andNEW YORK — It’s beginning to look like there’s a side benefit to the President Donald Trump attack on the NFL over the anthem. Eleven NFL owners and 13 players met inside a conference room on the sixth floor of the NFL office in midtown Manhattan for more than three hours Tuesday morning, and when it was over, one owner said it was the best dialog he’d ever experienced with players.
“I would say the same thing,” Atlanta owner Arthur Blank said Tuesday night, outside the hotel in lower Manhattan where the owners convened for their annual fall meeting. “I told [commissioner] Roger Goodell this, and I said it to all the owners this afternoon—I thought this was one of the most open and productive meetings I’ve been in, maybe ever, in any business I’ve been involved with. And I’m 75 years old. The players we met with today were deeply emotional and knowledgeable about the issues they’re passionate about. The owners listened, and I thought the owners responded with the same kind of passion.”
The owners made it clear on the first day of the two-day meeting that there won’t be an anthem policy set forth by the league. Essentially, the owners know that even though they’d like all players who suit up each week to stand at attention for the anthem, ordering them to do so would result in the same kind of civil disobedience that the Trump speech Sept. 22 in Huntsville, Ala., prompted. One of the players in the meeting Tuesday, 49ers safety Eric Reid, said he would continue to kneel for the anthem. So if the league is trying to show players they want to support their social-justice causes, the worst way would have been to say: We’ll support your causes, but you all have to stand for us to do that. That would have continued the distrust and bad feeling between top levels of the NFL and the NFL Players Association that has plagued the Roger Goodell reign.
What happens going forward is this: The NFL owners have to prove they’re serious in supporting the causes that are important to the players.
Said Blank: “The owners were very clear about the platforms we’re discussing with the players. This is not doing three media events and we’re finished. This is a long-term commitment that we have to make. These issues have to pass from one generation to the next. It’s hard work and it will take time.”
I asked two club czars, Blank and San Francisco CEO Jed York: So what happens when President Trump, Tweet-guns blazing, rips the owners for not forcing players to stand?
“We need to be above it,” said York. “We need to be above petty attacks from anybody, because racial and socioeconomic inequality have existed in this country for too long. You’ve got to block out the noise and do your job.”
“You know what I have learned in 75 years?” Blank said. “Control what you can control. Be responsible for what you say and do. In the NFL, our values have to respect the shield. We always have had a partnership with our players and now we have to stand with them on these important issues.”
It’s rare for players to get backing from any sports league on some of their major issues, like working to improve community relations with police, and working to make sentencing policies and parole guidelines less onerous for African-American males. These are not typical issues for players. But these are not typical times. These are passion points for players. As Blank says, the owners are going to have to be serious about helping players with these causes if the players are going to trust that isn’t lip service from the owners.
That will take time. Now we’ll see how the public, and the president, will react to this social consciousness.
Blank said he just finished a book that Martin Luther King wrote not long before he died, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” And he said Tuesday night: “I feel like we in this league right now need a sense of community to grow. This is a great country. We were built on inclusiveness, community, support and understanding. That is the best of us. And that is what we need to do now as a league.”
Now for your email...
KAEPERNICK A HORRIBLE FIT WITH THE PACK ...
I just needed to read the headline and I laughed: Aaron Rodgers Injury Could Be Reason For Green Bay Packers to Call Colin Kaepernick. You don't need to spend a lot of time in Northeast Wisconsin to know why that's an idea that would go over like a lead balloon in Packerland. My in-laws left this morning, returning to their home close to Green Bay. After hearing about the Rogers injury I laughed and told my wife the Packers should sign Kaepernick, knowing full well it would make my father-in-law, a lifelong Packers fan, and many of his peers give up on their beloved team for life. Jokes King, you've got jokes. —Sean B.
I question all the people who say if Kaepernick signed with the team they loved, they’d be finished with that team forever. I don’t believe it. Some would, maybe. But that’s the emotion of fans speaking. If you love a team for 40 years, and they sign a player you absolutely hate, you’re never going to root for them again? I just don’t believe that most of those people who say that would stick to that vow.
KAEPERNICK, THE UNPATRIOTIC JERK, BETTER NOT STEP FOOT IN GREEN BAY
There is absolutely no way I’d want that unpatriotic jerk on my team. I think you are full of beans to even suggest it. Grievance be damned. Thank you.—Charles
You’re welcome. Thanks for checking in.
REVELING IN MEDIOCRITY
Longtime reader of the MMQB—my Monday would be incomplete without it! This week’s headline, “NFL 2017: A Mishmash of Mediocrity, Where No Team is Great, Some Are Good (and One is Perfectly Bad)” certainly caught my attention more than normal. Since last season, a group of friends and I have been running an alternative fantasy league that we refer to as “Mediocrity Fantasy.” The scoring is PPR, with the aim to get as few points as possible each week. The only caveat is that a 0 point score means you get a 25-point bonus. This means we might be the only group of people revelling in the mediocrity of the league this year! —Dave
Dave, thanks so much for the kind words. They’re much appreciated. I really love your fantasy league idea. How do you go about figuring who will stink in a given week? To me, in this year of wacky results, that would take real skill.
JJL WOULD RATHER HAVE MEDIOCRITY THAN A COUPLE GREAT TEAMS
You can consider the season mediocre, but I personally find it refreshing when no team is dominant and every week games are up for grabs with upsets, surprises, etc. This season is far more interesting than the previous ones you listed where one or two teams were dominant and predictable.—JJL
You know, I agree with you. I love waking up Sunday morning and having no idea what will happen. But I do miss one lead dog. I miss everyone chasing one great team, or two great teams. There is a thrill of the chase that I miss, and the idea that everyone is shooting at one or two great teams appeals to me. But this is okay too. The season’s fun.
WHAT ABOUT MIAMI
I love reading your article every Monday, Peter, but am disappointed this morning. My Dolphins were the biggest underdog this weekend, went into Atlanta and were down 17-0 at halftime. They came back in the second half, played great, scored 20 unanswered points and defeated the defending NFC Champs in a game that NO ONE predicted we'd stand a chance and let alone win. And the only blurb you write...was about Hall’s TD??? C'mon man...—Scotty
You make a good point. I missed the Dolphins. I owe you (and them) one.
RAMEN IN NYC
Peter, if you enjoyed the Ramen, you should know the BEST outside of Japan is right here in NYC. Ippudo is a global chain modeled after the original in Tokyo. There are three in Manhattan. I’ve been to the shop on 51st and also have been to the original in Tokyo and can say definitively they have exported Ramen perfection.—Ron
I never thought I’d get mail about ramen. Life is cool.
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