The National Football League’s controversy concerning the National Anthem of the United States will turn two years old when the league takes the field for week one of the 2018 season in September and there is still no end in site.
When then San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick dropped to a knee during the traditional rendition of the Anthem before the team’s 2016 opener against the Los Angeles Rams, it sparked a spiral of disagreement and confusion amongst the football world and downright chaos for Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Regardless of where you stand on players not standing, it is difficult to deny that the NFL has severely botched another controversial situation. After the league announced it would begin penalizing individuals who did not match the proper guidelines of standing respectfully for the Anthem (unless they chose to remain in the locker room), they backtracked this week and hit pause on their policy to punish those who kneel. They also stated that they will work closely with the players union over the next few weeks to find a solution.
Another reoccurring character in the never-ending saga is none other than President Donald Trump. The President has openly criticized the players who kneel as well as the NFL’s way of handling the situation since his campaign as the Republican nominee in 2016. He tweeted the following after the league announced their decision to halt the new policy:
‘The NFL National Anthem Debate is alive and well again — can’t believe it! Isn't it in contract that players must stand at attention, hand on heart? The $40,000,000 Commissioner must now make a stand. First time kneeling, out for game. Second time kneeling, out for season/no pay!’
The President is right about one thing: 40 million dollars is a little steep for a man who has arguably mishandled every major decision that has come his way. Granted, this is a delicate situation where both sides coming out satisfied seems impossible. I could also point out that a professional sports commissioner should not be expected to properly handle a situation as sensitive as this.
Still, Goodell has proved himself incapable of making a logical decision in the past with screwups anywhere from domestic violence situations to the proper weight of footballs. The league’s game of jumping back and forth seems to be another mishandled issue that has escalated into something bigger than anyone ever could have pictures at the outset.
Since the beginning of this unwelcome series of events that continue to distract from the game of football, I have consistently believed that the players reserve the right to take a knee if they have the desire to do so. I have also always leveled with those who see it as a sign of disrespect. There remains no solution that will make all parties at the table totally satisfied, so I am not sure what to expect from the upcoming talks between the league and players union.
While the issue continues to spark nationwide controversy, teams from across the country are reporting to training camp. The preseason Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio between the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens is just over a week away, which all but concludes another long and turbulent offseason for the NFL. While the Anthem debate rages on, the league still has a noticeable slate of problems off of the field in a number of other categories.