In 2009, the NFL decided to enhance its overt embrace of all things American by playing the national anthem after, not before, the players exited the locker room. According to Mark Maske of the Washington Post, the league’s quick and easy fix to the national anthem may be to go back to what they did previously, with the players staying in the locker room for the anthem.
“I think that if players are still kneeling at the end of the year, then it could very well happen,” an unnamed source familiar with the deliberations told Maske.
If that was a trial balloon intended for the Commander-in-Chief/Chief-Anthem-Agitator, it wandered straight in to power lines.
“The NFL is now thinking about a new idea — keeping teams in the Locker Room during the National Anthem next season,” President Trump said. “That’s almost as bad as kneeling! When will the highly paid Commissioner finally get tough and smart? This issue is killing your league!”
Chances are that the President doesn’t realize that the practice of putting the players on the field for the anthem is relatively new, or that college football teams routinely aren’t on the field for the anthem. Chances are that, even if he knew that, he wouldn’t care.
For the President, this continues to be a base-rallying shiny object that gets people to not pay attention to the things that he doesn’t want them to pay attention to. And it will be even harder for him to get people to pay attention to it in 2018 if the league picks a Friday afternoon in the summer to announce the new policy and then the games begin with the anthem being played in the same way at NFL games that it’s currently being played at NCAA games.
It’s also a way for the NFL to solve the issue without making any concessions to the players. Which, at a time when the league and the players continue to discuss a possible solution, would provide a solution that doesn’t require the league to do anything at all.