Unlike last year, where you could count on one hand or maybe even two the amount of players that were kneeling–this year, especially the last two weeks has brought upon hundreds of players with various demonstrations during the National Anthem and the blowback from it has been quite significant.
Many teams around the league released statement regarding the controversial comments from President Donald Trump, basically denouncing what he said because of players kneeling, but in reality, the owners want the players to stop kneeling as well, because if they are not already losing money, they will pretty soon.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder are at the forefront of this movement, according to ESPN.
“It certainly was my takeaway that the commissioner was looking for a way for the protests to end,” Smith said Friday when asked about his 30-minute conversation with Goodell.
Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots and Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, expressed concerns last week that the optics of hundreds of players kneeling, sitting or remaining in the locker room during the playing of the national anthem had alienated many fans at a particularly perilous moment for the NFL.
There was a meeting with owners and league executives to discuss what had happened. By then, Trump had tweeted nearly two dozen times attacking the NFL and its players. Tempers were hot.
One owner barked angrily at Lockhart, who declined to comment about the matter, echoing a sentiment that most of them — especially Jones — shared: Nobody wanted to engage in a political mud fight with the White House, even if “they were all pissed at the president,” a league source said.
Then the topic turned to the subject of angry fan bases and nervous sponsors. The Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers, in particular, each had received significant blowback from their fan bases and sponsors. Fans had booed the Patriots and Cardinals for kneeling, and disgusted fans posted on Facebook and YouTube videos of them burning NFL merchandise.
Going forward, however, some owners preferred a league-wide directive. Dan Snyder, the Washington Redskins’ owner and who declined to comment through a spokesman, argued that the protests needed to end because of the danger that the issue posed to the league’s bottom line. A “$40 million” NFL sponsor was considering pulling out, he told his fellow owners.
In the meeting, many owners wanted to speak, but the discussion soon was “hijacked,” in the words of one owner, by Jones, a $1 million contributor to Trump’s inaugural committee fund and who declined comment through a spokesman. The blunt Hall of Famer mentioned that he had spoken by phone, more than once over the past 24 hours, with Trump. Jones said the president, who only a few years ago tried to buy the Buffalo Bills, had no intention of backing down from his criticism of the NFL and its players.
“We can’t just tell them to stop,” Goodell said of the players’ protests.
Many owners immediately argued otherwise. “We need to find a way where Trump doesn’t win,” one said, and that meant using leverage as employers to end the protests. Another said, “We’ll get our guys in line.” It was clear to many in the room that this was a regional issue as much as a political one, with owners’ tolerance for kneeling shaped more by their fans in local markets than their own personal politics. Dan Snyder, who had joined his players in arms at FedEx Field on Sunday night, was in an especially divisive market and was particularly dismissive of the kneeling.
Once the money starts being affected, you can best believe there will be rules coming outlawing kneeling in the future.