The NFL wants its players to stand for the national anthem. But the NFL knows it can’t force them to stand. Which underscores the dilemma that the NFL continues to face as it tries to persuade players to choose to stand.
NFL Senior V.P. of Sponsorship & Partnership Management Renie Anderson addressed the issue at the 2017 Sports Marketing Symposium. Via SportsBusiness Daily, Anderson summarized and emphasized the league’s position like this: “To be clear, we want the players to stand. We also respect their right to a peaceful protest.”
“America is passionate about football, and we are clearly seeing how much they care about our sport, especially recently,” Anderson said. “Patriotism is woven throughout everything that we do, and we need to respect and admire all that the men and women that serve our country do.”
The “patriotism” comment reflects the root of the problem. At some point, the NFL decided to make its players organic props in the effort to wrap the shield in a giant flag (hell, the shield even LOOKS like a flag) by having the players emerge from the locker room before the anthem begins, instead of running from the tunnel after the anthem has played. And the league’s thermal exhaust port (NERD!) on this issue has become the presence of the word “should” not “must” in the portion of the policy regarding standing.
The solution remains simple. Approach the NFL Players Association and suggest a joint policy that requires standing in exchange for a dramatic overhaul of, well, the joint policy. The league doesn’t have to legalize marijuana use by players; it needs to simply make the penalties the equivalent of a parking ticket, by making the threshold for a violation ridiculously, well, high or delaying a suspension until the policy has been violated something like, well, 420 times.
Is the Commissioner willing or interested in solving the problem by striking such a deal? For now, apparently not. With major sponsors becoming vocal about the situation and with owners like Jerry Jones trying to drive such a hard bargain with the Commissioner’s new contract that the Commissioner says,”I’m out,” this is precisely the kind of outcome the Commissioner needs to be proactively engineering.