Dear NFL: The new season is here. It's time to bury this protest nonsense

To: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the 32 NFL franchise owners, and the NFL Players Association

Dear Sirs/Mesdames,
Here at Hot Air, my colleague Ed Morrissey and I have a tradition which has been going on for quite a few years now. Every Sunday from September through January, we jointly write a column in which we predict the winners of several NFL games. We discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the teams and key players. We debate the possible playoff possibilities for the various teams. Ed gloats over how well the Pittsburgh Steelers are doing while I concoct a series of increasingly desperate fantasy scenarios in which the New York Jets could still somehow make it back to the Super Bowl.

We do this because we love football. We love watching football. We love talking about football. We love writing about football. But what we really love is the game itself. It represents a break each week from our daily professional grind of writing about politics. Covering the political news of the day is important work, but it can also wear you down with the endless fighting and partisan bitterness. So imagine how we feel when political protests make their way onto the gridiron on game day. This isn’t good. And we’re not alone in this sentiment. Allow me to direct your attention to a recent poll on the subject which was covered this week at the Washington Times. (Emphasis added)

With the NFL regular season set to start in a week and no national-anthem resolution in sight, a newly released poll shows most Americans still aren’t fans of the sideline protests.

Fifty-four percent of voters polled said kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial inequality was “inappropriate,” versus 43 percent who described it as “appropriate,” according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal Survey.

The poll conducted August 18-22 by Hart Research Associates/Public Opinion Strategies also found the number of those who follow the NFL “not closely at all” has continued to swell, from 21 percent in January 2014 to 31 percent in August 2018.

Is this really what you want us talking about? Do you think it’s somehow helpful to divide your fan base along partisan lines as opposed to the good-natured “arguments” we engage in as we defend our favorite teams? You have some players – not many, but enough – who are causing you problems and tanking the support of the fans you previously enjoyed. You also have the collective ability to correct the situation, put this entire, obnoxious spectacle in the rearview mirror and get back to focusing on America’s favorite sport. But it will require responsible management of the players in question.

This pampered collection of millionaires is composed of a bunch of guys who sometimes forget that the only reason they are existing in this enviable condition is because they showed up at the combine and managed to finish the 40 yard dash a tenth of a second faster or bench pressed 225 lbs one time more than some other poor schlub who wound up playing in the Canadian league or, more likely, flipping burgers at a fast food outlet. These men are employees. They work for the owners who, in turn, have a responsibility to the league to keep the show running smoothly.

Being an employee comes with certain responsibilities to your employer. If I show up for an annual staff meeting at the Salem home office and interrupt it by launching into a diatribe on how unfair it is that the local convenience store only has ten parking spaces and six of them are designated for handicap access, I’m probably going to be fired. I’m there to work, not advance my personal agenda. Your employees (the players) are in uniform and at the stadium because they have a job to do. Part of it is to play the game as best they can, but they also share the responsibility of keeping the sport vibrant and popular. Pissing off the majority of the fanbase with antics which have nothing to do with football is not in their job description.

When you have delinquent, misbehaving employees, you attempt to counsel them and correct their performance. If they can’t take that sort of guidance you fire them. Period. (Well, unless they are government workers in a public sector union, but that’s a complaint for another column.) They are free to advance their personal agenda outside of the place where they are doing their jobs (the stadiums) just as I’m free to go protest outside of the 7-11 when I’m not supposed to be at my keyboard writing for my employer.

The NFL Players Association is supposed to be representing the players in terms of playing the game, their compensation and working conditions. They’re basically just a union. They do not own or run the NFL, nor do they set the rules. The commissioner and the owners can end this nonsense right now and do so easily. Whether that means keeping all the teams off the field until after the Anthem ceremony is complete or mandating that everyone either stand respectfully or empty their locker and head to the unemployment office is up to you. But the solutions are there. They may not seem pleasant, but more than enough time has passed for pleasantries.

Tomorrow is September 1st. The regular season kicks off this week. Do your jobs and save the sport that we all love. It’s time to play ball.