The NFL, undoubtedly, is great at providing all-day entertainment every autumn Sunday.
But the same league has proven poor at providing sensible, cohesive policy on a variety of critical topics over the last few years.
First, it was the seemingly make-it-up-as-you-go-along method of punishing athletes accused of domestic abuse.
Now, it’s the newly issued and misguided rules regarding how teams and players should conduct themselves during the playing of our national anthem.
If you missed the new guide lines from the league office and its 32 sometimes clueless owners, the official policy now is those on the field must stand for the anthem. If they don’t want to do that, they can stay in their locker room.
From the NFL’s perspective, it’s safe from a legal standpoint in that it’s not forcing the few players who prefer kneeling to partake in a display they want no part of. At the same time, the league now has a rule to satisfy fans and advertisers offended by prior anthem antics that became highly publicized after former quarterback Colin Kaepernick began sitting in 2016, then later kneeling to protest racial injustice.
We must say we would greatly prefer if everyone stood at attention for the anthem, with hand over heart in reverence for the red, white and blue and all those who have made and continue to make sacrifices for our freedom.
And we don’t blame some for being offended by millionaire athletes who have used the anthem to make a political point.
But we didn’t need this rule.
The stand/take-a-knee controversy had mostly subsided by the end of last season. In fact, we don’t remember a mention of it during the entire playoffs.
The owners moved to protect their interests, however, because even a fading controversy might lead to some lost revenue.
So, in their infinite wisdom, they instituted a new policy with the potential to reignite the controversy all over again.
Instead of cameras trained on a few players or just one kneeling during the anthem, they will now be waiting for those who jog out of the locker room after they skipped it.
We also must say the move to outlaw kneeling is confusing, as we remember Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones holding hands and kneeling with his players as a show of unity before the anthem last year.
It was OK then because the boss did it but not now?
The real answer here is to move beyond simple sideline acts.
If players are serious about addressing racial injustice, police brutality and topics of that ilk, and we truly believe many of them are, they need to follow the example of someone such as Malcolm Jenkins of the Philadelphia Eagles.
He’s establishing dialogues with local police leaders so they have a better understanding of what the black community is thinking and feeling. That kind of work will create much more improvement than taking a knee.
Owners, who ask players to essentially risk their lives 16 times every year, have to put some skin into the game as well.
They didn’t consult with the NFLPA union before enacting the anthem policy, and they should have. Instead of potentially alienating some of their employees, the owners should meet with the players upset about racial issues and ask them if they could cooperate on projects within the community.
If the players knew owners were sympathetic to their cause and willing to help, we have the feeling anthem protests would vanish fast.
— Times Leader