They say politics makes strange bedfellows. It's a cliche, yes, but it certainly was true this past weekend. There's so many things going on that it's hard to tell who was in bed with who. You'd think some of this stuff would only be found in a novel but in this case, truth is definitely stranger than fiction.
There's a strange synergy between Donald Trump, the NFL owners and the players protesting. People tend to think it started with Colin Kaepernick kneeling in protest last season. It goes back about a decade earlier when the Department of Defense decided to get into bed with professional sports.
Until 2009, you never saw players standing on the sidelines before NFL games for the National Anthem. That started because the NFL took millions of dollars from the Department of Defense to help sponsor the games. That's why you see a field length American flag, usually with a military member near by, while someone is singing the Star Spangled Banner. It's a show of patriotism that the NFL wants you to buy into. Football and the United States of America all in one neatly produced shot. It's false patriotism because always remember this, with the NFL league office and their owners, it's always about the brand and the money.
Then there's our current President and his relationship to football. Here's what he knows about the game. He knows how to bring down an entire league. His ownership of the New Jersey Generals was a big factor of the folding of the USFL. The league was in trouble before he arrived but he decided to pay big salaries to his players when the league and his team couldn't support them. He also forced the other owners to move into direct competition with the NFL by moving their season and games to the same time as the NFLs. Anyone could see how that was going to work out except for Trump and it was no surprise when the league folded.
Then a few years ago, Trump wanted to be a part of the league by buying the Buffalo Bills. The NFL owners wanted no part of him in their clan. He never had a chance. Donnie was persona non gratis to the NFL until he decided to run and looked like he had a chance to become President. Yep, that was when he became a favorite of those same owners with many of them supporting his candidacy and also making contributions in the millions of dollars to his campaign.
You can't believe they really liked each other, do you? Both sides were getting basically the same thing out of the relationship. Branding and money. Isn't America great?
Next there's the relationship between the NFL owners and it's players. The owners have always treated them as a commodity. The shelf life of a player is about four years. Most of them have a limited time to make their money. The ones making tens of millions of dollars and having fifteen year careers are rare but that's who the public hears about. The majority play for a short time and leave the game without a lot of money banked and have to try to find something to do with the rest of their lives. That's a major reason why the collective bargaining agreements always favor the owners. The players don't want to lose what little playing and money making time they have by going on strike.
The owners have all the money, they set the rules, and the players can either like it not. They can play or find something else to do. The owners love it that way and they don't want anything to upset it. So when a guy like Kaepernick kneels in protest, it upsets the NFL apple cart and brings what they think is bad publicity to the league. Sure, they'll talk about supporting freedom of speech but behind closed doors you know they're trying to find a way to put an end to this. They have to protect the brand...protect their money. The owners waited until the off season and blacklisted Kaepernick.
Yes, there's been a lot of talk about this but the games were going to go on as usual.
But then came this weekend and here comes Donald Trump. The players who protest are son of a bitches who should be fired but the owners aren't strong enough to do that. The league is watered down because the rules that are now trying to protect the players is taking the violence out of the game.....player safety be damned. Fans should boycott the games because the NFL and it's players are unpatriotic and disrespectful to the flag which means they hate America...which means they hate you.
Yep....Donald Trump trashed the organization that gave him multi-million dollars in contributions. He trashed the organization that his Department of Defense has a multi-million dollar deal with. And even stranger, he did something that has never occurred in all the years football has been played....he brought the owners and players together in a show of unity.
Yep...when you watched the sidelines during the playing of the anthem, you saw players locked arm and arm with each other and also with many of the NFL owners. Solidarity!
But like I said earlier, always remember this...it's all about the brand and the money. Don't think for one second that the owners would have done this if it wasn't in the best interest of the league and themselves.
So where does this go from here? There's an entire week until the next games are played and the situation may cool down a bit. Trump doesn't stay on any one rant for very long so this may be off his radar before next Sunday. Then again, we may see the same scene emerge that we witnessed yesterday.
One piece of advice about all this....be skeptical about everything you hear and see. Neither the President or the owners have given you one reason for you to be on their side about this. If it turns into an us versus them thing, the players are the closest thing to us that we have. Who would have ever believed that. Truth really is stranger than fiction.
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