Several NFL Teams Anticipate Protests During The National Anthem To Start Winding Down
There are signs that some NFL players and coaches are "ready to move on from their anthem-related gestures" after just one week, according to Howard Fendrich of the AP. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, whose entire team except for Army veteran Alejandro Villanueva stayed in the locker room during the anthem on Sunday, said, "Moving forward, we will be on the field." Falcons coach Dan Quinn said, "I would anticipate maybe this one was stronger this week than it’s ever been, because [President Trump’s] comments affected people on such a different level. We haven’t talked about it further as a team, but my initial response would be it would settle more back down." Fendrich noted other players and coaches "indicated that their teams would discuss as a group how they want to proceed next weekend during the anthem." However, there seemed to be a "sentiment that fewer people would participate" (AP, 9/25). Raiders OT Donald Penn said, "I’m not going to do it again next week. I didn’t want to do it this week. This all had to do with President Trump’s comments. That’s the only reason that we did that" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/26). Cardinals DE Frostee Rucker said that he is "ready to move past the protests and 'focus on football,' but that he understands the gravity of the moment." In Phoenix, Greg Moore writes it is "unlikely that the protests will ever have as much momentum" as they did over the weekend and into last night (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 9/26). NFL Network's Ian Rapoport noted fans are "likely to see far fewer shows of unity and protests next week, although I'd expect some teams to continue it, perhaps continuing to lock arms” ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 9/25). In Boston, Ben Volin in a front-page piece notes several Patriots players on Sunday said that they "expect the demonstrations to be a one-time thing" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/26).
UNION NOT PLANNING ANYTHING: NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported the NFLPA "isn't planning any calls and not trying to organize anything on a wide-spread basis going into this week." The union instead wants the"players to take the lead." Protests likely will be determined "team-by-team as we move forward here." Bills LB Lorenzo Alexander said that demonstrating last week was a "one-off for him," but he "believes there will be other players who continue to raise a fist, take a knee, whatever it takes for them" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 9/25). In DC, Mark Maske noted the "verbal barrage" by Trump over the last few days has "put the NFL players, for once, on the same side of an issue" as Commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners. However, it "wasn’t all smooth." The NFLPA denied a report that Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith "spoke with Goodell on Saturday about how to respond to Trump’s comments." But for the most part, this was the "rare occasion when the league and players spoke with practically the same voice" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/25).
OWNERS ONE AND DONE? Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones led the team in its on-field demonstration last night against the Cardinals, but in N.Y., Ken Belson writes team owners "locking arms with their players on the sidelines" in Week 3 may be a "short-lived" public demonstration of unity and support. While it is too early to know if the protests will continue, and in what form, Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan said that he "would not continue the practice in the coming weeks." Khan was the first owner to be seen linking arms with his players on the sidelines prior to Sunday's game against the Ravens in London, but he said, "I’m not a crusader, but this was a Rosa Parks moment for the Jaguars. I do not plan any future sideline appearances." Belson notes the owners’ decision to go with the players "struck some as a fallback to protecting the league brand, embodied in its ubiquitous shield emblem with the American flag motif." While some of the owners said that they "support the players’ right to speak out, they also worry about a backlash and recognize that many spectators object to protests during the national anthem" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/26). Comedy Central's Trevor Noah said, "It was important that the weekend’s protests included not just the NFL players, but the owners too, because when you think about how powerful this is, a lot of these owners supported Donald Trump. So you know it hurts his whole crux to see them taking the players side in this standoff” (“The Daily Show,” Comedy Channel, 9/25).
ALL EYES ON TRUMP: PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio noted the NFL "believes and hopes that the President will move on to other things, allowing the NFL and its players to focus on the efforts that previously had begun to create and advance a dialogue between players and law enforcement and to engage in other efforts aimed at improving their communities." The goal is to "continue to move from protest to progress." However, that assumes Trump will stop "talking and tweeting about anthem protests." If he keeps it up, the league and the players "will feel compelled to continue to respond" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 9/25). The MMQB’s Robert Klemko predicted more teams will decide they would "rather sit out the anthem, as teams did pre-2009." But if Trump "continues to lob schoolyard insults at black athletes and use racist dog-whistle terms like 'ungrateful multi-millionaires,' I think you'll see much of the same" as was seen during Week 3. Klemko: "If he turns his focus to the job he was elected to do, or at least points his social media ire at some other entity, I think the tenor and volume of the protests will return to what they were last week -- an earnest few hoping to create a national conversation about police brutality and racial inequality" (SI.com, 9/26). Patriots OT Nate Solder said it was a "tough situation" for all players on deciding how to approach the national anthem. Solder: "I don’t think any of us wanted to get involved with that. I think that it was kind of put on us (by Trump)" (BOSTON HERALD, 9/26).