The NFL announced a few weeks ago that it had come to an agreement with its teams and players surrounding the national anthem. Couple this with the league’s landmark decision to give $89 million to the NFL Players’ Coalition, it would seem as if the league and players were as aligned as ever. However, The NFL’s new policy says that players may stay in the locker room during the national anthem, but if they are on the field, they must stand or be subject to discipline from their team. The teams would be liable for fines from the league, which would be levied onto the players. This is a result of the players #TakeAKnee protests over the past two years over racial injustice seen in communities.
The protest’s meaning had been misconstrued and twisted as a result of our government and the media, resulting in splintered reactions. The anthem is a very patriotic moment and it has caused tension between the league and its players. The league and its owners believe that this is a major reason why attendance and TV numbers dropped, which effected revenue. However, Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons, has come out and said that business has never been better. In addition, there were major stars injured last season and TV numbers dropped across all industries, at a higher rate than the NFL.
It seems as if this “compromise” was merely a ploy, as it was not unanimous as the league made it seem. Owners came out in defense of their players and others abstained from the vote as a whole. What can be certain is that this issue is not going away, and for a league concerned about perceptions, it seems as if the league has capitulated to the President’s demands. Of course, immediately after the league made the announcement, the President said that all players should stand and if they don’t, they should leave the country.
If the league wanted this issue to go away, it might have been better off saying nothing at all and letting the very small minority of players who protested continue. As a result, many more players are upset at the so-called “compromise.” Contrast this with the NBA, which is seen as a league that supports its players and the issues they stand for. It’s not to say that the NFL doesn’t believe in this as well, but the optics surrounding it and the questions that arise politically make it seem like revenue was the driving force rather than what is best for the league and its players.