The NFL's solution to its uncomfortable truth? Hide it. Put it in the shadows so maybe folks forget it's still there.
The league and commissioner Roger Goodell cannot win on this ongoing national anthem controversy, a mess that is not solved or erased just because the compromise of a new leaguewide policy came out of Wednesday's league meetings in Atlanta.. The new stance was unanimously approved by owners, meaning the Dolphins' Stephen Ross fell in line.
There will be no unanimity, though, in how the new policy is received. Clearly, it is a victory for those angered or put off by the sight of players kneeling in protest during the anthem. It is a defeat for those kneeling.
The new policy in effect for this coming season will require players who are on the field to stand during the anthem, and give those who wish not to stand the right to remain in the locker room.
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In other words, you can still have your beliefs, players who have been kneeling the past two seasons to protest for equal justice, just keep those beliefs to yourself, please. Appear to go away, please. Do not intrude upon our fun and games images of social activism that remind us real life intertwines with sports now in a way that is forevermore inseparable.
It's like, if we are all gathered at the supper table and bowing our heads for grace, Uncle Ed the atheist is free to not participate — as long as he leaves the table and waits in another room, unseen, while we pray.
Henceforth, if players kneel or sit during the anthem while on the field, their teams will be subject to a league fine and the players to a team fine. The NFL considered also imposing on offending teams a 15-yard penalty but thought better of it.
The NFL just placed a Band-Aid on its problem, makeup that fails to cover the scar.
The father of this activism, the still-unemployed Colin Kaepernick, cannot be pleased by this new policy that makes the protests appear to go away while merely hiding them. But nervous NFL advertisers queasy over the perception the protests were somehow un-American may be placated by the issue being whitewashed -- relocated out of view.
The new policy is a victory of sorts for President Trump, who has vilified the kneeling players as disrespecting the flag, country and even the military when the protesters of course meant no such thing.
I found it interesting that Goodell, in explaining the new policy, said, "This season., all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.," a not too subtle way of suggesting that not standing is disrespectful.
A reminder is needed: This protest is about racism and profiling and inequality that continues in America, whether it is police killing an unarmed black man or a Starbuck's manager calling the cops on two men of color minutes after they arrived for a business meeting.
This protest isn't unAmerican. It is a demand for a better America.
The fight continues, and must, even as it evolves beyond an admittedly polarizing sideline gesture.
And even as the NFL has just told its protesting players to go wait in another room where they can't be seen.