Jed York Speaks Out On Protests, Says Owners Should Listen To, Learn From NFL Players
49ers CEO Jed York on Thursday emphasized that this week's NFL owners' meeting in N.Y. was meant to "focus on listening and learning rather than some sort of negotiation intended to get players to stand for the national anthem in exchange for something," according to Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com. York said, "The owners were very clear in our meeting with just players and owners that this is not a trade. This is not, 'We're going to do this for you and quid pro quo, you stand up.' That was not there. From a players' standpoint, I don't think that they want to give up their First Amendment rights for any amount of money or any amount of support for things from a social standpoint." He added, "We want to have a better partnership and a better understanding of one another to say, 'We would like to get back to just playing football.' I don't think anybody should be ashamed of saying that because our fans are telling you we want to get back to football. But our players are saying, 'We want our message to be heard clearly and loudly,' and that's what we're trying to figure out" (ESPN.com, 10/19). Asked if the 49ers had sponsors who were upset about players protesting, York said, "We certainly heard some of that from people. But I’ll say in full honesty our bottom line has been hurt much more by bad coaching hires and decisions by me" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 10/20). THE ATHLETIC's Tim Kawakami wrote while York has had "nowhere near" the amount of influence on the league as Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones has, the other NFL owners "need a voice like York's out there." York has always "seen himself as somebody who could help lead the NFL to a different kind of mindset." Kawakami: "The league needs more of Jed, at least publicly, and less of Jerry, and I think the other owners have sensed this" (THEATHLETIC.com, 10/19).
STILL ON THEIR MINDS: Steelers President Art Rooney II said that pregame demonstrations by players during the anthem have "dwindled to less than a dozen, one of the reasons the NFL decided not to enforce a mandate" that would require all players stand. Rooney: "Why pick a fight where it looks like we don’t need to pick a fight? I think having this dialogue with players has given them a level of understanding we are willing to talk about this." Rooney also said that the league’s "progressive decision to support programs that will effect social change ... has already occurred in Pittsburgh where several Steelers players have had discussions with local law enforcement officials." Meanwhile, Rooney said there is "no doubt" the protests had a negative impact on the game (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 10/20). In N.Y., Costello & Willis note Jets Chair & CEO Christopher Johnson met with a few of his team’s veteran players on Thursday to "continue a dialogue for making an impact" on social issues. Johnson attended the meeting in N.Y. on Tuesday when several owners, players and league officials "discussed the issues." Johnson was said to be "encouraged by what he heard and wanted more feedback from his own team" (N.Y. POST, 10/20).
TWO SIDES TO A STORY: In West Palm Beach, Dave George writes, "The cynic in me says that the NFL will do anything and say anything to make this all anthem anxiety go away." It "hurts the league’s brand" and makes corporate sponsors "nervous." A good CEO understands that his product is "being reviewed all the time." He would be "foolish to trust only the positive reviews." He would be "smart to display real concern when a crack is found in the basic machinery of his business." It is why NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was in South Florida last week to join Dolphins WR Kenny Stills, S Michael Thomas and TE Julius Thomas on their "visits to two schools and the North Miami Police Department." George: "You can be certain that the commissioner highlighted this experience at the league meetings, and that the players shared with their peers in the Dolphins locker room and elsewhere what they saw and heard from Goodell" (PALM BEACH POST, 10/20).
TIME TO OPINE: A Bergen RECORD editorial states that the NFL "doesn’t always do the right thing," but this week "it did." The league "had a choice: bow to political pressure" from President Trump or "respect the rights of players to choose whether to stand or kneel during the national anthem." The league "chose liberty over tweets." Standing for the anthem is an "appropriate sign of respect." The editorial: "Yet we also believe standing, kneeling and sitting are all choices." It is "illogical to argue that individuals should be forced to stand for an anthem and flag symbolizing freedom of speech" (Bergen RECORD, 10/20). In Charlotte, Tom Sorensen writes to tell players that they "can’t quietly call attention to injustice by taking a knee makes no sense." Sorensen: "You might not like what they do but on what grounds do you deny their right to protest peacefully?" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 10/20). In DC, Wesley Pruden writes NFL owners have "consulted their playbook and think they can run out the clock." The owners met in N.Y. to "reassure each other that the declining attendance and sinking television ratings are nothing to worry about." Once upon a time the owners could "rely on their players to 'do the right thing.'" Now it is up to the "paying public to drop the flag, and empty seats and falling television ratings will exact the proper penalties." The players should be "welcome to stay on their knees for as long as they like" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/20).