I can’t stress enough how much I hate the NFL National Anthem controversy. Or how much I was happy to have it seemingly in our rearview after it sort lost all its inertia at the end of the season, like a storm of shitty controversy dissipating after making landfall.
Only to have it come back this week after making contact with the even shittier low pressure system of Roger Goodell and the NFL owners deciding they had to do something. Now it’s back. Darkening the skies once again and raining golf ball-sized nuggets of smug anger down upon us all. FML. And every time the topic comes up on a talk show I can’t hit the button fast enough. Like I’d rather sit around the holiday dinner table listening to the uncle who starts off every sentence with “Let me say this about that” argue politics with the nephew who prefaces everything with “Here’s what’s wrong with the so-called ‘elites'” while I jam turkey bones into my eyes.
So for the last couple of days I’ve given this whole topic a good leaving alone. I decided to sit it out, at least until I found some part of it that was at least somewhat amusing. And at last, I found it. From Bert Breer on SI:
Donald Trump did come up. “Oh yeah,” Packers president Mark Murphy said, laughing, when I asked him. “It was more how [Trump] might react, anticipating that. Also, how the fans will react, how the media will react. That’s what we tried to think through. … No matter what we did, [Trump] would probably try to get involved one way or the other—either criticizing us or taking credit for the change.”
The point, though, wasn’t belabored. One owner recalled Trump’s name coming up three times, and never for any extended time. As Cowboys owner Jerry Jones explained it to me, “[Trump] certainly initiated some of the thinking, and was a part of the entire picture. But all of that was given consideration.”
How goddamned funny is this? Hate Trump all you want and you’ll get no argument from me. Whether you hate his immigration stance, can’t stand him for doxing John McCain for getting tortured by the Viet Cong, or simply resent him for banging a porn actress who’s barely 1/20th as hot as his own wife, there’s a whole political spectrum to choose from. Go nuts. But no matter where you are politically, you have to be amused to hear that the most valuable real estate he owns isn’t in Manhattan, New Jersey or Mar-a-Lago, it’s in the heads of the most powerful men in the country.
The Donald has taken what was nothing more than a line to beg for applause at his rallies and generate ReTweets and turned into something that has all 32 members of the world’s most exclusive club dancing like circus monkeys. Every time there’s a labor beef the owners get their lackeys in the press to paint is as “Millionaires vs. Billionaires” in order to make the players – especially the vast majority of them who are not even close to millionaire status – look greedy. Well the Anthem issue has now boiled down to “Billionaires Who Own Football vs One Billionaire Who Owns Them.” And they’re so freaked out by him, they can’t even see that they are walking directly into his trap every time they bring it up. He makes the straw man argument that anyone who’s against him hates America which plays to his base.
And the league just keeps falling for it. Because like I’ve said before, at least a third of these owners are the lesser sons of better men. Guys of vision who made the NFL the center of American culture over lunch with Chesterfields in their mouths, a highball glass in one hand and their mistress’s ass in the other. And did so during some of the most turbulent days in the nation’s history with while avoiding exactly this kind of turmoil. Men would’ve found a way to kill this particular controversy in the crib. And it’s all been passed down to these mortals who can’t pass a rule without pissing themselves over how the President will spin it to his own political gain.
And that’s all I got. Beyond that, let everybody else have at it. Because I’m afraid this is just going to go on all summer.