, that people do have rights and we want to respect those.”
That’s the answer that’s getting all the coverage, but supposedly there was a follow-up question (which I still can’t find a video for) where he modified his response, saying that while he respects the rights of the players to protest, “there’s a time and a place for it.” It seemed to be an indication that on the field right before a game starts was not that time or place.
Interrupting this post with an UPDATE: The Right Scoop found the correct segment of the video I was referencing and uploaded it for us. Thanks!
None of that will matter, however, if he’s just offering personal opinions during Q&A sessions and not putting forth any new official league policy. At that point, the question gets bounced back to the owners and the coaches. If we were talking about a government question that might sound best in a sort of federal versus state way. But this isn’t the government. It’s the NFL. The owners and coaches may be able to institute their own rules on fringe questions like this which aren’t covered in the official league rules, but do they really want to? I doubt any of the owners want to be “that guy” (or that gal in the case of the Bills, Bears, Lions or Titans) who benches a star player for protesting while the other teams don’t do it. It’s far easier on them to have one standardized rule for the entire league.
At least one well known outlet decided to latch on to the “not the time or place” comment and tear into Goodell over it. Here’s Sports Illustrated’s analysts (a publication which has been increasingly swerving out of its lane and into politics on the “social justice” side) dissecting Goodell’s answer and determining that he’s “incredibly disrespectful” to the players.
Perhaps he’ll prove me wrong, but at this point I’m convinced that this is a beast that Roger Goodell simply doesn’t want to wrestle with. He’ll offer his “take” on it, but leave the individual teams hanging in terms of what they should do. And most of them will fear the backlash if they clamp down on the protests, so the sport will suffer further declines in viewership as fans grow increasingly annoyed over the politicization of the greatest sport on Earth.