Social commentary may be a 15-yard penalty in the future.
In an effort to end one of the worst PR nightmares in the history of the NFL, rich, old white guys are put their toupees together to solve the kneeling crisis.
At the NFL owner's meeting in Atlanta, Albert Breer of The Monday Morning Quarterback reported that the NFL is considering a variety of measures to provide a final answer to its players kneeling at attention for the national anthem. One scenario included the home team would decide to send out all players for the National Anthem, and if the visiting team does not comply it will be assessed a 15-yard penalty.
Instead, the NFL announced a new policy that requires players and staffers to stand at attention during the national anthem, but gives players the option to remain in the locker room. A team can fine a player/employee if they do not show "'appropriate respect" for the anthem, i.e. kneel or sit.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told reporters after the meeting, "We know our fans want us to zero in on football."
If that is the case, there is one solution: Stop playing the National Anthem before football games. The debate will end. We will zero in on football.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters at a press conference today: "I think the general public has a very good feel for what respect for the flag is."
We sure do; as long as we stand during the playing of the national anthem, we can also stare at our phones, wait in line to buy a hot dog or beer, or mill about a concourse. All of that covers respecting the flag.
The intent of playing the national anthem, which legend says began in 1918 when during a baseball game a band played The Star Spangled Banner, is wonderful. In 1918, America was in The Great War.
It's 2018, and only our military is at war. Americans should, but don't, feel the pinch of war the way society did during WWI and WWII. Military families feel the commitment, and the strain of their soldiers fighting in the Middle East, but ordinary Americans do not.
Ceasing with the national anthem is change, and any time there is change people will whine and complain but this 2-minute blast of pretend patriotism does nothing to enhance the experience of attending a game. It does nothing to tighten our bond as Americans.
The only event that provides we Americans true unification is tragedy.
The national anthem has become a prop bet in Las Vegas; how long a National Anthem lasts often features an over/under at sports books. That's American patriotism.
Yes, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started quite the stir when he took a knee to protest not the flag, but the treatment of black U.S. citizens by law enforcement officials.
He was never protesting the military, or the flag. But we don't know that any more.
While some of his rhetoric is misguided and over-reaching - he was embarrassingly in over his head when he defended Fidel Castro - Kaepernick began an effort to shed light on an issue that most of us white dudes were ignorant. Most people still don't care.
Last season, the NFL was awash in the "flag controversy," which President Donald J. Trump only happily extended with populist rhetoric for his supporters who simply can't stand the idea of taking a knee during the national anthem.
The issue was a constant distraction, and annoyance, for owners whose primary concern is not the Super Bowl but cash flow. Protesting players alienates customers, and hurts the wallet.
As evidenced by the Philadelphia Eagles, who made social commentary a priority, it had no effect on winning games. They won the Super Bowl.
The NFL can propose new rules for the national anthem, but as long as it's played a player can take a knee. Even if it means 15 yards. Or ostracization from his teammates. His league. His community.
That is the sacrifice of defiance.
There is one true way to end something that should never have been an issue in the first place, and to zero in on football: Don't play the national anthem.