Roger Goodell may go down as the worst NFL commissioner in history. He screwed the pooch on the concussion issue when, during his congressional testimony, he could not answer whether concussions hurt football players. He is in the process of doing the same regarding NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem.
On Friday, President Trump said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired, he’s fired.”
The smart move for Goodell after Trump castigated the NFL would have been to say nothing and then quietly work to end the protests.
Alas, Goodell doesn’t seem to be that smart. Instead, he released the following statement:
The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month. Divisive comments like [Trump’s] demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.
Any fifth grader can see the idiocy of that statement. Trump’s remarks are divisive? Um, what does Goodell think the anthem protests have been? You can bet your last dollar that they haven’t helped “create a sense of unity in our country and our culture.”
Over at Instapundit, Ed Driscoll called Goodell’s statement “more mush from the wimp.” It is also mind-bogglingly stupid. Clearly, Goodell didn’t consider how many NFL fans are likely Trump voters. By releasing that statement, he has given some NFL fans another reason to stop watching. You have to wonder if Goodell knows much about his customer base.
Perhaps Goodell was caught off guard by Trump’s remarks, but he has no excuse. The concussion issue should have taught him that politicians will take advantage of these controversies to score cheap political points. It’s what they do. Dogs bark, cats meow, and politicians like to pretend that they’re heroes.
Thus, Goodell should have seen this coming, and he had every opportunity to deal with it. He could have clamped down on Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling-during-the-anthem antics last season. During the offseason, he could have worked with NFL owners and the players association to stop the protests. He had every reason to. NFL television ratings dropped last season, and the anthem protests were the biggest reason.
Rating are down again this season. At this point it’s not entirely clear if that is due to the continued protests by players like Michael Bennett or if the cause is the hurricanes that hit Texas and Florida (those are mammoth football states.) But should Goodell really take a chance that declining ratings aren’t due to anthem protests? Declining ratings mean declining revenue, and when owners see the hit to their pocketbooks, they’ll be looking around for someone to blame. Goodell will make a convenient target.
Finally, a quick comment on Trump withdrawing the invitation to the championship Golden State Warriors for a White House visit. Warriors players Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry decided not to visit the White House because they erroneously believe Trump is a racist. On Saturday, the president tweeted, “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!” Good for him! A sports team should not be able to behave the way the Warriors did toward a White House visit and not face consequences. In fact, Trump should institute a new policy. Any championship team that within 48 hours of winning the championship game does not agree to visit the White House will not receive an invitation. You see, two can play this game. And thank God we have a president who has the balls to play it.