The NFL has had its fair share of controversies over the years, but arguably little can compare to its current politically charged controversy that has received a constant stream of coverage this year: players taking a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality. The movement, started by Colin Kaepernick, once had everyone from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to team owners, players and coaches locked in arms demonstrating their unity, but has since become divided, causing a shift in positions amongst players, coaches and fans.
Because the National Football League did not have a strong level of internal communication and didn’t immediately issue a statement of their own, time was allowed for owners, coaches and players to take matters into their own hands. With many coaches and players making their own statements, clashing messages began to skew a once unified stance.
In light of fans’ expressed disappointment with players who knelt during the anthem and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ statement of intent to bench any player who “disrespected the flag,” commissioner Goodell seemed to change his stance on the issue. Previously arguing that players had the right to voice their individual opinions, Goodell later changed his position in a letter sent to team owners stating, “like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for that national anthem.”
Contrasting Goodell and Jones’ recent position, the NFL Players Association issued its own statement defending players’ free expression. “We should not stifle these discussions and cannot allow our rights to become subservient to the very opinions our Constitution protects,” the union said.
In October, NFL owners and players met at league headquarters to discuss the controversial issue. The meeting lasted for several hours, and was described as “constructive” and positive,” but did not result in policy changes or even a seemingly unified view.
Further exacerbating the problem, Kaepernick’s attorney said he would be filing a grievance against the NFL and team owners for colluding to keep Kaepernick out of the league. Proving collusion would be difficult, but even without a lawsuit, the NFL still has to deal with a controversy that could continue to grow thanks to a persistent lack of cohesion and Kaepernick’s accusations.
The 5 Biggest PR Flops of 2017:
#3: National Football League and the National Anthem