NFL commissioner Roger Goodell

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell

 

During his speech in Alabama on Friday President Trump weighed in on football player activism. Now the commissioner and a number of players have responded, and fans have to endure more of this divisive issue that benefits no one.

For more than a year now football fans have been inundated with the ongoing issue of players lodging variations of protests during the national anthem. It was during last year’s preseason when the quarterback with diminishing returns – Colin Kaepernick – began his grand-kneeling gesture during the national anthem. He garnered press and support, and even Commissioner Roger Goodell waded into these waters. Goodell talked in support of these protests — and then further alienated fans when games were being played last September 11 and he threatened to fine players who paid tribute to the 9/11 tragedy with decorative footwear.

As the commissioner praised the activism it led to erosion of the fan base overall. For the first time in a generation the league experienced a drop in the ratings. Even as the overall coverage of the issue seemed to ebb by the end of the year, during this off season Kaepernick and the practice of anthem-protests reignited. Many activists rose up in Kaepernick’s defense, declaring there was collusion in the league front offices preventing the QB from getting work. The idea of a non-productive player causing a rift in the locker room and with the fan base was not the reason, they reasoned; he deserved to be on a football roster!

What was lost in these outspoken declarations was that Kaepernick was out of a job because of one person — Kaepernick. In March he chose to walk away from a contract that would pay him a guaranteed $15 million. He felt he was worth more on the free agent market, and thus found himself as a player without a league.

Then as the season began the players, and commissioner Roger Goodell, continued to churn the protest movement. Fans have been less than receptive and this is something Donald Trump, ever the populist, has picked up on. He acknowledged the player protests during his rally speech in Huntsville, AL.

Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say, “Get that son of a b**** off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!”

Predictably the crowd erupted in approval. Also predictably the football league reacted.  Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement in response to the President, and it is one that displays a bizarre sense of where Goodell thinks football rests in the consciousness of the nation.

goodell

And now we have descended to a level of discourse so ridiculously low that no one can stand taller. Goodell referencing an “unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL” is as odd a comment as he could have made. He thinks a pastime should be more revered than the highest office of leadership in this nation? Of course, Trump has done no ennobling service to his office by lowering himself into this cultural fracas. This has been a ginned up controversy that was being dealt with in the truest of free market fashion.

The league and players felt they have a right to protest. And they do. Additionally fans have an equal right to react, and a significant number of those fans have been voting with their wallets and TV remotes. (Some players, oblivious to these effects, are calling for November to be a league-wide month of activism.) There is no need for The President to enter this mire of outrage, save for personal opportunism. He looks smaller for doing so but this follows the flowchart of this entire player protest. Nobody has come away from this looking better.

Kaepernick remains out of work. Other players who staged protests saw endorsement deals get pulled. The league saw a loss in TV ratings. ESPN highlighted the cause and has seen a stark loss in subscribers. Teams have experienced a drop in attendance. Now The President has engaged the league directly, and this promises to extend the discussion and display of these protests even further.

Opening night for the National Hockey League is on October 4.