Miami Dolphins players kneel during the national anthem on Nov. 13, 2018, at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.


Palladino: NFL Flipflopped, Backslid, Kowtowed On New Anthem Rules

Owners Bowed To Pressure From President

Ernie Palladino
May 25, 2018 - 9:28 am




Pick any one of those verbs. Don’t worry, you won’t be wrong.

They all apply to what Roger Goodell and the NFL owners did Wednesday when they essentially reversed themselves on their players’ take-a-knee protest during the national anthem.

MORE: Trump Suggests NFL Players Who Kneel During Anthem Shouldn't Be In US

In essence, they said players can continue protesting racial inequality under the law only if they keep it within the confines of their locker rooms, completely out of sight from the cash-paying customers. All those taking the field for the anthem must stand or their teams -- and potentially they themselves -- will face league-imposed fines.

That, basically, takes the teeth out of any show of displeasure in the way our great but imperfect country handles its minorities. But even more than that, it shows a disheartening lack of guts on the league’s part in its bowing to the pressures of a president who in 1986 sued the league for antitrust violations and brought the USFL down with it.

Remember that the league originally condoned the practice. Not only that, but Cowboys owner Jerry Jones himself wound up on one knee with his players, while Jacksonville’s Shahid Khan stood in linked-arm protest.

And Goodell and Giants co-owner John Mara came out with statements against Trump’s criticisms, touting “the principles, values and patriotism of our league.”

MORE: Keidel: NFL Incapable Of Properly Addressing National Anthem Protests

All that went by the wayside Wednesday in a ruling that was neither condoned by, or even presented to, the players union.

The owners just crawled into their turtle shells and bent to the pressure from above.

All except for Jets acting owner Chris Johnson and 49ers owner Ned York.

They abstained from the voting.

MORE: Damon Harrison Voices Disdain For New NFL Policy

Good for them, especially for Johnson, whose brother, Woody, will be kept busy watching royals the next three years as Trump’s ambassador to England. Johnson wasted no time in saying the club would pick up the league's fines for kneeling players. Furthermore, he won’t impose any kind of club fines or suspensions for the kneelers.

Imagine Woody stepping out like that. He contributed a boatload of money to Trump’s presidential campaign. It’s how he got the ambassadorship in the first place. It certainly wasn’t because of how he ran the Jets, right?

And yet, his brother showed some real backbone here.

Trump thinks kneelers ought to get out of the country?

So what?

Falling TV ratings that may or may not be attributed to the protests?

Who cares?

To Chris Johnson, what’s right is right. And going back on a practice once supported by a league commissioner and its owners is just plain wrong.

Luckily for the league, this issue won’t bring down it’s credibility. That went out the window years ago when it stubbornly resisted admitting to the concussion epidemic that has ravaged thousands of their former employees. That wall took another hit when the owners green-lighted the Raiders’ move to the nation’s gambling capital, Las Vegas.

And now that the Supreme Court has legalized sports betting on the state level, the league is taking pains to make sure it gets its cut of the action, all shrouded in Goodell’s demands for regulations and consumer protections.

As if he cares whether the guy in the $1,000 PSL seat just bet the house on a double-digit underdog.

League credibility hasn’t been an issue for a long time.

This current decision is more about a lack of guts. Even Jones and Green Bay president Mark Murphy admitted Trump’s potential reactions loomed over them as they went through their thought process.

In the end they flipflopped.


And finally, kowtowed.

Another in a string of bad days for the NFL.

But should we have expected anything less?

Follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino