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It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the NFL’s solution to its national anthem issue didn’t sit well with everyone.
The NFL tried to leak out the new policy by strategically framing it as a compromise, when it wasn’t. The NFLPA was angered by it. New York Jets chairman Christopher Johnson broke ranks not long after the vote, which was hailed by commissioner Roger Goodell as unanimous among the teams, saying he’d pay fines for any player who wanted to kneel during the anthem and bring awareness to social issues.
And Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, one of the most prominent voices in the effort to bring attention to social issues like racial inequality, said the new policy was bad for everyone.
Jenkins, one of the members of the Players Coalition that met with the NFL on social issues, made a statement that said the NFL owners infringed on “the players’ constitutional rights to express themselves.”
It’s a strong statement that should be a clear signal: Just because the NFL wants the issue gone after enacting a new policy doesn’t mean it will be.
Chris Long, Jenkins’ teammate on the Eagles, also made a statement that said the NFL was simply concerned about President Donald Trump “turning his base against a corporation” and the league fell short on the entire issue.
“I will not let it silence me”
Jenkins’ comment that he will not let the policy silence him is curious. While the start of the season is a long way off and perhaps he hasn’t even thought about what he will do during the anthem, the NFL’s policy might not keep everyone from kneeling or demonstrating in some way.
Perhaps Jenkins, by saying he’d continue fighting, just meant he’d use other avenues to bring attention to social issues. But Jenkins wasn’t the only player who kneeled or raised a fist during the anthem, and it’s fair to wonder if everyone who did will be content to simply sit in the locker room during the anthem, which the policy says they can.
And if Jenkins or anyone else doesn’t follow the policy, and forces the NFL to fine teams whose players are trying to bring attention to problems like police brutality and equal opportunities in education, the controversy will continue to grow.
The NFL hasn’t solved everything
A few times during the press conference announcing the anthem policy change Wednesday, owners talked about the focus going back to football in 2018. Surely that’s their ultimate goal. The anthem issue overshadowed the game in many ways, and was divisive among its audience, team owners and players. If the NFL could flip a switch and make the entire story disappear, they would happily do so.
But it’s clear in the immediate aftermath of the policy passing that it was not the unanimous “compromise” the NFL was trying to push on us. NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith fired off a series of tweets criticizing the decision.
We’re not sure what turns the story will take next. But it seems obvious that the NFL didn’t end the debate with its new policy.
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