“You can certainly look at the NFL as an indicator of where things are,” Joe Lockhart, the executive vice president of communications and public affairs for the league from 2016 to 2018 and a former press secretary for President Bill Clinton, told me—calling the NFL “one of the last purple institutions in the country.”
“In 2017, the league was very concerned about the president,” he continued. “They were very concerned that people would stop watching in the Trump base because he was making so much noise.”
That concern didn’t subside in 2018, or in 2019, or even well into this volatile year.
“In a lot of ways,” Mark Geragos, Kaepernick’s attorney, told me on June 1, even as marches, protests and post-Floyd clamor for racial justice intensified coast to coast, “Trump has more dominion and control over the NFL than Roger Goodell does.”
Last week, after the players’ video, after Goodell’s video, after six weeks of societal sea change, I called back to ask whether he still felt that way.
He didn’t have to think long. “No,” he said. “Look, they can read the writing on the wall,” Geragos said of the NFL. “This guy’s gonna lose, and he’s gonna lose big.”