The aftermath of the NFL national anthem protest has not been good for the football league.
Disgruntled fans, low ratings, and very public fights have lowered the public opinion of the NFL to record lows. Now the owners in the league are attempting to take control.
Multiple reports from teams across the league indicate that team owners and management are cracking down on anthem protesters. The Miami Dolphins head coach has ordered his team to stand, according to IJR reporting:
Dolphins head coach, Adam Gase, implemented a policy on Sunday, October 8 that required players to stand for the national anthem or they can stay in the locker room.
The Dolphins owner, Steve Ross, said the reason for his policy is that President Donald Trump has changed what started as a social injustice protest into a patriotism debate and it’s better for players to stand now.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had this to say about the protests (emphasis added):
“If there is anything disrespecting the flag, then we will not play. Period. We’re going to respect the flag and I’m going to create the perception of it. […]
“I know this. We cannot in the NFL, in any way, give the implication that we tolerate disrespecting the flag. We cannot do that. I know the vice president did leave because in his opinion, the teams were. We know that there is a serious debate in this country about those issues. But there is no question in my mind that the National Football League and the Dallas Cowboys are going to stand up for the flag. Just so we’re clear.”
Now, reports from players around the league match what some owners are indicating publicly.
According to The Root, who spoke with multiple NFL players on background, teams have ordered players to stand for the anthem. Players who wish to protest do so at their own career peril. The report indicates that many players are “scared” to protest, especially if they are not starters, “People have to feed they family,” the one member of the coaching staff says.
“They didn’t say what would happen,” said one NFL linebacker who plays for one of eight teams whose owners donated to Trump’s presidential campaign. “But they let us know that we are expected to stand during the anthem.”
Another player texted that after Trump made his remarks last week, his coach informed players that they would make one demonstration as a team, and they would be done with it. According to the player, “Certain players were allowed to speak on it after the game last week and then they said the case was closed. Whoever did something after then was doing it as an individual and they always say ain’t no room for individuals here.”
One member of an NFL coaching staff said the general manager asked the position coaches (who are often the lowest-ranked coaches but have the most contact with the players) to “feel out” which players might be thinking of taking a knee and to “talk to them.”
“Out of all the players you see taking a knee, there are probably three times as many who want to do it but are scared. If you ain’t a one or two at your position (meaning a first- or second-string player) you ain’t doing it. People have to feed they family,” he said.
It seems, in this battle, Trump has indeed won.