The NFL just can’t get out of its own way sometimes.
The league approved a new policy Wednesday at the spring owners meetings that dissuades players from kneeling, or protesting in any way, during the national anthem. The policy essentially states that if a player wants to protest during the anthem, they must do so in the locker room. Out of sight, out of mind. And clearly without purpose.
An invisible protest renders the entire act meaningless. Just as the NFL wants it.
The NFL hilariously announced this as a compromise. The NFL players association doesn’t quite see it that way.
This looks less like a compromise between players and the league, and more like middle ground between the handful of moderate owners and the ones who refer to protesting players as inmates.
Regardless of whether you believe NFL players are right to protest during the playing of the national anthem, this policy is stupid in a number of other ways. For better or worse, protests during the anthem were no longer hitting the news cycle by the end of the last season. The media wasn’t writing or talking about which players were standing, kneeling or sitting. Players were no longer being asked about it. After the initial wave of publicity following comments made by President Donald Trump that urged owners to force players to stand, the story mostly went away. The NFL got its way.
The league could have let sleeping dogs lie. Instead, it enacted a new policy that opened up a whole new can of worms.
Players are in the midst of organized team activities and minicamp. They will be asked about the new policy now. And when the preseason starts in August, reporters will be counting players to see who stood on the field and who stayed in the locker room. And then in Week 1 when the regular season begins, the counting will continue. And players will be asked about why they stood on the field or stayed inside the bowels of the stadium. Players will find new ways to protest. Maybe there will be another “compromise” next May!
So, why did the NFL decide to enact a new policy when nothing was needed? Despite bringing in hoards of money, sometimes the NFL just can’t get out of its own way from a public relations standpoint.
They attempted to appease the conservative side of the fanbase by removing protesters from view. But will those fans be happy when some players decide to stay in the locker room while others stand on the field with their hands over their hearts? Hell, no.
And the NFL is doing players no favor in the new policy by punishing teams, rather than players, for on-field protest during the national anthem. A player could choose to take money out of his own pocket by being fined for protesting. Now? They’ll be at risk of losing their job if it hurts the team.