Wednesday, November 1, 2017

NFL- we don't spend our time and money to see owners or sponsors

It's been interesting to watch the reactions across the political and social spectrum as various NFL players continue to protest inequality before games during the national anthem and other pregame festivities. It led to a big meeting between team owners and some of the players in early October, and the various reactions of the league's owners and their sponsors seems to speak volumes about the self-absorbed arrogance of today's rich corporate class.

These details from an ESPN magazine article going inside the owner-player meetings sums up the real issues underlying the player protests. One part of the story describes owners like the Cowboys’ Jerry Jones and the Redskins’ universally-mocked Dan Snyder thinking that they are the ones that should control all aspects of the league, and that the NFL should order all players to stand for the anthem.
As Jones spoke, Snyder mumbled out loud, "See, Jones gets it -- 96 percent of Americans are for guys standing," a claim some dismissed as a grand overstatement. (In fact, a majority of Americans oppose requiring players to stand for the national anthem, according to a recent Marist poll) [Hpuston Texans owner Bob] McNair, a multimillion-dollar Trump campaign contributor, spoke next, echoing many of the same business concerns. "We can't have the inmates running the prison," McNair said.

That statement stunned some in the room. Then [Patriots' owner Bob] Kraft, who is close friends with Trump, politely rebuked the hardliners, saying that he supported the league's marketing proposal and predicted the issue would work itself out over time. This argument seemed to find a receptive audience in the room. An unofficial count had only nine owners in favor of a mandate, though the reasons for the opposition varied: Some owners had tired of Jones always commandeering such meetings; some were jealous of his power and eager to see him go down; some saw the players-must-stand mandate as bad policy to invoke in the middle of the season; some owners were angry with Jones' hard-line public stance on kneeling, feeling that it had backed them all into a corner. "The majority of owners understand this is important to the players and want to be supportive, even if they don't exactly know how to be supportive," one owner says.

Now, suddenly, Jones found himself in an unfamiliar position: He wasn't getting his way. He knew it, and everyone knew it. Like the numerous reasons behind the protests, the business concerns were nuanced -- one major sponsor had threatened to pull out if the NFL were to issue a mandate to stand. York spoke next. Though Jones and Snyder were angry with him -- they felt that if he had forced Kaepernick to stand a year ago, this crisis could have been averted -- York and Jeffrey Lurie of the Eagles had emerged as thoughtful leaders. Knowing that many of the players who were still kneeling were on his 49ers, York emphasized that he understood the business concerns and that each market was different, and that he had been talking to his players for a long time and would continue to do so. Lurie had spoken up during the meeting, supporting the players' right to kneel.
And there’s the underlying point- these old, rich white guys think the rest of the world and the League should only kneel to them. They think they are some kind of special group, when in fact many are mediocre people who stumbled onto their success, or (as in Dan Snyder’s case) had their Daddy loan them the seed money that would lead to their spot into the Big Club.

The Texans players were understandably angry at being called "inmates" by their owner, and considered walking out of practice as a team last week when the story hit the news. They ultimately decided to participate (well, mostly), but left little doubt over what they thought as the anthem played before their game with the Seahawks last Sunday.

Speaking of spoiled rich white guys and the NFL, today Papa John's CEO John Schnatter blamed his lousy earnings and sales on the player protests,. Schnatter claimed declining NFL ratings for this year were hurting his product, and that the NFL's inability to "nip in the bud" the protests and complaints reflects poorly on its leadership.

Of course, this is the same Papa John who bitched 5 years ago that Obamacare would raise his pizza prices by 14 cents a pie. Papa John found this to be a horrible burden, despite having a 40,000-foot mansion, 6,000-foot guest house, and 22-car garage in suburban Louisville.

I know I've avoided Papa John's pizza since Schnatter opened up his yap about Obamacare 5 years ago, and I am far from the only one. But it's much easier to blame "those people" for your failures and the consequences of your actions, right Johnny?

Back at the NFL owners-players meeting, a former Badger set the old owners straight, and Jones’s response verifies that the old white guys think the fans are spending their money to see the owners’ product, instead of the players performing on the field.
After the owners finished, [NFL executive] Troy Vincent stood up. He was offended by McNair's characterization of the players as "inmates." Vincent said that in all his years of playing in the NFL -- during which, he said, he had been called every name in the book, including the N-word -- he never felt like an "inmate."

It was starting to get nasty. Vincent and Jones had a sharp but quick back-and-forth, with Jones finally reminding the room that rather than league office vice presidents, it was he and fellow owners who had helped build the NFL's $15 billion-a-year business, and they would ultimately decide what to do. McNair later pulled Vincent aside and apologized, saying that he felt horrible and that his words weren't meant to be taken literally, which Vincent appreciated. The meetings were already running long and were ending on a raw note -- and there were more agenda items to hit. For the second time in a month, a few frustrated owners grumbled about [NFL spokesman Joe] Lockhart, angry that the league was, as usual, appearing to be reactive in a public relations sense in the face of a crippling crisis. League executives worried that during upcoming events -- Veterans Day and the NFL's Salute to Service -- pro-military groups might stage protests.
Oh yes, November is Salute to Service month, an idea that started with your tax dollars being used to promote our Armed Forces at sporting events. Dirty secret- fake-triotism like that and “God Bless America” during the 7th inning stretch turns off a lot of fans on the other side of things, because we recognize it as nationalistic bullshit that is irrelevant to the game that we paid to see.

I was told there'd be football

Combine that staged jingoism with the arrogance of these rich a-hole NFL owners who have no respect for the players that make them richer, and it becomes harder for me to get emotionally involved in pro football in 2017. The owners' arrogance is reflected in the view that the majority-black players as “inmates”, and we also know how these guys covered up the dangers involving concussions for years, even going so far as to threaten to pull $16 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health if they reported things The Shield didn’t want people to know. We also see the contempt for the players and the fans in how they refuse to make this violent game safer by either removing the pointless Thursday night games or adding bye weeks that would lead to fewer injuries and higher-quality play.

The game of football is still great (well, if it can stop losing stars like Aaron Rodgers, JJ Watt and Odell Beckham to major injury), and the people playing it are as good as ever. But those who are signing the checks and making the business decisions are bringing the league down, and it won’t get better as long as the mediocre white guys in the owner’s box keep thinking they’re the ones that we came to see, and that they’re the ones who aren't easy to replace.


  1. Yes, thanks much, football is what people like to watch, without it getting caught up in politics. Wish the Pack would have drafted Troy Vincent when they had the chance.

    Signed, "Anonymous," or as on one website, "onevote." Keep up the charge for the cause; you do great work.

    1. Yep, Ron Wolf's first Number 1 pick was Terrell Buckley over Troy Vincent. Good thing he made up for it by trading the other 1st rounder for a redneck QB named Favre.

      Thanks for the kind words!

  2. I was never a big fan of Papa John's - much better options here in Madison. But I agree that the statement about raising his prices 14 cents put me off rather severely.

    But I took it as an unintended rebuke of consumers as well - if this guy is dead set against raising his prices such a small amount, what does that say about us as consumers? That we'd rather save a quarter on a pie than have the people prepping our food be able to see a doctor when they need one?

    If we paid an extra 50 cents, would they be able to take a paid sick day from time to time?

    I think we need to be willing to take at least some measure of blame for the wage war that's gone on.

    For now, the best I can think to do personally is to tip a few extra bucks, but I know that's barely a slice much less half a loaf.

    As for the NFL, I think forcing somebody to stand is no different from forcing somebody to kneel, and I didn't think we did that sort of thin in this country.

    I would like to see the protests evolve into some real action. Were the owners to join with the players, they could be a recommitted force for forward movement in this nation. They are missing a tremendous opportunity.

    In my not so humble opinion of course.