Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night — or, apparently, $100 million – will stay the National Football League’s protesters from the swift completion of their appointed tasks.
This week, a league that has tried just about everything from negotiating to pleading to offering reasonable alternatives to insulting the players did a true Hail Mary – they offered to fund causes important to the African-American community over a five-to-six year period to the tune of $100 million.
Under the proposed deal, the United Negro College Fund and Dream Corps. would receive $25 million each, with the remainder of the funding going to the ad-hoc Players Coalition to distribute as they desire. In return, the national anthem protests that have generated fan anger, sponsor anguish and lowered TV ratings would end.
Naturally, the players split on whether the offer was a good solution. Some accused certain Players Coalition leaders of holding beliefs no longer in the best interests of the protesters. Others felt the money was an out-and-out bribe, and refused to sell out their cause for any amount, while still others saw the deal as merely rearranging the deck chairs. Their concern was that the NFL would allocate funds already earmarked for charity, or spend it on public service announcements that essentially are advertising for the league.
With rumors swirling that the league is considering keeping all teams in the locker room during the national anthem for the 2018 season, the money offer may be the final effort by the league to create a workable solution that will address at least some of the player concerns. After that, the league may be the one taking a knee when called upon to address the situation.
This week’s national anthem protesters again came from the usual collection of kneelers, sitters and fist-raisers.
For the Los Angeles Chargers, left tackler Russell Okung continued his raised fist during the national anthem, as he has done for several weeks. Okung is one of the players who said he will continue to protest during the anthem, rejecting any compromise crafted by the Players Association and the league.
At Oakland, running back Marshawn Lynch again remained seated during the US national anthem (the Mexican national anthem, which Lynch stood for weeks ago, was not performed) before his team’s game against the Giants. Lynch later used the energy saved by sitting during the game, breaking off a long run for the first Raiders touchdown in the game.
The Los Angeles Rams continued to see linebacker Robert Quinn put his right fist in the air during the anthem, with punter Johnny Hekker against putting his arm around Quinn in support, a maneuver they have done most of the season. Running back Todd Gurley and receiver Tavon Austin linked arms.
In New Orleans, the Saints once again knelt as a team in unity before the national anthem, rising once the song began. Some players and coaches locked arms.
At the Meadowlands, cornerback Marcus Peters of the Kansas City Chiefs stood in the tunnel during the national anthem, coming back to the field once the song ended. He has done that for five straight games after sitting in the early part of the season.
In Miami, safety Michael Thomas, tight end Julius Thomas, and wide receiver Kenny Stills all kneeled during the anthem, as they have done for weeks. The trio recently returned to the field after staying in the tunnel for weeks after receiving approval from coach Adam Gase.
The San Francisco 49ers saw receiver Marquise Goodwin, safety Eric Reid and linebacker Eli Harold kneel during the anthem before their game against the Bears. Receiver Louis Murphy stood behind them with is right fist in the air. Reid is among the players adamantly opposed to the league’s money offer.
For the Tennessee Titans, receiver Rishard Matthews stayed in the locker room during the anthem, but emerged after. He is currently out with a hamstring injury.
The lone new voice in the protest coalition was Baltimore Ravens linebacker Tyus Bowser. He knelt in prayer in the end zone during the beginning of the national anthem before running to the sideline and putting his hand over his heart.