The NFL is struggling to find an answer on how to handle protests during the national anthem, without offending everyone in the process.
Comments from a pair of owners Sunday at the league meetings in Orlando show just how difficult it will be to come to a consensus.
In addition to defending disgraced Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, Texans owner Bob McNair was willing to touch all the hot buttons during an interview in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton. While his “inmates running the prison” remark last October should have made it clear where he stands, McNair spelled out his oppositions to any kind of peaceful statement made during the anthem.
“Our playing field, that’s not the place for political statements,” McNair said, throwing in “religious statements” as well (because that particular fire needed one more log on it).
He added that he didn’t want to anger his paying customers, which makes it clear which portion of them he’s listening to.
“There are fans that are upset about it,” he said. “Fans are our customers. You can replace the owners and the league will survive. You can replace the players, although the game won’t be good. You can’t replace the fans. If you don’t have fans, you’re dead.”
But there’s also the small matter of the league not wanting to incite a riot among the labor pool for being perceived to heavy-handedly dictate what can and cannot be said.
That’s what Jets CEO Christopher Johnson seemed to realize.
“I can’t speak to how other people run their teams, but I just think that trying to forcibly get the players to shut up is a fantastically bad idea,” Johnson said, via Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com.
Owners are expected to discuss the topic this week, though a decision on any kind of policy isn’t expected at this meeting.
And based on the dichotomy of opinions, finding a common ground that will please all of them might be difficult, before they even bring players into the mix.