Hoping to bring an end to kneeling during the National Anthem, NFL owners are meeting with the players’ union. To smooth the way, the League has endorsed legislation that would mean lighter sentencing for drug felons.
It’s unlikely that the NFL’s endorsement counts for much at this juncture. For one thing, it’s widely understood that Roger Goodell has enough trouble managing his own business without branching off into the nation’s. For another, the endorsement will be viewed by many, not as the League’s good faith analysis of criminal law and social policy (for what little that might be worth), but as an attempt to buy off the small number of radical players who disrespect our country when the anthem is played.
Nor will the NFL’s endorsement of leniency for felons solve the real problem it faces — fan disgust. The NFL’s fan base does not want to see professional football politicized the way ESPN has been, to its detriment. And many fans won’t be amused by League support for legislation that will mean more convicted felons on the street, and thus more crime.
To be sure, the League takes a bigger short-term hit when players kneel and the President complains than it will take for endorsing legislation most people don’t know about. However, pacifying radical players with this endorsement (assuming it has that short-term effect) will likely embolden them.
What happens the next time players take a knee (or engage in similarly disrespectful behavior) in the name of some other misguided “social justice” agenda item? Does the League support that item? If not, the NFL is back where it is now. If so, how do fans react?
The League needs to persuade its fan base that the NFL is “Not for Liberalism” — indeed, that it is not political except to the extent that love of America has become controversial. Endorsing leniency for felons at a time when crime is rising doesn’t seem like the way to accomplish this.