Opinion

The NFL’s Leadership Is Pushing Fans Away With Politics

In an article appearing in The Washington Post this week, writers deconstruct what a nationwide poll purportedly found – that 19 percent of pro football fans say their interest in the sport had declined in recent years.  Of those fans, a quarter said political issues made them less interested with 17 percent pointing to national anthem protests or former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick as a reason.  The poll’s findings are unsurprising.

For years, and particularly under the dubious hand of Commissioner Roger Goodell, individual players and small groups have been given wide latitude to use the league as a platform for the airing of personal political views.  Colin Kaepernick is the most current and in-your-face example but his disrespect of the flag and those who’ve sacrificed for it isn’t the first, nor will it be the last.

Kaepernick, whose declining play, on-field antics, and poor judgment have created the situation he finds himself in, is propped up by players suggesting he’d gotten a raw deal.

According to Spotrak, he made over $14 million in 2016, almost all of it while standing (or kneeling) on the sidelines.  Kaepernick’s on-field productivity in 2016 was off by a third from 2014 while his pre-game and off-field productivity consisted of one principal output – divisive rhetoric.

But, with the audacity that seems part and parcel of professional athletes today, Kaepernick wanted more.  And when San Francisco wouldn’t give it – he walked away.  That’s right, the outspoken, disrespectful athlete in decline walked away from a 2017 payday of almost $17 million.

Most NFL fans won’t make $17 million in their lifetimes.  The very notion of forking out even $100 for a middling ticket to watch someone like Kaepernick disrespect their flag (and the commissioner to support it) becomes more repugnant when someone of his character demands still more.

Team owners have done the calculations and evidently come to a common assessment – that a Kaepernick, just like a T.O. or an Albert Haynesworth in their heyday, is not worth the drag.

They bring with them a level of destruction that makes team supporters new detractors.  Too quickly after the signing and new jersey photo op, these human wrecking balls lose sight of the team and focus on what’s most important – themselves.  Teammates sour, fans turn away, the team fails.

But, Mr. Goodell, the player’s self-destructive free speech rights have been preserved, so it’s still a win for the NFL, right?  According to the Post’s poll, no, it’s not.

This week, team-less Kaepernick has new company in the form of Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, who was captured in a TMZ video being detained and handcuffed by Las Vegas police after a “shots fired” call in a casino following the Mayweather/McGregor fight.

Bennett, who’s mimicked Kaepernick’s sideline theatrics by sitting during the playing of our national anthem, wasted no time in crying “racism” about the police stop.

YouTube videos add context to the Las Vegas police response that night.  One shows police listening to their radios and casino security reports of what’s treated as an active shooter incident.  Those deadly incidents, including any report of an active shooter, are dynamic and full of early confusion about what is real and what’s not.  The Las Vegas report, in its early moments, was no different as police organize, move toward the suspected threat, and shout commands at civilians nearby.

Sometimes those police or security commands are disobeyed, which is plausible in a chaotic environment when actions in accord with our first instinct – self-preservation – may go counter to orders being shouted by law enforcement.

Some reports indicate Bennett got up and ran as police were telling casino patrons to “get down.”  If that’s so, and it’s actually entirely understandable when the FBI active shooter mantra is “run, hide, fight,” Bennett’s own actions might have been the trigger for police singling him out.

But, Bennett didn’t care to wait for an explanation.  His purpose was clear – use the event to cry “race”, to add to the narrative that divides, that points to all cops as heavy-handed racists, that evaluates citizens by skin color first.

Bennett, like Kaepernick, is evidently unable or unwilling to put himself in the shoes of a police officer responding to reports of a serious, potentially deadly, situation and trying to make proper or life-saving decisions in the blink of an eye.

Bennett’s upcoming book, Things That Make White People Uncomfortable is likely to reveal much about his own race-driven mindset.  The title is a strong predictor about his current claims, which are disputed by LVPD officials investigating the casino incident, and will be a guaranteed lever to drive sales when the book is published.

Meanwhile, Bennett’s claim, his coming book, his and Kaepernick’s cries, and Goodell’s feckless leadership of the NFL will continue to push more fans away from the league.