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Monday, Sep 24, 2018
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Did the NFL really need a national anthem policy?

Before we even get going, let me be clear about something.

This is not a column making an argument about whether or not NFL players should be able to kneel in protest during the national anthem.

That topic has been debated repeatedly, loudly and passionately. Everyone has a stance and no one is going to change anyone else's mind.

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Arguing about it is senseless because such frustrating conversations typically end with nasty accusations. One side is considered a bunch of racists and the other side is considered a bunch of traitors. And when it's done, the divide is wider.

But here's a part of this argument that I'm pretty sure we call can agree upon:

The NFL is being run by a bunch of blockheads with commissioner Roger Goodell as the chief stooge.

The NFL has put a policy in place that is all sizzle, no steak and completely unnecessary.

Players who don't want to stand for the anthem can stay in the locker room. But if they come out to the field, they have to stand or else they and their team could be fined.

Here's the part I can't understand:

Did the NFL need a policy?

This whole protest thing had died down. Other than when Colin Kaepernick's job status came up, was anyone even talking about protests? It's like last season when just a few players were still kneeling and President Donald Trump made a big deal about it and then it became an issue again for a while.

Why didn't the NFL just let it alone?

Do you know how many players either kneeled, sat or raised their fist in the last week of the 2017 season? Twenty, according to ESPN. That's 20 out of 1,472 players, and 10 came from one team: the Seahawks.

The NFL doesn't have a protest issue. But there's a perception that it does. So the NFL felt like it had to address it even though it didn't. This is nothing more than a PR stunt and it's about one thing: money.

Not patriotism. Not the military. Not the flag. It's all about money.

If this really was about showing respect for the anthem then NFL teams would shut down beer stands while the Star-Spangled Banner was being played.

But, see, the NFL had to send a message to its fans. The teams run by mostly rich, old white dudes are worried about offending a fan base that is made up mostly of white dudes. They're worried about the potential connection between the protests and decreased attendance and TV ratings. They're worried that the president is going to keep hammering on this topic, thus keeping it in the news.

So the NFL put out a flimsy policy in a half-baked attempt to tell its upset fans that, "See, we hear you and we're with you.''

And they tried to do it without hurting their relationship with the players and all it ended up doing was hurting their relationship with the players. Then again, Goodell and the owners are smart enough to know that players come and go, but fans stay the same. You can replace players. You can't replace fans.

If it comes down to siding with the players or siding with the fans, the NFL will choose the ones who are paying them instead of the ones they are paying.

The NFL owners see the players as necessarily parts in their money-making scheme. They truly don't care about their players. If they did, you wouldn't have former players such as Bucs linebacker Scot Brantley being denied medical benefits even though he has no clue that he's 60 years old and sees imaginary dogs running through his house. He literally gave his brain to the NFL and the fact that the league is spending any time on deciding what a couple of dozen players are doing during the national anthem is pathetic.

The league not even consulting the players on this protest policy just goes to show how little they care about the players.

To sell this idea that the NFL cares about the anthem, Goodell made it worse by flat-out lying, saying owners were "unanimous" in their stance only to have acting Jets owner Christopher Johnson say he will never fine a player who kneels in protest and owners Jed York of the 49ers and Mark Davis of the Raiders saying they abstained from voting. Then came a report that there wasn't even an official vote taken, but an informal one.

The NFL mishandled this thing since the beginning, so it's no surprise it is bungling it now. It waited so long that no policy was needed and that's when it put a policy in place. And they somehow rushed that and made everyone mad.

Now the whole issue is on the front-burner again when it doesn't need to be.

Kneel? Stand? Sit?

Just thinking about it anymore makes me want to lie down.

Contact Tom Jones at [email protected] Follow @tomwjones.

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