The NFL has a hot potato in its grimy PR hands, and if it doesn't act quickly and decisively to move the focus off the anti-patriotic message it has festering in its pregame programming, it stands to lose an unfathomable amount of its market share.
In fairness to the NFL brain trust, if President Donald Trump hadn't thrown some red meat to the sharks in another one of his never-ending campaign rallies -- this one in Alabama -- there probably would have been three players taking a knee during Week 3 NFL games, and the negativity would have been held to a minimum. Instead, there were more than 200 players taking a knee, as the protests were more about protesting the President's incendiary comments than anything else.
But, as the game of football teaches you, you have to be prepared to make immediate adjustments. Instead, Commissioner Roger Goodell, working off an old and mostly white PR playbook, has shown an innate ability to skipper his league into every PR iceberg.
That the league is on the verge of awarding Goodell with a new and even more lucrative extension in the five-year, $185 million ballpark is simply mind-boggling. But, I digress from the larger point.
That larger point is that Goodell must get his NFL Players Association counterpart DeMaurice Smith to immediately lock arms with him on a new plan of getting all the teams and players together on how to present a unified and more positive message that doesn't disrespect the flag.
On "Monday Night Football" Sept. 25 the Dallas Cowboys may have shed light on how to do that. Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett talked after the game about how the Cowboys had discussed internally through their leadership council how to stand for unity and equality and show respect for the American flag and national anthem. He said those talks started on Sept. 24 and may have been ongoing until 20 minutes before the start of the game.
Before the national anthem, the Cowboys collectively locked arms and knelt on their side of the field. After kneeling for "unity and equality," they stood, still locking arms, and showed the proper respect for the flag and anthem.
After the game, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones addressed the media and talked about how the positive message of players doing something meaningful to point out the need for unity and equality in this country had become controversial because the message got blurred due to the perceived insult to the flag.
Too many fans across the country are incensed at the seeming slight to the country by the multitude of individualistic displays. These fans have turned in PSLs, pronouncing they are done forever with the sport they love. The internet is running over with videos of fans burning their favorite team's jerseys. One member of the Buffalo Bills security team immediately turned in his hat and badge and left the Stadium Sept. 24 after the anthem. He had worked for the Bills for 30 years.
Telling these people they are wrong to feel the way they feel is no better than telling those who feel the need to protest racial injustice they are wrong.
These are complex issues. We live in a time of great divisiveness. That divisiveness is being fueled by a President who seems to care little about bridging the great racial divide in this country.
At this point in time, something seeming as simple as our mindless football Sundays are not quite so simple any longer. By the looks of it, if Goodell can't lift his sport with a game-changing audible, his sport could really get sacked beyond repair.
Photo Credit: Ed Sheahin/PressBox