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The NFL Played Themselves And Lost

Anthem Kneeling by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY SA-2.0

The NFL Played Themselves And Lost

Estimated Reading Time: 9 Minutes

On Monday Night, my fiancée and I had an engagement party. We’re pretty low-key people, so having a relaxed hang out at a beer garden around the corner seemed like the perfect place to have it. Of course, because being in a Broadway show means most of my nights are spoken for, Monday is my only free day of relaxation, rest and usually, sports.

As our friends all arrived and pitchers of beer were ordered, our favorite socially conscious Turf writer Ned walks up to me and shows me his phone.  On the screen is an NFL App notification:

[media-credit name=”Katie Pierce” align=”aligncenter” width=”1242″][/media-credit]

I clocked the information, sighed deeply and uttered something like “stupid” or “moron” or whatever.

Football hasn’t been on my mind lately for a number of reasons. First, it’s June. The month that is known for “bustin’ out all over” and “huckin’ the bajeepers” brings the NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals and pre-All Star Break Baseball. With all of that swirling around, why would I care about mini-camp and OTAs? I barely cared about the draft. In a text thread I’m in, someone posted an article criticizing Tom Brady of doing the minimum required at Patriots Mini-Camp. Do you know what’s required at Mini-Camp? THE MINIMUM. BECAUSE IT’S JUNE. (June, June, June.)

Anyway, we’re having a nice time at the beer garden. Lots of smiles, reminiscing, inside jokes, pictures of kids, well-wishing, etc. It was a lovely night. On the way home, my fiancée and I order tacos. We watch an episode of Arrested Development and then it’s off to bed. We snuggled up with our dog, Alfie, and awaited the SleepyTime Express to Dreamland.

And then my phone buzzes. Because of this:

I was having a nice night. I was enjoying my night off with my friends, my dog, and my fiancée. I was having a great time, until this. I got out of bed, grabbed my glasses, my computer and just when my hand hit the knob of our bedroom door, my fiancée said: “where are you going?” I looked at the floor, then to her and as if I was in an action movie said:

“I have to write about how dumb everyone is being.”

So that was 420 words about how I got to this place. Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty, shall we?

Let’s start by setting some ground rules. I’m going to say one thing very quickly, and then we’re going to not talk about it. Good for the Philadelphia Eagles. Yes, only 9 of them were going to attend. Still, this is a solid move, and if the President would like honest loyalty from his NFL players maybe he shouldn’t step all over their freedoms, huh? Maybe? Maybe that? For those of you saying that this is a disrespectful move, here’s the door. If you win a Super Bowl, you have all the right in the world to not do whatever you want. I mean, Tim Thomas refused to go to the White House in 2011 after winning the Stanley Cup, and he was lauded as a right-wing celebrity. You cannot have it both ways, guys. Pick a lane.

Speaking of picking a lane, let’s get to what I’m really upset about and that’s the NFL these past few weeks.

The NFL Made A Mistake

So, if you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks you may have missed this big announcement from the NFL.

“NFL owners approved a new national anthem policy Wednesday that gives individual teams the authority to set their own anthem-related rules and permits players to remain in the locker room during the playing of the anthem, according to a person familiar with the deliberations.

The new policy eliminates the current requirement from the league’s game operations manual for a player to be on the field for the playing of the anthem, allowing a player to remain in the locker room. Teams would then have the ability to set their own policy for players who choose to take the field for the anthem, including the ability to discipline a player for any protest during the national anthem.

Teams would not have the ability to force players to take the field for the anthem, however.

The new policy also is expected to contain a clause that the league could fine a team for any protest by a player on the sideline during the anthem, according to a person familiar with the owners’ deliberations. Any team that wants to allow players to protest would have to be willing to pay a potential fine by the league.” – Washington Post

The Turf has always been on the side of the players, who are exercising their first amendment rights to free speech, and we will continue to be on their side, because it’s the right side of history here, people. What are we doing?

If you don’t follow us on Facebook, go give us a “like”, and secondly, check out the White Nationalist that came and spewed their hate on our page. Go take a look at the absolute nonsense they came to the table with and tell me who’s on the right side here. Shoutout and a hat tip to all those that came to the defense of common sense.

However, I bring this to your attention for a reason.

I don’t want you to think I’m playing the world’s smallest violin for myself, because I’m not. I’m showing you the line that the NFL has drawn in the sand between the two sides on this issue.

By adopting this policy change the NFL created a rule to stifle the peaceful protests becoming the first major sport to stifle its players their rights for two minutes every game. The NFL also for a sneaky reason decided to not punish the players themselves for rule violations, instead, they gave the teams the choice to decide who would pay the fine.

So let’s break this policy and what is actually does:

  • Fines either the player or the team for any protest that takes place during the national anthem.
  • Doesn’t say who pays the fine.
  • Fails to denote what defines “protest”.
  • Doesn’t include anything about how much the fine would be.
  • Gives teams the right to create their own rules.
  • Doesn’t give teams the right to force players to be on the field for the anthem.

So what the hell does this policy even do?

Nothing. It does nothing.

This policy creates chaos. It’s a rule about having a rule but never states you have to have a rule, so what are the rules, ya know? The NFL has created a fence in between the “pro-player” side and the “Non-Kneeling” side and then sat right on it. All they’ve done is create a divide. They’ve extended the argument. They’ve made this worse.

And then something amazing happened.

It all backfired.

First, the NFL owners revolted. Within hours of the announced policy change, Jets CEO Christopher Johnson came out and said he’d pay the fine of any player who broke with the policy.  From there we learned that a Californian contingency, made up of delegates from the Chargers, 49ers, and Raiders, was pushing against any rule that went against the players. At one point, we even had rumors that the NFL polled owners and they called it a vote. A lot was happening very quickly.

SB Nation did some great reporting on the owners and their struggle to find common ground on this issue, but there was one owner, who remained anonymous because DUH, who said something we all knew to be true.

“I honestly believe that had we done nothing that the anthem protest would have subsided on its own,’’ an NFL owner told me on Wednesday night. “But the risk of giving Trump another football to kick was too great. A lot of his fan base is our fan base.” – Thomas George, SB Nation

The NFL owners made a decision to side with those who were upset by the protests, to side with Donald Trump supporters, and to alienate those who don’t agree with those viewpoints. They never wanted to “get back to football” or “get past this.” No, they wanted to keep the portion of their fan base that’ll buy the camouflage uniforms and stand for the anthem, but not for the players who wear the same jersey.

However, that decision was made and, boy howdy, did they make it hard. And then Donald Trump picked up his iPhone…

Remember that?

Congratulations, NFL! You played yourself! Now, what do you do? How do you fix this? You have divided your fans in half in order to appeased Trump’s base, but now Trump and his base are about to leave you. What do you do? How do you vote your way out of this?

I mean, let’s actually break down how the NFL could go about this. Trump is now calling for something other than staying in the locker room, as he’s deemed it just as disrespectful as kneeling. So what else could you do? Well, if I’m a player and I can’t kneel or stay in the locker room, I might just not show up. I mean, if you want forced patriotism and compliance, which is what you voted in favor of, the only thing to do is change the policy that is barely three weeks old, and make it harsher.

But why would you do that? Why would you strengthen a policy that took “months” to shape? Why would you kowtow to Trump and his base, when he has proven to not be on your side? What are you going to do?

The problem here is that the NFL opened Pandora’s box by creating this new policy. They stripped their player’s right to free speech and then shot themselves in the foot by pandering to less than half of America. The NFL dug themselves a hole and now none of their fans are going to help them out of it.

Perhaps, the NFL has learned their lesson the hard way. Worrying about 2 minutes before the game isn’t as important as having people watch the 2 hours of the actual game. Instead, they worried about the politics, the loss of fans, and the money involved. The NFL forgot who they were playing for and instead chose to play against them.

Donald Trump canceled a party no one was attending. The only people who had RSVP’d were the owners, but Trump still shut the doors in their face. What else did they expect? This was never about them, the players, or even about the anthem. The NFL became a pawn in Donald Trump’s game, and I hope they realize it soon before they burn the league to the ground.


Justin Colombo is a 2017 Broadway Show Softball League All-Star at 3B/SS. He's essentially the Manny Machado of the Kinky Boots team. Justin has been writing about Baseball since he was a little kid. Now that being an actor in NYC has given him a lot of free time, in 2015 he decided to take his passion public and founded Three Up, Three Down as a way to express his love for the game. From there, Three Up, Three Down grew from a hobby to an obsession. After years of growth and one insult from MLB's Historian, Justin launched The Turf, a way to expand into all areas of the sporting world. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. LET'S. GO. METS.

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