We sadly interrupt this usually fun moment on the NFL calendar, as teams return to their buildings for training camps, to ask a tough question that may have stuck in our collective minds, one we did our best to keep. asleep yet.
What follows is not a political endorsement or ideological finger pointing. We are not paraphrasing the previous term or delving into issues of ethics. There will be plenty of time and space for that later.
Rather, it is a matter of readiness and fitness. It’s a question for coaches, general managers, player agents and – largely – team owners. What did we learn from 2016 to 20? Suppose everyone gets a free pass and that no Republican, Democrat, or Freak Power party member can predict what the world will take under a Trump presidency.
Is the NFL ready for the return of Donald Trump?
Can the League guarantee that it will never again be a shivering fish trying to distance itself from the mouth of a passing shark, as it did when it changed national anthem policy in the wake of criticism from the former president? During Trump’s campaign and presidency, he managed to convince supporters that the decline in TV ratings across the board (thanks to the rise of streaming services and other cable-cutting mechanisms) was evidence that fewer people were watching the NFL because of Colin Kaepernick. In fact, it was because of Trump and his infamous rhetoric in which he pleaded with NFL owners to kick kneeling players, saying, “Get that son off the field now. Out! He’s kicked. He’s kicked!” It was definitely a sleight of hand. It was also a successful tool to promote his cause and stoke his base.
We’re 103 days away from the midterm elections, which means we’re only on foot from the start of yet another libel-charged segment, and Trump is sure to be on the campaign trail for his most wanted candidates. We will amplify every controversy issue imaginable. We will be told that if you believe in X, you cannot vote for Y, and so forth. We will discuss global conflict, public health and safety, women’s rights, the economy, gas prices, immigration, racial inequality, and the status of our country as a free and just society. All of these issues will be meticulously misrepresented and distilled for us by our favorite news outlets, leaving us in the public octagon ready to throw up hands.
NFL players have become a vehicle for discussion, awareness, and teamwork, all of which surprised some teams six years ago. I remember speaking to one of the coaches who was afraid the players would protest during the national anthem, not because of any ideological difference, but because there was nothing they could do to protect the players if the owner of the team wanted them gone. The temperature in the team’s facilities was higher than we understood at the time.
If we remember correctly, there was a lot of embarrassment. Before teams became hesitant, and corporate-style partners for various progressive reasons, they ranged from outright obstruction or strategic ignorance of any potentially divisive action.
Pointing out that President Joe Biden and former President Trump differ in style should not be controversial. Indeed, Biden pinned his campaign hopes on a presidency that would rein in the noise rather than amplify it. His only short shoulder brush with the NFL so far came from a quip about Aaron Rodgers’ vaccination status, which Rodgers loudly criticized in a pre-game ESPN interview. Nor should it be controversial to suggest that Trump, more than any other president in recent history, is withdrawing from the world of pop culture in an effort to help him craft more points of connection. This is how Kaepernick’s silent protest against racial inequality and police brutality became a national flashpoint, as Trump used the demonstration as a way to promote a campaign that would frame your opinion of law enforcement tactics and practices as a matter of good and evil, pro-state and anti-state.
While Kaepernick’s efforts have greatly softened the community’s position — athletes demonstrating, speaking or raising awareness of issues are now common — they have also represented some success for Trump. Supposedly the owners were buried under the mountains of fan mail. Kaepernick became unsignable. idea Remove politics from sports– Which really means Remove the type of politics I don’t agree with from sports– It became a popular battle cry.
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Although this tactic is not directly parallel, it appears to have become politically normative now (and perhaps, in a lesser sense, it has always been). Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is battling Disney (in bed with the NFL as content partner and owner of ESPN) over its opposition to the state’s parental rights to education bill – or “Don’t Say Jay” – in what is largely a culture war meant to appease Trumpian voters.
What can Trump hold now?
Sports are an important part of the former president’s daily life and consumption habits. Despite pleas from families of 9/11 victims, Trump spent the past week praising LIV Golf, a Saudi-backed company looking to break up the PGA and steal all of its top talent, and urged PGA Tour players to take the startup’s money before the inevitable. merger.
The rhetoric will only get hotter the closer we get to November 8, and the closer Trump gets to returning to mainstream social media and controlling the daily news cycle, especially if he decides to run for president on the 24th. In recent months, the congressional investigation into owner Daniel Snyder has turned into an outspoken political scene. , where Republican senators asked NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about the team’s fine for defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio for referring to the attack on the US Capitol in January. .6, 2021, as “Dust,” and about the NFL’s ban of Bristol Sports founder Dave Portnoy from covering his events. (Goodl said he wasn’t aware of the latter problem.)
The NFL is a very popular microcosm of society, which means that our problems within these walls are a copy of the problems the country faces in general. There are high-profile cases of racial inequality making their way through the courts in relation to the NFL, via the Brian Flores lawsuit. Trump can find sympathy for similarly raw Jon Gruden, who saw his coaching career come to an end over leaked documents revealing racist, anti-gay, bisexual, transgender and misogynistic language. (Trump has repeatedly raised the issue of leaked documents and statements in meetings during his presidency, apparently believing that the leaks rather than the content of the leaked materials were the problem.) The NFL is investigating credible accusations of collapse amid gambling bliss, and we all know how much the former president enjoys pointing out an establishment he finds “fraudulent.”
In 2020, Falcons owner Arthur Blank topped all other owners with more than $1.1 million in donations directed to Democratic causes. Trump’s financial support has dwindled significantly compared to the 2016 election cycle, as retired Raiders personally guarded Ritchie Incognito and donated roughly the same amount to the outgoing president ($11,549) as most other NFL members combined ($14,738).
This certainly does not protect the NFL from any criticism. Trump has been and always will be a confrontational businessman. If he was looking at the league against him, he wouldn’t hesitate to drag him into this culture war.
We often wonder if the NFL is evil, incompetent, or perhaps still incredibly surprised and unable to absorb its huge reach within the community. The last of the three may be true, given the league’s persistent inability to see beyond financial recourse to its actions. The NFL rarely heeds the warnings. However, the rise of the trapezoid is another real quick bump (others are player concussions and domestic violence) for the league amid its massive ascent to the American Sports Monolith. What happens, after two years of strategic planning with a broader political network, a major party supporting its every move and a political war chest larger than both the Republican and Democratic parties?
The NFL will be fine, after all. It’s too big to fail really. But that doesn’t mean the league will enjoy sweating when that situation, even temporarily, is in jeopardy. Maybe it’s time to make a plan.
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