Bills players kneel in protest during the national anthem before a game.

Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports

Baffoe: NFL & Its Ironically American National Anthem Decision

The league took an abandoned bee hive and refilled it with bees.

May 24, 2018 - 11:00 am
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By Tim Baffoe--

(670 The Score) On Wednesday, Milwaukee police released video of officers tasing and tackling Bucks guard Sterling Brown back in January. Charges against Brown for resisting arrest had been dropped the week after the arrest, and the video shows Brown wasn't being "combative," as was reported at the time. The officers "acted inappropriately" and have been disciplined, Milwaukee's police chief said. Brown plans on filing a civil rights lawsuit.

On Wednesday at City Hall in Chicago, members of the Fraternal Order of Police protested Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the police board that determines disciplinary matters for police accused of wrongdoing. The board is currently reviewing the case of suspended officer Robert Rialmo, who killed mentally ill Quintonio Legrier and bystander Bettie Jones in a shooting that the mayor’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability ruled in December to be unjustified. Prior to the City Council meeting in which protesting cops and counterprotesters gathered, some aldermen proposed renaming Balbo Drive downtown after Ida B. Wells-Barnett, an African-American investigative journalist who worked to shine a spotlight on American lynchings.

On Wednesday, the NFL owners voted unanimously (with one abstention) to require all players on the field before games to stand and "show respect" for the national anthem. Any player on the field during the anthem who doesn't stand or demonstrates in a way deemed disrespectful to the song or flag or anything else about the political pregame ceremony may cause his team to be fined an as-yet-unspecified amount, and commissioner Roger Goodell has the power to punish individuals as he sees fit. Players are allowed to choose to not be on the field during the anthem, but each team is allowed to establish its own work rules regarding that.

On Wednesday, this was America. Irony and all. 

"We are dedicated to continuing our collaboration with players to advance the goals of justice and fairness in all corners of our society," Goodell said in a statement.

"The efforts by many of our players sparked awareness and action around issues of social justice that must be addressed."

The predominant issue that protesting players of the last two seasons were drawing awareness and action toward was police violence against civilians, particularly those unarmed, particularly those of color. Goodell sort of acknowledges this yet at the same time is now stifling the efforts.

"The platform that we have created together is certainly unique in professional sports and quite likely in American business," Goodell said.

This would ignore the platform used by players in the WNBA and in other sports leagues to demonstrate during the pregame ceremonies, but the NFL doesn’t ever recognize that other sports leagues exist and doesn’t have to as King of Sports Mountain.

Meanwhile, speaking of American business, the Supreme Court on Monday ruled that businesses can stop non-union workers from joining together in disputing cases of wage theft and workplace discrimination. Luckily, the NFL players at least have a union that collectively bargains for them. Except when the owners don’t care about that and pass a rule like this anthem one without consulting the NFLPA.

"The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new 'policy,'" the union said in a statement. "NFL players have shown their patriotism through their social activism, their community service, in support of our military and law enforcement and yes, through their protests to raise awareness about the issues they care about.

"The vote by NFL club CEOs today contradicts the statements made to our player leadership by commissioner Roger Goodell and the chairman of the NFL’s Management Council John Mara about the principles, values and patriotism of our league."

With the Supreme Court apparently also close to leveling a massive blow to public unions anyway, it would seem Goodell is also wrong about the new NFL rule being unique to American business.

"It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic," Goodell went on. "This is not and was never the case."

Goodell acknowledges that people engaging in protest over serious social issues -- even while people gear up for large men to injure one another by first watching an organization swimming in cash co-opt the military -- isn’t unpatriotic. That’s refreshingly-

Ah, the next paragraph.

"This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem," Goodell said. "Personnel who choose not to stand for the anthem may stay in the locker room until after the anthem has been performed."

Oh, and remember next Friday is Hawaiian shirt day.

"We believe today's decision will keep our focus on the game and the extraordinary athletes who play it -- and on our fans who enjoy it," he said.

Who is "our"? If Goodell and the owners he works for wanted the focus to be on the game and players, they could have just left well-enough alone. Anthem protests weren’t going to be a controversy in 2018, but the league has decided to take an abandoned bee hive and refill it with bees and shake it and tell the bees to buzz elsewhere if they so choose.

"They didn’t first talk to (the NFLPA), which makes me think they just want to push us around," an anonymous player told Pro Football Weekly.

"I am not sure if they have to do that, but what’s the harm in talking to the union before making this a rule?" another said.

"It’s clear (the owners are) trying to divide us," said another.

Players told PFW that plans are in the works on how to respond to the league’s decree, which includes maybe continuing to link arms or raise fists as some players (and owners) did last season.

That would make Cowboys owner Jerry Jones disrespectful and already foreshadows problems with subjectivity. Then again, the new NFL rule makes no sense beyond an unnecessary exorbitant wielding of power to ensure the players don’t compromise a dollar of revenue and that comfort of the status quo supersedes marginalized people.

"I’m not trying to diminish issues of rights here, but the No. 1 thing is our fans, and I know our fans want us to zero in on the game, zero in on football," Jones said Tuesday, a day before the new ruling.

Also on Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives took four-and-a-half hours to approve a bill "to provide for programs to help reduce the risk that prisoners will recidivate upon release from prison, and for other purposes." Proceedings on the bill were for a time postponed as Congress zeroed in on whether to allow "the use of the Capitol Grounds for the Greater Washington Soap Box Derby."

How American.

Tim Baffoe is a columnist for 670TheScore.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not Entercom or our affiliated radio stations.​​​

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