The national anthem protest started by Colin Kaepnernick and continued by dozens of NFL players has easily been the most controversial aspect of the NFL over the past couple of years, even surpassing the concussion/CTE/player safety concerns that were previously dominating headlines.
The NFL was woefully unprepared for such a divisive show of opinion from a considerable percentage of their players, and have turned it into quite a mess. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, for example, demanded his players stand or they would be fired. The Pittsburgh Steelers collectively decided at one point to remain in the locker room for the anthem, although Alejandro Villanueva ignored the team edict and stood in the tunnel, with his hand over his heart, while the anthem played.
As the 2018 season inches closer, ESPN is reporting that the NFL team owners met this week to talk about potential solutions to the anthem controversy. And some of the proposed “solutions” are… well, they are sketchy as hell.
Here, per ESPN, are the proposed solutions:
- Allow each team to implement its own policy
- Clear the field of all football personnel while the anthem is played
- Instruct players who don’t want to stand to remain in the locker room while the anthem is played
- Impose penalties on teams and players who do not stand, including a 15-yard penalty and/or fines
- Add contract language that requires players to stand
- Leave the current policy in place
Some of those are quite jarring, including attempting to impose competitive penalties on teams who have players who sit/kneel or changing current and future contracts to include language demanding players stand — the players’ union will have a field day in court with that one! Oddly enough, the most logical solution didn’t keep mentioned: stop playing the national anthem before sporting events that aren’t contested between national teams. But since the U.S. government gives the NFL millions of dollars every year to hype up the patriotism of the military, we guess that suggestion was overlooked completely.
Seth Wickersham of ESPN has more:
Owners right now expected to vote on a proposal that would remove requirement for players to be on the field for national anthem, allow them to stay in locker room if they wish, and will fine clubs, not players, if “personnel do not show proper respect for the flag and anthem.”
— Seth Wickersham (@SethWickersham) May 23, 2018
Some owners are opposed to what seems the easiest solution: all players to locker room for anthem. They think it could be interpreted as a mass protest, or at least an abdication of pregame respect for anthem/flag.
— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) May 23, 2018
Another interesting suggestion that didn’t come up was not showing the anthem on television at all. Of course, the likes of NBC, ESPN, and Fox have paid millions for the NFL rights and will surely continue to air whatever portions of the game they think will bring in ratings. Like it or not, people do tune in to see if there will be any national anthem controversy.
In the meantime, players like Kaepernick and Eric Reid, who both protested the national anthem, remain without NFL contracts and have filed grievances against the league, claiming collusion by the owners to keep them unemployed.