When the news came out this week that the NFL owners had taken a vote and unanimously agreed that they would fine any player who took a knee during the national anthem, they got cheers from Donald Trump and decidedly mixed feedback from NFL players.
But then the cracks started to show. Owner of the 49ers, Jed York, denied voting for such a measure, saying that he abstained until he could speak to the players. So did the Raiders' Mark Davis.
Not sounding so unanimous, is it?
And in a league in which the player population is nearly 70 percent minority, incredibly tone-deaf:
In the statement, Goodell all but begs for forgiveness, not from the players whose rights he has trampled but from those fans who claimed outrage, adopting the same language about “respect” and “patriotism” that Trump and his supporters have so disingenuously used: “It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic. This is not and was never the case.”
Goodell might have noted, as many executives in the N.F.L. did last fall, that the players’ decision to kneel was itself an act of patriotism, or at the very least well within their rights as private citizens. (It would be too much to expect Goodell to explain why, exactly, the N.F.L. makes such a show of flag-waving and anthem-blaring, or why it has entwined itself so fully with the American military.) In a tepid gesture at pleasing everyone, Goodell, elsewhere in the statement, even acknowledged the power of the players’ protests, writing that “the efforts by many of our players sparked awareness and action around issues of social justice that must be addressed.”
And let's be clear, the idea of taking a knee isn't the problem.
Goodell is just confirming for NFL players that he has no problem with oppressive double standards on the basis of race, the very reason why the protests began in the first place.