San Francisco It is unclear what the National Football League owners wanted to accomplish with their new rule about how to handle anthem protests. The players’ union is clear that this is a unilateral rule change without consultation or bargaining, which should mean that it is dead on arrival and violates labor law. Player protestors have been clear that they are not happy with the rule, and everyone is clear that nothing about the rule is a “compromise.” Editorials and sportswriters have been dismissive. The only happy customer might be President Trump, because this kind of stumblebum move is now a signature strut for him.
The actual rule seems to be that teams will be fined if players protest during the national anthem following Colin Kaepernick’s example two seasons ago. Players who want to protest can do so by not coming onto the field but staying in the locker room until after the show is over.
I’m not even sure why the owners think this will solve much of anything, even if the players were to agree to the rule. Commentators will be trying to suss out which players are injured, which are protesting, and what’s happening and comparing full rosters for every game to try and figure out what’s up. Some owners, notably with the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Jets, either abstained from the vote on this rule or in some cases have said they will pay the fines to let the players do what needs to be done. Most of the owners seem to have proven that they are empty suits no matter how rich their bank accounts, so this also guarantees that they will still hear no end of Trump tweets no matter what happens. Furthermore, they have proven that they can be bullied, which all of us know just means there will be more of the same about something or other.
What is impossible to reconcile for the owners is that the players are the game and what fans come to see. Most fans would not know most of the owners if they were standing next them in the same elevator. Conflating protests with patriotism was a preposterous play pushed by a very small number of whiners while most fans were standing up during the anthem just to get it over so the game could begin.
It’s just a matter of time before a team simply stays in the locker room en masse to make their point about racial disparity and police brutality, and then what will Trump and the owners do? Mark my words, this will happen sooner or later when the next young black man somewhere in America gets shot by the next cop for nothing.