Colts owner Jim Irsay gives off a distinctly counter-culture vibe, from his psychedelic Twitter feed to his track record of prescription drug problems.
But when it comes to protesting the national anthem, Irsay suddenly becomes The Man.
As part of a story about the NFL’s sagging television ratings this year, Irsay told Jarrett Bell of USA Today that the national anthem protests triggered by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick were a bad look for the league.
“I think it’s the wrong venue,” Irsay said. “It hasn’t been a positive thing. What we all have to be aware of as players, owners, PR people, equipment managers, is when the lights go on we are entertainment. We are being paid to put on a show. There are other places to express yourself.”
Of course, he’s far from the only owner to share a dim view of the expression of First Amendment rights, though most who have spoken on the topic try to steer the conversation back to the middle.
“People come to the game because they want to get away from what’s happening in their everyday lives,” Texans owner Bob McNair said. “When you bring those types of things into the scene, yeah, it will turn some people off. But the main thing we try to do is to say, ‘We recognize your concern. Let’s do something about it.’ ”
Most owners are willing to point to the presidential election as the thing siphoning off most of the television ratings this year. But for a business as mainstream as the NFL, there seems to be a high level of discomfort with anyone stepping out of line, or kneeling on the sidelines.
And having Irsay — the rock and roll rebel of the bunch — voicing that opinion only underscores how uncomfortable the league must be.