As I would say in my circle of friends, the NFL has been taking loss after loss. From the ridiculous scandal of “deflategate,” the inaction of domestic violence and complete misunderstanding and mishandling of concussions, the NFL has taken a beaten.
Then, President Donald Trump nearly knocked out the NFL. The scoreboard would read: Trump 1, NFL 0 with a caption of “Trump wins narrowly, but the NFL never had a chance.”
The recent anthem controversy didn’t spark into a raging wildfire until the president uttered, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired. He’s fired!” at a rally in Alabama. The crowd cheered loudly and proudly — it was music to their ears. Those words prompted an immediate response from the sports world, including NFL players, athletes from other leagues and even Trump supporting figures like New England Patriots owner, Robert Kraft.
It was yet another controversy for the Trump administration, and yet, Trump had everything under control.
That Sunday, owners, coaches and players took their chance to make their statement — and boy, did they. In all, more than 130 players illustrated their response to the president by kneeling, sitting or holding their fists in the air. Even in England, protests took place during the singing of the “Star Spangled Banner.” Ironically, they stood for “God Save the Queen.”
What followed was unprecedented. Fans weren’t just unhappy — they were furious. Some plotted to boycott the NFL while others burned hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise. News media went haywire. Everyone on Twitter and Facebook had an opinion. It was a firestorm. The NFL was on the verge of disaster and Trump knew this along — that is why he was able to make those remarks in the first place.
Meanwhile, the NFL was in panic mode and had to answer this important question: What were the Sunday protests really for? From sports radio to cable news, the arguments differed. For some, it was because Colin Kaepernick is still unemployed. Others said it was about the racial injustice. And others pointed out it was a direct response to Trump’s comments. The Sunday before Trump’s comments, only four players kneeled and two raised their fists. A week later, after Trump’s comments, more than 130 displayed an action.
The president continued to pound out tweets and stubbornly stood firm on his opinion that players must stand for the anthem. The American people shared the same thoughts — politics and sports don’t mix well. On top of that, the protest displayed “disrespect” to the American flag, the national anthem and the military. It was unpatriotic and fans were irate.
According to a CNN poll, 49 percent of adults said the players did the wrong thing, while 43 percent said that are doing the right thing. According a Fox News poll, 55 percent find the kneeling inappropriate, but that’s down six percent from the previous year. The gap isn’t as massive as one would think, but President Trump, once again, had the ear of the American people.
The NFL and its players gave in and had no choice. The president had unofficially won the PR and political battle. ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr. and Seth Wickersham reported the league was in crisis following the Sunday protests. The combination of public outrage, the president’s reigning tweets and position and players’ resolve to fight back proved too much — and the NFL just wanted an out. The elite owners feared not the loss of fans, or friendship with President Trump, but financial loses. The league — worth billions — was afraid of losing a couple of million dollars. They realized the protests were doing way more damage than good. President Trump didn’t have to do anything else. It was over.
This was illustrated this past weekend when the majority of players stood, and those few who kneeled were met with heavy boos. Depending which game you watched, each team approached it differently. Some teams, like the New Orleans Saints and Jacksonville Jaguars, kneeled in unison before the anthem was sung, while others, like the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, locked arms during the anthem. Some got creative and wore t-shirts like the Indianapolis Colts or created a Justice Fund like the Seattle Seahawks.
Just like that it was over. Sweet, sweet victory for the president.
Steven Jotterand ([email protected]) is a junior studying journalism.