An October meeting between National Football League owners, players and league executives to discuss player protests and President Donald Trump’s bashing of the league because of players protests was supposed to be confidential.
If Colin Kaepernick’s heavenly Afro didn’t already prove that God was OK with players protesting, the leaking of audio from said meeting at league headquarters on Park Avenue proves which side the heavenly father has taken.
On Wednesday the New York Times released excerpts from the open and honest discussion—which included some 30 participants, from players to owners—about players protesting during the national anthem the killing of unarmed men, women and children.
“Let’s make sure that we keep this confidential,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said to begin the session, the Times reports.
(God: “Yeah, right.”)
According to the Times, the meeting lasted some three hours, and people involved in the meeting have confirmed to the Times that there was, in fact, a meeting.
Now that we know they met and that any reports that they didn’t meet are false, let’s get to the juicy bits.
Players wanted to know why Kaepernick was being blackballed by the NFL.
“If he was on a roster right now, all this negativeness and divisiveness could be turned into a positive,” Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Chris Long, one of the few white voices in support of Kaepernick and his protest, said at the meeting.
Long added that he didn’t “lecture any team” on which quarterbacks to sign, but “we all agree in this room as players that he should be on a roster,” the Times reports. The owners’ responses were noncommittal.
According to the Times, most owners didn’t address Kaepernick’s unemployment but seemed to be more concerned about damage control and how to appease those fans who believed, as Trump did, that the protest against police brutality was really a protest against America.
New England Patriots owner Robert K. Kraft, a longtime supporter of Trump’s, pointed to another “elephant in the room.”
“This kneeling,” he said.
“The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interests of America,” Kraft said. “It’s divisive and it’s horrible.”
It appears that the owners’ main concern was getting out of the president’s crosshairs after he went on several Twitter rants calling the protests and the protesters un-American, and even went so far as to call for owners to fire players who refused to stand during the anthem..
Jeffrey Lurie, owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, who called Trump’s presidency “disastrous,” cautioned players about responding to Trump’s tactics.
“We’ve got to be careful not to be baited by Trump or whomever else,” Lurie said. “We have to find a way to not be divided and not get baited.”
As for the owners, their main concern was not losing sponsors or fans because of the protests.
“All Donald needs to do is to start to do this again,” Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula said, the Times reports. “We need some kind of immediate plan because of what’s going on in society. All of us now, we need to put a Band-Aid on what’s going on in the country.”
Houston Texans owner Bob McNair told players to stop protesting and do something more productive: “You fellas need to ask your compadres, fellas, stop that other business, let’s go out and do something that really produces positive results, and we’ll help you.”
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross suggested an NFL-led “march on Washington” that would include players and owners, but Eric Reid, a former teammate of Kaepernick’s, who is also unemployed, brought the discussion back around to Kaepernick.
“I feel like he was hung out to dry,” Reid, who reportedly wore a pro-Kaepernick T-shirt over his dress shirt, said. “Everyone in here is talking about how much they support us.” The room fell quiet, according to the Times. “Nobody stepped up and said we support Colin’s right to do this. We all let him become Public Enemy No. 1 in this country, and he still doesn’t have a job.”
Silence. No one had anything to say about Kaepernick ...
And then the pièce de résistance: Pegula thought that the league’s real problem was merely a “media problem” and that maybe one way to solve that would be to find a player who could be the NFL’s pitchman and promote all the great things the NFL was doing.
“For years we’ve watched the National Rifle Association use Charlton Heston as a figurehead,” Pegula said. “We need a spokesman.”
Former NFL wide receiver Anquan Boldin suggested that owners also stand up and speak on these issues. But Pegula wasn’t hearing that. He did, however, note that the NFL’s version of Heston needed to be black.
“For us to have a face, as an African American, at least a face that could be in the media,” Pegula continued, “we could fall in behind that.”
No one else mentioned Kaepernick. And from that point on, who cares? An hour after the meeting ended, the Times notes, those involved in the meeting released a joint statement that said:
Today owners and players had a productive meeting focused on how we can work together to promote positive social change and address inequality in our communities. NFL executives and owners joined NFLPA executives and player leaders to review and discuss plans to utilize our platform to promote equality and effectuate positive change. We agreed that these are common issues and pledged to meet again to continue this work together.
So far, nothing has changed. Police are still killing black people with impunity, and Kaepernick and now Reid are without jobs. The NFL owners have urged players not to protest, and most black men and women still won’t stop watching the NFL.
I said it. @ me on Twitter; I have time today.