For most of three years, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been trying to have it back and forth when it comes to Colin Kaepernick.
Goodell would not specifically endorse Kaepernick’s kneeling protest during the United States’ national anthem, and he would not exactly condemn him. Instead, he leaned hard into over-the-other-mainism. Literally.
“I support our players when they want to see a change in society,” said Goodell shortly after Kaepernick began to kneel in 2016. “On the other hand, we firmly believe in patriotism in the NFL. “
If you inspect this statement, you can see the difference between what Goodell seems to mean (“I support …”) and what he knows he is supposed to say (“We believe …”).
When the owners of the NFL blacklisted Kaepernick, Goodell was the person who made the decision. He never managed to fit in. In all fairness, how could he have? It is difficult to repeatedly defend a position that you cannot admit has been taken.
By watching Goodell fuss in press conferences and on TV, you almost started to feel sorry for the guy. Then you remembered that it was paid around $ 30 million, and you felt less sorry.
At the weekend, with the United States in uproar over the very thing Kaepernick protested, Goodell tried to surrender. He couldn’t handle it frankly either.
Goodell’s apology came in a statement from what appears to be her boathouse. I spent most of the video staring at the ornate walls behind him and thinking, “Is this oak? “
He dressed in a sweatshirt, which I guess is meant to convey homeism or a relaxed new attitude or something like that.
Remember how his strong belief in patriotism excluded kneeling before the Stars and the Stripes? Well, not much more.
“We the National Football League admit that we were wrong not to have listened to the NFL players earlier, and we encourage everyone to speak out and protest peacefully,” said Goodell.
When Goodell says “NFL players”, he is, of course, talking about a particular NFL player. But he couldn’t bring himself to say the name of Kaepernick. This would create too much expectation that Kaepernick will be rehired.
As such, an apology – if that’s what it calls – has little moral force. The result is the afterthought equivalent of “thought and prayer.”
“I personally protest with you,” said Goodell. “And I want to be part of the much-needed change in this country. “
Whatever it means. Goodell in the streets, fist in the air, has about as much sense as Louis XVI inviting the Parisian to fit into his room. When people talk about systemic change, it’s the Goodells of the world that they intend to change.
Essentially, it’s the NFL’s statement that it would like to change sides in cultural wars. From now on, it’s with resistance.
(It is yet to be determined whether the resistance will have the NFL.)
If anyone takes the loss here, it’s not Goodell. He went around the ring trying to slide into the winner’s corner for his entire career. This is another example of why he is good at it.
It’s not exactly a victory for Kaepernick, either, in as much as he had previously won. This happened almost two years ago when Nike created the “Believe in Something” advertising campaign around it.
Nike made its billions by stretching just before popular culture. Approving Kaepernick was a gamble against the influence of football. This bet has just paid off.
Kaepernick no longer needs to practice this sport to pass his points. He built his own platform. Nike has implemented bunting.
There doesn’t seem to be much point in returning to the NFL. Why would he want to be a second-line quarterback now, after all that has happened?
The most likely scenario here is that Kaepernick remains a full-time activist / shoe salesperson, while Goodell takes 50 or 60 more tries to say “Sorry. The NFL as an institution is going to move forward because a) too many people are making too much money out of it and b) what else are you going to do with your Sundays?
The only person seriously injured by Goodell’s change of mind is US President Donald Trump.
Football was Trump’s only refuge in popular culture. It was the only environment that he regularly ran the risk of presenting himself publicly, and that he expected a warm welcome. Trump is no different from Richard Nixon in this way, as are a few others.
Kaepernick’s kneeling protest gave Trump an excuse to wrap himself in the flag when he was still campaigning for the White House. He has been there repeatedly over the years.
He tried it again last week – “There are other things you can protest, but not our big American flag – no KNEELING! “
Goodell’s statement came out a few hours later. It was the NFL telling Trump that although he still loves him as a tax cutter, he wants to start seeing people of other political convictions.
As almost every top athlete turned to Trump, he could still point to football and say, “These guys still like me. If you had a penny for every time Trump checked his golf buddies Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, you’d have a bunch of nickels. Wisely, Brady and Belichick have avoided making these greetings public.
This temporary friendship is over now. The NFL thought it was better to upset a few Red State customers than to go to war with its own workforce. Football has just crossed the lines.
It sounds important, although I don’t think we will know how important until November. Perhaps in a few years we may be adding a new superlative to Kaepernick’s CV: “The town hall has fought. Won. In the process, helped bring down the mayor.