Anthem issue has not united NFL, NFLPA

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The attack on the league from the President over the anthem issue may have brought players and teams together, but it hasn’t bridged the divide between the NFL and the NFL Players Association.

A thorough and comprehensive look at the week that was in relation to the anthem controversy from Don Van Natta and Seth Wickersham of reveals lingering animosity and mistrust between management and labor.

“Knowing the league the way I know the league, they are first and foremost concerned about the impact on their business,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told “That’s always their first concern. I mean, who are we kidding?

Smith also said that, during a Monday phone conversation, Commissioner Roger Goodell expressed hope that the anthem protests would end.

“My only response was, ‘I don’t have the power to tell our players what to do,'” Smith said. “At the end of the day, this is a group of players who are exercising their freedom. There is no room for me to snap my fingers and tell our players, ‘It’s time for you to give up a freedom.’ Just the idea offends me. It’s almost as if the players are being asked, ‘What’s it going to take for you to stop asking to be free or to be treated like an American?'”

Smith also took issue with the scheduling of a Tuesday night meeting between owners and players, given that he received an invitation on Tuesday morning, at a time when it was too late to attend. Smith regarded it as an “end run.”

“I viewed that as insulting to our players’ leadership,” Smith said. “The league tries to use some of our guys to give them cover, to get them on their side. Our players’ leadership wasn’t pleased, and I wasn’t pleased.”

Few were pleased about the Tuesday night meeting. As explained by, some owners thought the players were “delivering union talking points.” The players saw something they rarely witness — owners on the ropes.

“For the first time, the owners are afraid of the players,” Smith said, echoing something the President said on Wednesday. “It has less to do with money and it has more to do with control. The owners are used to being in control — and they aren’t on this. They know it. They hate it.”

Still, at some point the players realize that they reside in the house that could be burned down over this. While that may be an overstatement, any reduction in revenue eventually affects the players. They need to balance their newfound power with the bigger picture. Of course, that scale swings both ways.

“The owners had no problem whatsoever giving up $10 billion worth of revenue when they decided they were going to cancel football for an entire year,” Smith told, referring to the lockout from six years ago. “Now they want to make an economic argument to the players that exercising their freedom somehow hurts the business.”

It’s a good point, and it’s another example of the tension that will forever exist between two entities that need each other but, thanks to years of disharmony, will have a hard time working together when they arguably need to the most.

5 responses to “Anthem issue has not united NFL, NFLPA

  1. See, that’s why they have so many issues. Number one: The owners and the NFLPA need to have what is best for the game of football and the league as their top priority. Second, the owners need to present their position that is considerate and fair to the players and the NFLPA need to present their position that is fair to ALL of their players not just looking after a few. That is a huge problem that exists in the NFL right now. The NFLPA needs to tell his players they are private contractors working for the NFL organization and when they report for work they need to report for work and follow the damn rules. He needs to tell them no-one gets to exercise all of their constitutional rights on a JOB! They serve at the pleasure. And don’t get it twisted like so many do. Stand for the anthem as the rules state. And as their fans want.

    And less they ever forget. Without the owners they all would be highly talented ex college football players working in some office somewhere for 5 figures. As evidenced by how many players rotate in and out of the NFL over the years while the owners continue figuring out ways to make more money, for which the players benefit. When is the last time a player negotiated a deal with a network?

  2. All the “anthem issue” does is divide people. And thats exactly what these guys who kneel want. They arent promoting unity and equality whatsoever.

  3. “The NFLPA needs to tell his players they are private contractors working for the NFL organization and when they report for work they need to report for work and follow the damn rules. He needs to tell them no-one gets to exercise all of their constitutional rights on a JOB!”

    If the owners disapprove of what any players are doing, they can fine or release those players. No owners have done anything like that this season. You might want the owners to do that but unless you buy a team you can’t force the owners to do anything. No players are violating instructions from their team owners.

    The players are adults. They can all decide what they want to do for themselves. That is their legal right as much as it is for any employee anywhere. No one from outside my company can come in my workplace and tell employees what they have to do. If customers don’t like us or our products, they don’t have to buy from us. Same goes for the NFL. If you don’t like the NFL or it’s products, don’t buy them. But neither the owners not the players have to take orders from you, me, or anyone.

    Not everyone wants to make more money regardless of the conditions. Plenty of people take a lower paying job whose environment they like or that has a better commute for them. If NFL players feel more comfortable not standing for the anthem and that costs them money, that’s just like they chose not standing as being worth giving up some money. Maybe you would or would not make the same choice, but everyone can make that choice for himself.

  4. God Bless America says:
    October 1, 2017 at 2:30 pm
    Stop subjecting fans to political stuff. It really is that simple. When you go to the bank to make a deposit does the teller lecture you about their political views?

    No, but they have the right to, just as the business owner has the right to fine or fire them. People like you want it one way. I don’t see any owners fining or firing players yet or sponsors pulling out. I have a feeling all this talk is just an overstated bluff. Which is why the people who claim they’re “done with the NFL” are still commenting here. Doesn’t seem to add up people who are “done with the NFL” to still be paying such close attention to it.

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