Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports

NFL reporters reported kneeling ban as 'compromise,' even though players weren't involved in decision

Alex Reimer
May 23, 2018 - 2:26 pm

The NFL’s de-facto ban on kneeling during the national anthem was first reported as a compromise. Except, the players weren’t consulted before the policy was enacted. It’s the latest indication that players, while touted as the owners’ partners, are nothing more than pawns.

When news about the kneeling policy first broke Wednesday, NFL Media’s Judy Battista labeled the edict a “compromise.” Her colleague, Ian Rapoport, called it “not perfect,” but a “compromise” nonetheless.

The policy, of course, doesn’t look like a compromise at all. Players are expected to stand on the field during the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Any player who shows “disrespect” towards the flag and anthem will leave their team subject to fines.

In classic NFL fashion, the definition of “disrespect” is vague. Steelers owner Art Rooney says he thinks raising fists or linking arms wouldn’t be appropriate under the new policy, which is strange, considering that’s what several owners did last year to show their shallow support for the hollow cause of “unity.”

Teams can also set their own anthem protocols, and players who don’t want to stand will be permitted to stay in the locker room. Maybe that’s the compromise NFL reporters were referencing, at least among owners. But the NFL Players’ Association doesn’t seem to view it that way.

“The NFL chose not to consult the union in the development of this new ‘policy,’” the NFLPA’s statement reads.

Last season, NFL owners acted as if they would act in concert with the players to address this issue. The league did announce a plan to donate $100 million to social justice organizations, but some clairvoyant players rightfully saw the pledge as a ploy to keep them silent. Safety Eric Reid, one of the first players who knelt, called the announcement a “charade.” The 26-year-old Pro Bowler is now out a job, and is suing the league for collision alongside Colin Kaepernick. 

The owners’ disingenuousness was recognizable from the start. Kaepernick was not invited the owner-player summit in Manhattan last fall, even though the entire issue centers around him. The owners danced around Kaepernick’s unemployment several times during the meeting, per audio recordings obtained by the New York Times.

When President Trump first dubbed protesting players as “sons of bitches,” almost every NFL owner issued a statement condemning his words. But in a telling sign, none of them mentioned racial injustice and police brutality, the issues the players were actually protesting. Instead, they talked about “unity” –– whatever that means.

In turn, commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners were praised as social justice warriors. Goodell was even on the cover of Sports Illustrated, locked arm-in-arm with LeBron James and Steph Curry.

It should come as no surprise the owners’ protest ban was also first presented as something it is not. 

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