UPDATE, with video With President Donald Trump tossing out some red-meat comments tonight about NFL players who protest the National Anthem – “get that son of a bitch off the field right now” – NBC sportscaster Bob Costas offered up a slightly more elegant solution.
Costas, appearing tonight on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, didn’t seem willing to go quite as far as Maher in blanket-defending Colin Kaepernick, who took a knee – and lost a career – to protest police shootings of black suspects. But Costas wasn’t siding with Trump either.
Saying that the National Anthem doesn’t reflect only the nation’s military, police and laws, but its principles as well, Costas suggested that those “Please stand for the National Anthem” stadium recordings be changed to “Please stand for the National Anthem and the ideals it represents.” Both liberals and conservatives, he said, might get behind that. Maybe even stand for it.
Whether Trump would go along with it, is another matter entirely.
But Costas’ booking on tonight’s Real Time was, at the very least, timely. Not only did Trump make his blunt NFL recommendation, but the attorney of the late Aaron Hernandez – the former New England Patriots star who committed suicide last April while serving a life sentence for murder – announced a lawsuit this week against the NFL.
Hernandez, the attorney said, had a severe case of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy common to pro players.
Maher said that even as a Libertarian, who believes adults should be able to choose their own professions, he was “feeling a little like I need a shower after watching a game.” He compared the NFL commissioner to the shark-denying mayor from Jaws.
Costas said “you can’t make the leap” from studies about CTE to Hernandez’ crimes, but conceded the “accumulation of bad news” for the game that “remains not only the most popular sport but the most popular thing in all of entertainment.”
“Evidence is evidence,” Costas said, adding that “unless they can improve helmets to the point where they protect the brain from rattling around like a pickle inside a jar,” football could go the way of the Roman circus: “People watch it but don’t let their kids play it.”