The NFL put itself in an untenable position with the kneeling protests during the national anthem. If you want to stick it to Donald Trump or protest the police or both, disrespecting the flag of the United States is a really foolish way to do it. This was obvious a couple of weeks ago, but the NFL worked itself into a lather and took all its cues from an encouraging elite media, and the signs are that it has been paying a price with some segment of its fans. The polling on kneeling has been closer to 50/50 than it had been before as the protest has become a more partisan issue, but if you are President Trump sitting at 40 percent approval or below, a 50/50 issue is good for you; if you are the NFL trying to appeal to a broad fan base, a 50/50 issue is a disaster.
So it’s little wonder that Roger Goodell is out with a memo that reads in part:
Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem. It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us. We also care deeply about our players and respect their opinions and concerns about critical social issues. The controversy over the Anthem is a barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues. We need to move past this controversy, and we want to do that together with our players.
“Moving past it” is very easy — just pay the flag the respect it is due.