News & Politics

Confidential Meeting Reveals NFL Owners' Fear of Donald Trump

The Pittsburgh Steelers side of the field is nearly empty during the playing of the national anthem before an NFL football game between the Steelers and Chicago Bears, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Chicago. The Pittsburgh Steelers players did not come out to the field during the anthem. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

It hasn’t been a banner year for the NFL. In fact, it’s been a bad year for Roger Goodell and company. This past October, league officials, players, and owners met to discuss the growing problems within the league, specifically players kneeling during the National Anthem. An audio recording of that meeting obtained by the New York Times reveals that the mounting pressure put on the NFL by President Donald Trump has had an effect.

At the start of the meeting, NFL Commissioner Goodell implored everyone in attendance to keep the contents of the meeting a secret. In the technology age, he was tilting at windmills. Of course, the meeting was recorded and the tape leaked.

The NYT explains that as the meeting began,

The players sounded aggrieved. After discussing a proposal to finance nonprofit groups to address player concerns, they wanted to talk about why Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who started the anthem protests to highlight social injustice and police brutality against African-Americans, was, they believed, being blackballed by the owners. The owners sounded panicked about their business under attack, and wanted to focus on damage control.

With slumping TV ratings, the owners realized what the players have the luxury of ignoring — all of the protesting and the connection to SJW causes was killing the goose that had laid everyone in that room’s golden egg. Owner of the New England Patriots Robert Kraft put his finger on the problem as he spoke about the players kneeling during the National Anthem, “[W]e have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission.”

Kraft was speaking for the owners as a group, because as the NYT points out,

The owners were intent on finding a way to avoid Trump’s continued criticism. The president’s persistent jabs on Twitter had turned many fans against the league. Lurie, who called Trump’s presidency “disastrous,” cautioned against players getting drawn into the president’s tactics.

“We’ve got to be careful not to be baited by Trump or whomever else,” Lurie said. “We have to find a way to not be divided and not get baited.”

The Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula sounded anguished over the uncertainty of when Trump would take another shot at the league. “All Donald needs to do is to start to do this again,” Pegula said. “We need some kind of immediate plan because of what’s going on in society. All of us now, we need to put a Band-Aid on what’s going on in the country.”

Throughout the meeting the NFL owners kept reiterating the need to protect the bottom line and that the protests were hurting attendance and TV ratings. Boycotts and angry sponsors were new headaches for the owners. President Trump’s tweeting about the NFL had stirred up his base and was threatening the growth of the NFL.

After the meeting was over, the players and owners released a joint statement insisting that the meeting was productive and that everything was fine with the NFL. Except the recording reveals a group of players oblivious to the damage their virtue signaling was doing to the league and a group of owners all too aware of the damage being done to their bottom line by President Trump.