President Donald Trump prematurely claimed victory Wednesday in his culture war against the NFL, claiming in a tweet that commissioner Roger Goodell is now “demanding” players stand for the pregame national anthem.
Of course, the NFL commissioner has not banned players from taking a knee, as Trump claimed — at least not yet.
On Tuesday, Goodell released a memo informing team owners that the anthem protests and the underlying social issues they raise would be a topic of conversation at an upcoming league meeting.
While Goodell says in the memo that “everyone should stand for the national anthem,” he also wrote that the “controversy over the anthem is a barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues,” suggesting he may plan to give players an “in-season platform” to discuss issues important to them.
While a pretty milquetoast attempt to draw the controversial protests to an end in the name of “unity,” it is not as extreme as the caps-heavy, draconian crackdown Trump has portrayed it as.
“It is about time that Roger Goodell of the NFL is finally demanding that all players STAND for our great National Anthem — RESPECT OUR COUNTRY,” Trump tweeted.
Trump started this all in September, when he said at a rally that “son-of-a-bitch” players protesting during the national anthem should be fired.
The NFL immediately responded, with Goodell wagging his finger at the president’s “divisive” comments and calling for “unity.”
But in the eyes of many, the focus on “unity” quickly diluted the original message of the protest, which was police brutality and racial injustice.
Nevertheless, Trump has continued to put pressure on the league, having Vice President Mike Pence attend and leave early an Indianapolis Colts game where players protested.
While none of this has yet resulted in the NFL outright prohibiting the protests, Trump can perhaps take credit for convincing at least one owner to take action against those “son-of-a-bitch” athletes.
“If there’s anything that is disrespectful to the flag, then we will not play,” Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones — who knelt with his team before the anthem in September in an apparently empty show of solidarity — said after Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers. “If we are disrespecting the flag, then we will not play, period.”