League has set themselves backwards before season has even begun
This week, the National Football League approved a new policy concerning player protests of the national anthem.
The new policy states that all players and personnel will now be required to stand during the national anthem, but also removes the requirement that all players be on the field for the anthem. Therefore, the compromise that was devised is that players are allowed to protest the anthem, but they must do it in the locker room out of the sight of fans and cameras.
Additionally, clubs who do not respect these new rules will be subject to fines administered by the league, although they will be allowed to establish their own “work rules” regarding individual player discipline for violating league policy.
Through all of these new decisions, the NFL Players Association, a union that represent the players themselves, outside of the League and the owners, was not consulted once. In response, the NFLPA tweeted that they “will review the new ‘policy’ and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.”
As Business Insider columnist Tyler Lauletta pointed out, the new policies “will no doubt generate yet another cycle of news surrounding the matter” because of their controversial fines and lack of representation.
The fact that the league decided not to consult the players’ union is indicative of the fact that this issue has not been fully confronted by NFL owners, even a year later.
For league executives, the national anthem controversy has been a struggle of containment; since the 2016 season, the NFL has been trying to tolerate the protests enough to not incite player outrage, but simultaneously has been pushing the protests as far into the background as possible to avoid negative publicity.
This spectacularly flawed approached has now put the NFL on the bad side of both the players and the public, with viewership dropping and an increasing amount of players speaking out against the league.
The owners need to stop seeing this issue as a publicity problem and start paying attention to the real issue behind their bad press: their failure to address the underlying causes of the anthem protests. By painting the issue as a players vs. administration issue, the league creates unnecessary tension that could be resolved by bringing players to the negotiating table.
If this was not a collective compromise, there is no way that this solution will succeed.
The majority of the controversy surrounded around players feeling as though they were being silenced by the league, and by not hearing their voices when coming up with a solution, the owners have only perpetuated this issue.
Both sides want the NFL to succeed, and therefore have a common goal. There is no reason why the owners and the players cannot be working together to create a platform for players to bring their beliefs and convictions into the workplace, but also work together to bring prosperity to their shared business.
Only misinformed radicals would say that the players do not have reason behind their protest, and the same is true for anyone who would say that we should not respect our country.
Our flag should undoubtedly hold a reverent position in our nation’s consciousness.
People of all races, genders and backgrounds have died for its symbolism, and disrespecting what the flag stands for diminished their sacrifices. No matter what state our country is in, there have been millions who believed that our nation and its values and freedom was worth dying for.
That must always been honored.
But one of those freedoms that those sacrifices uphold is our ability to write and speak our minds as Americans. Our privilege to criticize our society as freely as we choose, and to be heard is one that should be guarded fiercely, and we ought to be skeptical of anyone who would threaten this right.
At this point, we will see very little improvement regarding the anthem controversy in the NFL, as a solution that is forced is no solution at all. Instead, reform will come when both parties are allowed to sit at the negotiating table and find a solution that is fair to all sides.