The controversy over NFL players kneeling during the US National Anthem has been the story that will not end for the National Football League and its fans. For the last two seasons, certain players have refused to stand for the Star Spangled Banner to protest against alleged racial inequality and the behavior of police officers in the line of duty.
However, after the NFL's TV ratings dropped last season in part due to the controversy, it appeared like the NFL would finally put the issue to rest. In May, the NFL owners approved a new policy giving players the option to stay in the locker room for the national anthem(like most college teams like LSU does with all its football players), but if the players set foot on the field for the national anthem, they would have to stand for the anthem or their team would be fined by the league and the offending player would face punishment by their team. No word on whether the policy only applied to the US national anthem or to the UK's and Mexico's as well(when the NFL plays games in London and Mexico City).
The new anthem policy sounded reasonable to me and every other rational thinking person. If a player doesn't want to stand for the national anthem, then they can just stay in the locker room until the coin toss.
Scoot from WWL Radio did make an interesting point when the policy was first announced that some fans' perception of the players wouldn't really change since the players that stayed in the locker room would get called out just as much as they would have if they came out and kneeled for the national anthem.
The only time I want to see someone taking a knee is if they're in the victory formation or if they're getting hit by Shinsuke Nakamura's Kinshasa, Daniel Bryan's running knee strike, Seth Rollins' Ripcord knee strike(the move he broke John Cena's nose with on Monday Night Raw in 2015), or Sasha Banks' Meteora. In fact, Kaepernick and the other kneeling players are lucky that they didn't become Joe Theismann to somebody's Lawrence Taylor. Or Darryl Stingley to somebody's Jack "The Assassin" Tatum.
Naturally, the NFL Players Association(the players' union) bitched about the new policy, whining that the owners didn't let them have any say in it, even filing a grievance against the league, claiming that the new policy was “inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement and infringes on player's rights.” But the NFL wussed out a couple of weeks ago when the NFL suspended enforcing the new anthem policy when it was reported that the Miami Dolphins planned to suspend any player not standing for the national anthem for up to 4 games(the maximum punishment the team owners can give to a player).
As I've said before, I don't see a moral difference between Colin Kaepernick and other players kneeling for the National Anthem and the Westboro Baptist Church protesting at funerals of fallen US soldiers. While both are protected by the First Amendment(the Westboro Baptist Church won in the US Supreme Court months before the video game industry's victory over California), the NFL players might not be as protected by the First Amendment as you would think.
Simply put, while the NFL players are protesting in a public forum during the National Anthem, they are doing it while they are in the workplace as employees of the NFL and its member teams. Remember that the First Amendment protects you from the local, state, or federal governments intruding on your freedom of speech and the NFL is not a government agency even if they get antitrust exemptions from the federal government or taxpayer money from local and state governments.
If you're going to argue that Twitter(or YouTube or Facebook) can ban Milo Yiannopolous, Sargon of Akkad, Owen Benjamin, Bunty King, Baked Alaska, or whoever else they want for whatever reason they pull out of their ass on the basis of the social media platform being a private company, then the NFL can fine or suspend any player that refuses to stand for the National Anthem and even force the players to stand for the National Anthem whether the players like it or not.
Yes, even with the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA. When the players agreed to the current CBA after a lockout in 2011, they basically let Commissioner Roger Goodell have free rein over punishments for violating Personal Conduct policy. Not only did Goodell get to hand out the punishment, he was the sole arbiter in the appeal process. Jonathan Vilma had to sue Goodell for defamation to force him to step aside in the appeal of his 1 year Bountygate suspension. Former commissioner Paul Tagliabue heard the appeal and overturned the suspensions of all Saints players (Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith(who was killed in a road rage shooting in 2016), and Scott Fujita).
I think the only reason I can see why the NFL backed down and agreed to set the policy aside for a few weeks for the owners and players to hash it out is that the NFLPA threatened to go on strike and Goodell and the team owners were afraid that the players would follow through. However, I do not see a work stoppage happening this season over the NFL's new National Anthem policy. While a work stoppage over this issue would further damage the NFL's popularity, I think a work stoppage would actually hurt the players worse than the owners even if the owners instigated the work stoppage first. The owners would be seen even more as the good guys by the majority of the fans of the league(especially if the NFLPA went on strike over the Anthem policy) and forcing the players to stand for the National Anthem would bring the fans that left the NFL because of Anthemgate back to the TV screens. The NFLPA would pretty much lose all of their bargaining chips when it comes time to renew their collective bargaining agreement.
I'll reiterate: the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell had two options before them in 2016 that would have immediately shut the controversy down, but did neither:
a) suspend Colin Kaepernick indefinitely under the personal conduct policy for conduct detrimental to the league until he agreed to stand for the National Anthem or....
b) give the Dallas Cowboys permission to wear a helmet decal honoring the five Dallas police officers murdered by a racist black supremacist at a Black Lives Matter rally the month before. (A racist black supremacist who may have been inspired by another racist black supremacist who murdered three Baton Rouge police officers a week later who in turn may have been inspired by The Young Turks YouTube channel)
The NFL's refusal to take a definite stand on whether its players should have to stand for the National Anthem has damaged the NFL worse than any other controversy in the last 10 years combined. Spygate, Bountyscam, Deflategate, you name it, Anthemgate is worse than all of them put together.
And if Roger Goodell won't take that stand, then maybe it's time the NFL fires his worthless ass and replaces him with someone else who will.