On the surface, it looks like a compromise. Underneath, it is a capitulation. Yesterday the National Football League and its 32 team owners announced the establishment of a new policy on the issue of player ‘kneel-downs’ during the playing of the national anthem to express solidarity with Black Lives Matter and other radical groups who see America as the land of racial injustice. While the policy nominally bars players from kneeling down on the sidelines and gives owners the latitude to levy fines against violators, it also allows players to protest by remaining in their locker rooms. This is not a resolution. Indeed, it is a guarantee of further political melodrama.
The National Football League, a model of fecklessness, has taken the art of surrender to a new level. Last Wednesday evening, November 29, a group of team owners and black players reached a tentative plan to divert at least $89 million over seven years to various radical organizations. The move, an effort to placate the now-ritualized theatrical pregame “kneel-down” player protests during the national anthem, was a gift to two groups in particular, the Players Coalition and the Dream Corps, the latter led by Van Jones, an Obama-era White House adviser. “No decisions have been made on where the money will go yet, much less all the money over the next seven years,” said NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart. His boss, Roger Goodell, meanwhile, won’t have to worry. Two days ago, he signed a five-year contract extension potentially worth $40 million a year.
In what is universally agreed to be the National Football League’s worst year, both on and off the field, in anyone’s long-term memory, team owners appear to be ready to reward Commissioner Roger Goodell with a sizable contract extension.
The NFL’s reputation, for many years signified with pride by its “shield” logo, has been diminished by high-profile domestic violence incidents by some of its players; by increasing awareness of long-term brain injuries the game causes; and most of all, by widespread protests during the playing of the National Anthem before games, where many players have refused to stand with respect.