The Flag, Football and more white noise

Today of all days, I want the white noise about National Anthem protests to stop. Day after day, everybody’s losing ground on this issue. Pro football, sports overall and the sports media that feed off it are responsible. Only the fans can fix it, even though we didn’t create the problem. We have a voice. It’s time to use it.

The institutional blindness is stupefying. First, on the cusp of Memorial Day Weekend, the NFL issued a new anthem policy. Lukewarm and spineless, it’s hard to see the League’s moving as anything more than weak PR. Then, predictably, players reacted with outrage. The outrage wasn’t limited to pro football however, as one self-righteous NBA coach vented about the NFL’s decision. An NBA coach, whose league mandates players stand for the Anthem!! Journalists followed suit by lauding the NBA— again, a league that requires players to stand for the Anthem — for supporting its players 1st Amendment rights, unlike the NFL.

I’ve been in the grip of sports fanaticism for almost 60 years. I don’t get it. Has anything constructive or effective come from any of this? Clearly, I need some enlightenment if so, because all I witness is divisive rhetoric.

There’s a solution. It’s really kinda simple. Not easy, but simple. It starts with both the NFL and the NFLPA acting like representatives of teamwork worthy of the sport they represent. Commit NOW to reworking the collective bargaining agreement even though it doesn’t expire until 2020. Establish ground rules for mandatory mediation and, if necessary, binding arbitration. Then, as part of that collaborative step, agree to commit real money off the top to social justice initiatives. Then divide the rest. But not until social justice gets its due.

You see, the current NFL system devotes $90 million over 7 years to social justice. Put that in perspective. About $13 million a year from a League that generates $13 billion annually. My calculator tells me that’s one-tenth of one percent: .001 of the Leagues gross annual revenue. Not. Good. Enough. Try a full 1%, taken equally from the Owners and Players share of the new collective bargaining agreement. You can afford it.

If the League can do that, we’d be talking real teamwork, on and off the field. Pro football’s fans deserve nothing less.

Michael McCormack — Born Fanatic: My Life in the Grip of the NFL