SBD/October 16, 2017/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Owners Hopeful They Will Receive Help From NFLPA In Ending Anthem Situation

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Many 49ers players have consistently kneeled during the anthem this season
NFL owners are "hopeful" that the NFLPA will "lend its support this week to a measure by which players would stand for the national anthem before games," according to sources cited by Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. Owners are slated to meet tomorrow and Wednesday in N.Y., and NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith and player reps are "scheduled to attend the meeting, at which the raging anthem-protest controversy is to be discussed." Such a step of players agreeing to stand for the anthem potentially could "come in conjunction with the league officially supporting community-related activities important to those players who have had a role in the protests." It is "not clear if such support from the union will be forthcoming." It also is "not clear if the owners will take action to require players to stand for the anthem if the NFLPA does not support such a measure" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/16). On Long Island, Bob Glauber noted NFL owners had "hoped the controversy surrounding player protests during the national anthem would have gone away by now." The debate surrounding the issue "remains intense and the stakes are exceedingly high" (NEWSDAY, 10/15).

GATHERING THE FELLOWSHIP: THE MMQB's Peter King writes this could be a "seminal moment for the tenure" of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. There is "no sense his job will be in trouble if he doesn’t come out of this meeting with a strong proposal the players and clubs will adopt." However, if there is "no significant progress toward an endgame here, I believe some owners could ask by meeting’s end, 'Are we sure we want to extend Goodell’s contract five years?'" Goodell "doesn’t have the kind of political capital with the players, or the players union, to call in any favors to get a deal done." It is a "fractious issue with both owners and players." Usually, Goodell can "get the owners at least mostly on the same page," but "not this time" (SI.com, 10/16). In N.Y., Gary Myers wrote, "It’s the first time I can ever remember anybody from the NFLPA being invited to an owners’ meeting." But the league "has a crisis." Its business is being "adversely impacted by the national anthem protest." There is "nothing that brings together sides that hate each other as much as the league and the union like the loss of revenue" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/15). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio noted the NFL "hopes to resolve the anthem issue" tomorrow, and in order to "ensure that the parties will have enough time to find a solution, the attendance at the meeting will be restricted." A source said that each team will be "permitted to bring two representatives" if they are members of a family that owns the team. Otherwise, "only one will be allowed to attend and participate" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 10/14).

PROTEST IN DECLINE: In DC, Richardson & Paras note the number of on-field protesters is "in decline." After nearly 200 sat or knelt three weeks ago in response to criticism from President Trump, "fewer than a dozen did so on Sunday, an indication that even the players may be ready to move on." 49ers S Eric Reid "signaled Sunday that he was ready to make a deal." Reid: "My hope is that the NFL will be progressive and utilize their platform to bring awareness to these issues for us so we don’t have to protest anymore. That would be the ultimate goal for me going into these meetings" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/16). In DC, Valerie Richardson writes, "You know the NFL take-a-knee protests have lost their oomph when even the San Francisco 49ers can only muster seven kneelers" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/16). In New Orleans, Amos Morale III notes fans "booed" the Saints players who "knelt before the presentation of the American flag and the singing of the national anthem Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 10/16).

KEEPING UP WITH THE JONES: In Dallas, Jon Machota notes Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones' concern surrounding protests is that "too much attention could ultimately turn fans away from the NFL." Jones on Friday said, "We have a chance of damaging not just the game, but in this particular case, the Cowboys franchise. Let's come up with ways that we really can give a message about police brutality or we can give a message about disparity. We can give those messages, but we won't be able to give it if we're not as substantive as we are, and this flag issue is taking away from how substantive we are" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/14). CBSSPORTS.com's Jason La Canfora noted players were "surprised Jones became the voice of the anti-protest movement, considering they had been standing, and when Jones intimated he was taking cues" from Trump, "emotions began to boil." One agent said, "This wasn't something that was dominating conversations in that locker room up until this week" (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/15). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel cited a source as saying that the morning after the Cowboys locked arms and took a knee before the national anthem in Arizona, they were "overwhelmed with phone calls from irate fans." The source said that there were phone calls "numbering in the thousands" and they were in "excess of 2,000 the first week." The angry calls "continued last week, but the number was decreasing" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 10/14). 

SURVEY SAYS
: In Seattle, Geoff Baker writes there is "mounting evidence the league's brand is taking a significant hit." N.Y.-based consulting firm Brand Keys last week "conducted its own survey of roughly 1,200 avid NFL fans in nine major markets nationwide to gauge the impact" of protests. The results showed about 50% "felt the NFL should make players stand," about 21% "said it’s OK." The remaining 29% "didn’t care" (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/16).

HAS THE POINT BEEN MADE? Asked about owners discussing the protests this week, Broncos LB Brandon Marshall said, "It’s just a money thing. They don’t want [to] lose sponsorships, potentially lose money from TV ads, I don’t know, the military, all of that. That’s really what it is. They’re trying to protect their business, which is one thing I do understand." Marshall said if players were not allowed to protest, they would likely work more visibly in the community instead, but "how much an impact would it have attention-wise?" Marshall: "The anthem has gotten everyone’s attention in the whole United States, if not the world maybe. Every time we do something in the community, you guys (media) might tweet it out, might say something, but it doesn’t get national attention. The anthem protest is very controversial. That’s what sells newspapers, the controversy and the drama. Which is why [Colin] Kaepernick thought it was the perfect platform, which it was" (DENVER POST, 10/14). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes fans are the "indisputable, irreplaceable source of the NFL’s life and blood." And if players continue to "disenfranchise them with preposterous statements and conduct, that lifeblood is going to run dry." Protesting players have "made their selective points." But now they are "attacking the fair-minded sense and sensibilities of their best friends and benefactors -- the fans" (N.Y. POST, 10/16).
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