NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will undoubtedly sleep well tonight. The long National Football League regular season is almost over. With it gone, all the worries of this tumultuous season, where a new crisis of leadership emerged every week and league fortunes seemed to sag, will vanish into history. The playoff season will automatically lessen the number of protesters, as fewer teams participate and the player focus is more intense.
Yes, Goodell will smile and tell himself he braved the storm. And now, with a new $200 million contract secured and a few tweaks forthcoming, like keeping the players indoors next year for the national anthem, he can sleep the sleep of the just, believing that his worldview has been proven correct.
But at the stroke of midnight, Goodell is awakened by a clanking sound. There at the foot of his bed is a wizened old man. It’s former NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, the Ghost of Christmas Past. He points out that the league didn’t have players kneeling, unhappy sponsors, and sagging television ratings when he was in charge. Goodell moans.
Rozelle vanishes. The Ghosts of Christmas Present shows up. It’s Diddy, who has Colin Kaepernick with him. He reminds Rozelle that it’s time for a majority African-American owned-team in the league, and says that his good buddy Colin is the type of leader we can expect to see as the face of the league for years to come. Goodell moans louder.
Both disappear, laughing all the way. There then appears the Ghosts of Christmas Future. It’s Papa John’s Pizza’s former CEO John Schnatter, along with Sanderson Farms CEO Joe Anderson, the chicken wings king. They remind Pete that their sales are down because of NFL player protests, and that any advertising or sponsorship renewals will be hard to come by under current conditions, with dropping TV ratings, disinterested youth, and polarization among fans. Goodell screams, and suddenly wakes up, bathed in sweat.
It’s Christmas morning in the NFL. After a season of kneeling, fist-raising and sit-downs have made fans, sponsors, advertisers and TV rights-buyers angry, it’s anything but merry in the outlook.
This week’s national anthem protesters around the league were the usual die-hards, most of them adamant about keeping their actions alive for the foreseeable future.
Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters stayed off the field for the national anthem, as he has for most of the season. His Sunday opponents, the Miami Dolphins, saw Kenny Stills and Michael Thomas take a knee during the anthem.
Tennessee Titans receiver Rishard Matthews also remained off the field until the end of the national anthem, as he has done for all but Veterans Day celebrations. Three other Titans players raised fists at the end of the anthem.
For the Los Angeles Rams, linebacker Robert Quinn raised his fist during the anthem prior to his team’s game., with punter Johnny Hekker again draping an arm around him in support. Running back Todd Gurley and wide receiver Tavon Austin locked arms.
Miami Dolphins players receiver Kenny Stills and safety Michael Thomas kneeled during the anthem prior to their game, continuing a pattern they’ve established throughout the season.
New Orleans Saints players took a knee before the anthem, but stood once the song began, continuing a season-long tradition for the team.
In the late afternoon games, the Seattle Seahawks again led the league in protesters. Defensive linemen Nazair Jones, Sheldon Richardson, Dion Jordan, Jarran Reed, Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Marcus Smith, Quinton Jefferson, Frank Clark and Branden Jackson all took a seat during the national anthem, joined by linebacker Paul Dawson. Left tackle Duane Brown took a knee next to the group, with center Justin Britt holding his hand on Brown’s shoulder in solidarity.
Close behind in the protester standings (if not the “games won” standings) are the San Francisco 49ers. For the Niners, safety Eric Reid, linebacker Eli Harold, and receivers Marquise Goodwin and Louis Murphy all took a knee during the national anthem. Safety Adrian Colbert stood next to them in a show of support.
In Arizona, New York Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon again took a knee during the national anthem. One of the highest-paid defensive players in football, Vernon has vowed to continue the action into the foreseeable future.
On Saturday, Los Angeles Chargers left tackle Russell Okung again raised a fist in the air during the national anthem, as he has done all season.