In today’s sports world, the NFL seems to be the model for all of the other professional sports leagues. The NFL, after all, is the most successful sports entity in the U.S. But the league’s inability to solve the issue of players protesting during the national anthem remains a thorn in the NFL’s big toe.
On one side of the issue, you have once-loyal football fans turning away from the league, mainly because they don’t want politics mixed in with sports. Or they’re simply patriotic to the point that they feel everyone – athletes included – should participate in the national anthem.
But the players who do protest also have support; whether it be from their peers or from fans who agree with them politically, including non-football fans. There are a lot of people who never knew who Colin Kaepernick was until he became an activist.
And so the NFL is stuck between a rock and a hard place. In May, they ruled that players on the field must stand for the national anthem or they can exercise a protest by staying in the locker room while it is performed. Disciplinary measures would be up to the individual teams.
Like so many other issues of today, opinions vary on the policy, which didn’t seem to satisfy anyone. And so, just before the preseason began, the NFL and the NFL Players Association, who had challenged the new rule, came to a standstill agreement, saying no new rules regarding the national anthem would be enforced “for a few weeks” while the two sides worked things out.
We’ve reached that “few weeks” milestone so it will be interesting to see what the league and NFLPA come up with. Based on the aforementioned divisiveness, this will not be an easy task and is sure to leave someone unhappy.
The NFL and NFLPA might consider watching a replay of the national anthem that took place during the MLB All-Star Game a month ago at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. The players lined the baselines, as they typically do, took off their hats and placed them over their hearts.
As the Washington, D.C. Community Choirs, an ethnically diverse group, sang the Star Spangled Banner and stood in the shape of the American flag, many of the players sang along. It wasn’t necessarily patriotic, it was just the national anthem being performed and participated in, in typical fashion.
Baseball has its own issues with its fan base. But this year’s All-Star Game and Home Run Derby gave it a shot in the arm, and the national anthem was part of that. As the preseason quickly becomes the regular season, the NFL needs to figure this out for the good of itself, its fans, and players alike.