The outrage, hatred, and animosity for President Donald Trump is as real as the plans to have Harriet Tubman’s portrait on the $20 bill. Better yet, it is so real that the NFL and its players, who always seem to be at waring odds with each other, have apparently become a unified front. Not only are NFL owners making statements about the issue, one owner even stepped out of his luxurious suite to join in concert with the players’ protest on the field. As with everything else in the world, you cannot (or should not) take anything at face value. One could argue that President Trump is trying to wage a war against the NFL, or that he is a white supremacist, or whatever other race-fueled point-of-view one could come up with. Put away the axes and crossbows. Don’t kill Trump. He is merely the messenger.
President number 45 is well-known for his off-script ab-libbing when he addresses crowds, like the one in Alabama last Friday night. Just like every President before him, he does have a speech writer. (Almost) Every word, every phrase strategically placed for maximum emphasis. The first paragraph of his transcript is the most telling:
The headline-grabber is the “son of a bitch” line, but let’s look past that for now. Pay attention to “That guy disrespects our flag, he’s fired. And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’re friends of mine, many of them.” Fired from the NFL? That is essentially what has already happened with Colin Kaepernick, for “disrespecting the flag”. It does not make good business sense to sign Kaep. An NFL owner, however, cannot say that to the public. They also cannot make a public warning to the rest of the NFL players about not giving the flag it's proper respect. Insert Trump, the vehicle the NFL owners used to get their message across.
President Trump’s line about being friends with many of the owners is paramount here. The National Football League has always been draped in patriotism. In fact, it is one of its selling points, with the large flags covering the field pre-game, the celebrity singers for the National Anthem, and the jet fly overs. Some studies suggest that the majority of NFL fans lean Republican, who tend to be more patriotic. The NBA suffered a ratings decline last season and it could be argued that it was, in part, because of the strong anti-America vibe it reverberates. NFL ratings are dipping, which Trump alluded to, and if that continues to happen, it would affect the bottom line for the owners. But, once again, they cannot make a public statement of that nature. President Trump was the vehicle for that message.
Most of the owners made statements condemning Trump. Are they all lying to the public? Not necessarily. In a dire case like this, it makes good business sense (yes, this all dwindles down to business, the owners are businessmen) to make pro-player statements. The owners are typically not so pro-player. The league added Thursday games to the schedule, which are not player-friendly, especially coming off of a Sunday game. There was talk years ago about the league adding two more regular season games. Not pro-player. The league has been experimenting with games in London, Canada and Mexico. Considering the rigors of travel, these games are not pro-player.
The owners have always been at odds with the players and the NFLPA, but now they are in harmony? Perhaps both sides are not as united as they appear to be. The media will surely have their eyes on the "son of a bitch" line, but it could be an example of smoke and mirrors. President Trump should garner some ire, but he is merely the middleman relaying a message in this situation.