SNIDER: Blame NFL Owners, Not Players, For Kneeling

I have always stood proudly for the U.S. flag. I’ve voted in every election no matter how small since 1978. I love my country and having traveled the globe proudly say it’s the greatest place on earth.

But I will ride to the gates of Hell with NFL players over their right to kneel during the national anthem. It’s called democracy and right to dissent. I won’t kneel, but I respect their right to do so.

NFL owners will discuss whether players should be required to stand during the anthem at upcoming league meetings. Simply, owners fear losing money over public backlash.

What a stupid idea.

Did NFL owners not just learn from President Donald Trump cursing at players that negative pressure only made the boycott worse? That it turned what was a few players doing so into a leaguewide movement.

Now the NFL wants to mandate standing? Do they really think players will do so without blowback?

No, no and hell no. This will only to make things worse.

What are owners going to do if players continue kneeling? Fine them? That will never hold up in court and everyone knows it. The First Amendment calls for freedoms of speech and the right of the people peaceably to assemble among its five core principles. The NFL Players Association has the money and desire to fight any NFL sanctions all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court knowing they will win.

This is all about money and leverage in coming collective bargaining contract talks in 2020. Owners of these billion-dollar teams are worried over some short-term loss of fans and sponsors if the partial player boycott continues. What a short-sighted view when history shows fans and corporate sponsors always come back. Always and forever. Still, the NFL wants to look like the good guys, especially if giving them some edge in coming contract talks.

What happened to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and several of his fellow owners kneeling or standing interlocked with players just weeks ago? Was it all a public relations scam? Oh, you bet your sweet $10 beers it was. That’s all it was or else the NFL wouldn’t be considering a rule change screaming Orwellian 1984 blind faith in rulers.

The dirty-not-so secret is the NFL has been paid more than $10 million by the Department of Defense since 2009 to have players standing on sidelines during the anthem as part of patriotic displays used for recruiting. Frankly, that’s shameful and should stop now. If teams are so pro-military, eat any expense and do it for free. That military appreciation nights in some sports venues are really funded by the military is outrageous. Teams act like they’re being generous when they’re really being paid.

Is there no shame left in corporate America?

If the NFL decided to no longer take taxpayer money for the anthem displays, then at least the owners wouldn’t be hypocrites. But that’s not happening and we all know it. Yet, they want players to surrender their freedom of expression.

The spate of concussion evidence in recent years has some futurists saying the NFL will crumble in coming decades. At first, that seemed silly. But then, somebody at the Roman Coliseum probably said the same thing about gladiator fights someday ending. He was probably thrown to the lions but ultimately proven correct.

The NFL thinks it’s saving itself from future financial losses by trying to make players knuckle under. Instead, they may truly be on the way to losing their dominance because decisions like this are pure greed and arrogance. And if it leads to the sport’s knockout, then so be it for the victim was self-defeated.

 

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.

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