The NFL Needs A Strong Response To President Donald Trump. Don't Expect One.

I probably should have left after their 1-15 season. If not then, one year of Jeff Fisher should’ve been enough to give me permission to leave Rams fandom behind for good. A football team is a hard thing to walk away from — a person’s identity is wrapped up in fandom. You’re part of a group of people coming together to celebrate, or commiserate in this case, and you’ve been conditioned into over years.

That’s a hard thing to leave behind. It finally took years of deceit from the team’s owner, relocation, and that special brand of 7-9 bullshit (and the hubris that went with it) before I finally decided that enough was enough.

And that was just me swearing off the Rams. It’s another thing entirely to swear off the entire NFL.

With a few lines of coded racism and a string of angry tweets, the president of the United States got the bulk of the 37 percent or so of voters who still support him to do just that — to walk away from the NFL. A man who said he wanted to bring the country together has made professional football, America’s most popular sport, one of the most divisive brands in the country.

According to a new report, only four media companies — and Trump Hotels — are more polarizing than the NFL.

The report, done by the New York Times and polling from Morning Consult, revealed that well over 60 percent of people who voted for Trump now have an unfavorable view of the NFL. That’s up from just over 20 percent of them at the end of September.

Trump blew his golden dog whistle and sent people stampeding away from football.

And it didn’t matter how the NFL bent over backwards to try and play both sides in this whole thing. Trump found a target, and it didn’t matter to his supporters if the NFL stood or kneeled or kneeled then stood or anything at all. They wanted blood.

Look at how clumsy this whole thing has been from the league. Whenever controversy finds the NFL, or when the NFL makes one for itself, chaos ensues. The league puts a finger into the air to gauge public sentiment and blindly fumbles around for the right response.

The league has had one concern from the moment Colin Kaepernick’s protest of police brutality and inequality started: the overall impact on its bottom line. When the president made the NFL a new front in the divisive politics of the culture war, it sent team owners into a panic.

You saw that in the “unity” displays the Sunday after Trump’s “son of a bitch” comment. ESPN’s story about the owner committee meetings and then again with players the week after that painted the picture of a league that didn’t know what to do in the wake of Trump’s attack.

And then you have the situation in Dallas. Jerry Jones and the Cowboys made a big deal out of their “unity” display during a Monday night game against the Cardinals, with Jones staring right at the camera as the team kneeled BEFORE the national anthem. They got booed anyway. This week, Jones, who spoke with Trump after that, made his comment threatening players who “disrespect the flag.

Earlier this week, news leaked that the NFL would consider a rule that required players to stand for the national anthem. When that news was met with an approving tweet from a president desperate for a win, the league pushed back, suggesting that such a rule change might not be in the offing after all. The league just wanted to have a “discussion” of the issues at its owners meeting next week.

Whatever the league outwardly says it plans to do, all signs right now point to NFL owners eventually deciding to make players stand, opening up big problems on the legal front, creating a situation that the NFLPA will not let go unchallenged. That will draw out the issue even further, giving the MAGA crowd a limitless supply of ammunition to fight on this front of its culture war.

Along with that, the NFL sounds like it’s going to offer some kind of compromise, some tacit acknowledgement of the social issues — league owners and Roger Goodell noticeably don’t directly refer to police brutality or racial inequality — either with a window of time and/or a financial commitment to various causes.

Even the attempt to smother the issue with a weak compromise that like will still leave the right inflamed when players are still talking about racism and injustice.


You can be sure that the data revealed by the New York Times hasn’t gone unnoticed in the league office. The NFL obsesses over any threat, real or perceived, to its bottom line.

Hopefully, they read it all the way through. The data reveals that a rapid change in customer approval like the one the NFL is experiencing can be fleeting.

Remember when United Airlines violently dragged the guy off one of its planes because they needed the seat for a United employee? Almost everyone, whatever their party affiliation, had a negative view of the company after that. Six months later, United’s approval rating is just about what it was before the incident.

It takes years of conditioning to completely quit on a brand. And as the Rams have proven, it’s even harder to just suddenly stop being a fan.

All the NFL has to do here is not overreach. Don’t screw up by making a panicked move under toothless presidential pressure that will end up pissing even more people off and giving fans more reason to disapprove of the product.

Unfortunately, screwing up in the face of major controversies is very on brand for the NFL.

Source : https://www.sbnation.com/2017/10/12/16463806/nfl-player-protests-national-anthem-donald-trump-response

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