NFL owners were initially supportive and protective of their players, their brand assets on the field, as players kneeled down while the national anthem played. Some may argue players could have found a better venue to highlight the true challenges within the justice system without seeming to disrespect the flag, yet owners backed their right under the first amendment.
The owners and Roger Goodell did not expect the fiery fan blowback. Outraged conservatives perceived kneeling as an encroachment on the principles near and dear to not only them but a majority of Americans. Respecting country, respecting America’s lineage, the military and their families are collectively exemplified by the flag. But, owners are proving to be hypocrites by not being true to the value of social justice nor patriotism and instead have one focus: the dollar.
The NFL must have had some foresight into the importance of the national anthem and the related conduct displayed on the field before kickoff. NFL national anthem policy is on pages A62-63 of the league’s rulebook. It states: 'The National Anthem must be played prior to every NFL game, and all players must be on the sideline for the National Anthem. During the National Anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand and refrain from talking.'
Because the NFL was bleeding cash on the field, the owners and Roger Goodell had to call an audible and scramble away from their players.
Ignoring their own league rules caused conservative organizations, pundits, media, and activists to call for an NFL boycott. Football fans and businesses rallied, burning jerseys and season tickets, canceling their Direct TV Football packages, not buying tickets, merchandise, and playing smash mouth themselves by turning the channel.
Due to the costly backlash, according to the Wall Street Journal, the National Football League’s owners will discuss next week whether to unilaterally change league policy and require players to stand during the national anthem. If players refuse to rise up, they could face disciplinary action by the league or by the team. The NFL may change the rules of conduct in direct response to their fans who are rejecting politics on the field and hitting them where it hurts them most—their Gucci wallets.
Because the NFL was bleeding cash on the field, the owners and Roger Goodell had to call an audible and scramble away from their players. Initially, they believed the politics of social justice was "the right thing to do” on behalf of their players and to support the broader ideas the protests were about.
But, kneeling players proved to kill ticket and jersey sales and viewership -- and their positions are viewed by many fans as divisive and disrespectful -- negatively impacting the NFL brand and profits. So social justice and the fear of losing support of the players had to take a back seat.
It’s also clear this "juke" move by the NFL is not one based on patriotism, because the original position of the NFL, as written in their rulebook, was to respect America's anthem -- a principle they happily discarded until faced with lost money and ratings.
Conservative fans and media are claiming victory. Patriotism seems to sell and ultimately forced owners and Roger Goodell to expose the hypocrisy of their real motives and priorities -- which had nothing to do with the importance of supporting social justice, or even patriotism, but everything to do with profit.