NFL owners, not coaches, must make it clear that they support player decisions to protest

Getty Images

As coaches address during video conferences the question of whether and to what extent they’ll support the  decision of players to kneel during the anthem, they’re all giving the wrong answer.

The right answer is this: Ask the owner.

The NFL’s owners have managed to avoid the topic in the week since Saints quarterback Drew Brees‘ effort to link kneeling with “disrespect” reignited the issue. Brees, after being attacked on Twitter by the President, made it clear that kneeling isn’t about the flag. The Commissioner did not provide similar specificity in his Friday video; supporting “peaceful protest” is one thing, making a loud and clear statement that the players are entitled to make that “peaceful protest” during the anthem is another.

The owners, as noted by 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman on Tuesday, have managed to find a way to stay above this specific fray. Generally speaking, they pay Roger Goodell something north of $40 million per year (the current number isn’t known because when the league surrendered its tax-exempt status its obligation to report the amount ended) in part to be the pin cushion for unpopular issues and positions. But this issue — this moment — is too big to justify delegating the topic to the Commissioner. This issue and moment cries out for owners to use their voices to make clear that players have the right to do whatever they choose to do during the playing of the anthem.

Supporting “peaceful protest” in a Commissioner’s video without mentioning the anthem isn’t enough. Reminding reporters that the current policy preserves the right to protest isn’t enough. Delegating the decision and/or the messaging to the coach isn’t enough. The owners must address the issue personally.

In so doing, here’s what the shouldn’t say. First, they shouldn’t say that “the rules allow players to kneel or sit during the anthem if they choose to do so” or similar expressions of tolerance or passive acceptance of something with which they may personally disagree. Second, they shouldn’t say a decision will be made as a team, because that necessarily undermines the inherent right of each player to make a conscientious choice, pressuring the minority to go along with a majority vibe heavily influenced by the coach and/or individual team leaders.

Here’s what the owners should say: “Our players have the absolute right to stand, to kneel, to sit, or to otherwise do whatever they choose to do during the anthem. We encourage them to make a conscious decision as to what they will do during the anthem, and we fully support whatever decision each player makes. There will be no pressure placed upon them to do anything other than what they decide is the right thing to do, and no decisions regarding their position on the roster, their status in the lineup, or their playing time will be made based on this issue.”

If only the owners had access to someone who could help them write a script that all 32 owners could read, and who could then take those 32 videos and turn it into a clear, compelling, and powerful video that would send the message on behalf of all franchises in one fell swoop. Oh, wait; they already do.

30 responses to “NFL owners, not coaches, must make it clear that they support player decisions to protest

  1. Protest all you want on your own time. Just dont do it at work!!

  2. Am I the only person that is uncomfortable with the term “owners” with respect to NFL and African-Americans? I am not a PC freak, I just find it somewhat ironic….

  3. Owners have a lot of political power in their communities. Why won’t they welcome that power together with athletes to talk with Congress, with the president, with local law enforcement agencies to work toward ending police brutality.

    This is what the kneeling is about.

  4. I’ve worked my entire life for private companies that were owned by the owner. I never thought twice about it. They own the company, not me.

  5. In what universe can someone protest on the clock? I would be tossed out by my collar.

    Protest all you want Monday through Saturday when you are not using the league’s platform.

  6. While I wish that the owners would support the players with this issue, they don’t have to. It is their team and they can run it any way they want, as long as they abide by the league rules.

    If players don’t agree with an owner, they have the right to refuse to play for that owner….just like the owner has the right to fire any player they want.

  7. It’s funny. People who are so upset about players kneeling, are the same people who never stand in front of their TV to pay respect to the flag when the anthem is playing or haven’t since their high schools days. World full of hypocrites.

  8. The goal of the protests during the anthem is to, as many have said, make people uncomfortable, which will create dialog and supposedly effect change. Sorry, it’s not okay for millionaire players to intentionally make paying customers uncomfortable, especially with the prices they’re paying to attend these games. It makes paying customers angry, and the owners should stand up and say it.

  9. NFL fans have a choice. Watch kneeling. Don’t watch kneeling.

    Just get off the damn fainting couch. We as a nation do not practice freedom for every one as we pretend to do.

    Our record speaks for itself.

  10. Just do not play the anthem any more. League does not need the controversy.

  11. Change the song to America the Beautiful. There is no rule that requires playing the anthem..

  12. Just stop playing the National Anthem before games. Problem solved. If people are comparing it to their regular jobs, how many of them play the national anthem before starting work?

  13. Can all of you who have said that you will not watch this fall just get a head start and stop caring about the league now. I mean, I’m really thinking about you. What an incredible waste of your time weighing in on sport that you’ve already said that you’re done with.

  14. The team owners don’t care what the players want. Owners are in it for the long haul and know there will always be more players that want to get rich and won’t care about protests. Increasing ratings and money are what matter to them…and rightfully so.

  15. Next years salary cap could very well go down with all the covid stuff….why would players try to reduce it further? They already tried this experiment and it affected ratings quite a bit, when you do things that will harm your financial situation it makes no sense.

  16. Funny when I pledged my allegiance to the flag it was to liberty and justice for ALL. Not any one race or religion. Those who think they know more than our founders stand up and leave so the rest of us can enjoy the game.

  17. einsteinswig says:
    June 10, 2020 at 4:34 pm
    In what universe can someone protest on the clock? I would be tossed out by my collar.

    Protest all you want Monday through Saturday when you are not using the league’s platform.
    —————————————————-

    If your company does not prohibit it and has no problem with it then you are free to protest at work. How many times in other industries have employees walked out in protest of working conditions or something else? If it’s ok for them to do it why not the NFL? Did anyone have a problem when Tyson Meat employees walked out in protest of the lack of coronavirus protections? I’m African American if I walked out because my company flew the confederate flag on top of their headquarters and I was willing to accept the consequences of my action so be it. Well the NFL players are willing to accept the consequences (Kap and Reid did).

  18. I remember when teams weren’t on the field for the anthem. Does anyone out there have experience from locker rooms at this time? Did the coaches, players and other personnel stop their game prep to stand in unison? Or did they not even notice?

  19. How about if they kneeled for five minutes before the anthem. Their voice still needs to be recognized.

  20. I still don’t understand why football players can protest at work but everyone else in the world can’t.

  21. footballpat says:
    June 11, 2020 at 8:52 am
    einsteinswig says:
    June 10, 2020 at 4:34 pm
    In what universe can someone protest on the clock? I would be tossed out by my collar.

    Protest all you want Monday through Saturday when you are not using the league’s platform.
    —————————————————-

    If your company does not prohibit it and has no problem with it then you are free to protest at work. How many times in other industries have employees walked out in protest of working conditions or something else? If it’s ok for them to do it why not the NFL? Did anyone have a problem when Tyson Meat employees walked out in protest of the lack of coronavirus protections? I’m African American if I walked out because my company flew the confederate flag on top of their headquarters and I was willing to accept the consequences of my action so be it. Well the NFL players are willing to accept the consequences (Kap and Reid did).

    —————————————–

    Sloppy logic here. Employees walk out to gain better working conditions, not to support a political stance. A SMART business person leaves politics out because they service everyone and avoid alienating anyone and especially the majority of their paying customers. This is why you don’t speak of religion and politics on the job. That’s not the place for it. If you’re willing to walk out of your responsibilities as a man to provide a paycheck for your home because you don’t have the depth of mind to compartmentalize and simply protest on your own time, then that speaks volumes.

  22. All of you people that are jealous that players can protest at work. . .perhaps you should get good enough at something so that you can do it too.
    All of you whiners that say you “would be tossed out on your collar”, That simply means that you are easily replaceable. Work on that.
    And all of the people that threaten to not watch NFL anymore. . . heard it all before. It’s kind of sad to watch you folks repeat your idle threats.

  23. I’m going to kneel also. To protest against protesting, protesting.

    Now that we have clarified that, have a great day, Everyone.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.