Amid a renewed focus around NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, the NFL reportedly won’t implement a new policy this season regarding how to treat players who refuse to stand for the anthem.
ESPN cited unnamed league sources who told the network there are no plans to implement a new policy on the national anthem “no matter how many meetings and conversations occur regarding the topic.”
The controversy started in 2016, when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick popularized the practice of kneeling during the national anthem.
Kaepernick claimed at the time that he was “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” especially amid the growing Black Lives Matter movement and what the group believed to be racist treatment of blacks by police.
Kneeling began to proliferate throughout the NFL and drew criticism from people who saw it as disrespectful to the country and the armed forces who fight for our freedom.
President Donald Trump also found kneeling to be disrespectful and often voiced his disagreement with the protest on Twitter.
The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 25, 2017
For a brief period this spring, NFL owners put in place a plan requiring players to “stand and show respect” during the anthem, while those who did not wish to stand were asked to remain in the locker room during the anthem to avoid being fined.
But after receiving mostly negative reviews for the idea, the policy was ultimately frozen, according to The Hill.
With the NFL season about to begin, Nike reignited the anthem controversy last Monday by including Kaepernick in its latest ad campaign.
On Thursday, the NFL released a statement in response to the campaign featuring Kaepernick which foreshadowed its current stance on kneeling.
“We embrace the role and responsibility of everyone involved with this game to promote meaningful, positive change in our communities,” the NFL said in its statement, according to Business Insider.
So we’re left with a situation whereby the NFL seems to be trying to avoid taking a hard stance on the issue, which has cost the league double-digit declines in TV ratings since the 2016 season — a trend that did not improve with last Thursday’s opening game.
Trump has already begun his assault on the NFL’s ratings. “NFL first game ratings are way down over an already really bad last year comparison. Viewership declined 13%, the lowest in over a decade,” Trump tweeted Sunday morning.
Wow, NFL first game ratings are way down over an already really bad last year comparison. Viewership declined 13%, the lowest in over a decade. If the players stood proudly for our Flag and Anthem, and it is all shown on broadcast, maybe ratings could come back? Otherwise worse!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 9, 2018
Trump is correct that NBC’s ratings for the season opener between the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles were down 13%, according to ESPN. Having the start of the game delayed by a thunderstorm could have contributed to that decline, but the NFL’s ratings for the 2017 regular season were down as well.
The people angry at the NFL for not disciplining players who kneel, as well as those angry at the league for trying to discipline players who kneel, has resulted in a “no-win” situation whereby the NFL’s ratings have declined since players began kneeling during the anthem.
The NFL should take Trump’s advice, embrace the national anthem and take a stand on kneeling. The league’s players should understand that even having just a handful of athletes protest is damaging the image of the business that pays them quite handsomely.
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