It took a little longer than expected, but the President has moved on. The problem, however, remains.
Can the NFL and its teams permanently solve the issue of protests occurring during the national anthem?
When the owners discussed the situation in the aftermath of the verbal assault from the Commander-in-Chief and the reaction from hundreds of players, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones lobbied aggressively for all teams to do what the Cowboys did on the Monday night of Week Three — kneeling in unison before the anthem and then standing during it.
“Make sure that they know it was invented here in Dallas,” Jones said, per a source with knowledge of the situation, as Jones and his daughter, Charlotte Jones Anderson argued in favor of all teams doing what the Cowboys did in Arizona.
Asked how long Jones envisions the pre-anthem kneel going on, Jones said that it will “go on for as long as we need it.”
That generally wasn’t viewed as a viable solution to the problem, which could flare up and subside in the coming weeks based on events outside football that alternatively could spark more protests or cause them to diminish. This weekend, which began with all players standing prior to the Thursday night game between the Patriots and the Buccaneers, could see the protests reduce back to where they were before the President made a profane reference to those who don’t stand for the anthem and essentially challenged them to sit or kneel, with only a few players not standing.
It surely won’t stay that way indefinitely — especially if/when the President decides to have another campaign rally or early-morning tweet storm with language that makes players once again feel like they’ve been backed into a corner. To solve it for good, the league needs to give the players an alternate vehicle for drawing attention to the legitimate concerns that sparked the protests in the first place. Whether that’s a month devoted to social activism, pre-anthem videos played in each stadium, or some other gesture remains to be seen — and it could be something that varies from team to team.
Whatever the final answer may be, doing nothing won’t be a permanent solution — unless the issues that sparked the protests are somehow solved.