We reluctantly interrupt this typically joyful moment on the NFL calendar, as teams return to their buildings for training camps, to ask a difficult question that may have lingered in our collective minds, one that we have tried our best to keep it dormant so far.
What follows is not a political endorsement or an ideological pointing finger. We will not rehash the previous term or delve into questions of morality. There will be plenty of time and space for that later.
Instead, it’s all about preparation, fitness. This is a question for coaches, general managers, players’ agents and, overwhelmingly, team owners. What have we learned from 2016 to 20? Suppose everyone got a free pass and no Republican, Democrat, or Freak Power party member could have predicted what shape the world would take under a Trump presidency.
Is the NFL ready for Donald Trump’s return?
Can the league ensure that it will no longer be a cowering minnow trying to protect itself from the open mouth of a passing shark, like when it changed its national anthem policy following criticism from the former president ? During Trump’s campaign and presidency, he was able to convince supporters that a slump in television ratings (thanks to the rise of streaming services and other blackout mechanisms cable) was proof that fewer people were watching the NFL because of Colin Kaepernick. In fact, it was because of Trump and his now infamous speech in which he implored NFL owners to fire kneeling players, saying, “Get that son of a b—off the field now. “Out! He’s fired. He’s fired! It was a sleight of hand, that’s for sure. It was also an effective tool to promote his cause and fuel his base.”
The midterm elections are 103 days away, which means we’re only steps away from the start of another busy smear campaign, and Trump will surely be on the campaign trail for the candidates he wish. We’re going to have magnified every potentially divisive issue imaginable for ourselves. We will be told that if you believe in X, you cannot vote for Y, and so on. We will discuss global conflict, public health and safety, women’s rights, the economy, gas prices, immigration, racial inequality and the state of our country in as a free and fair society. All of these questions will be carefully biased and distilled for us by our favorite news outlets, bringing us to the public octagon ready to throw their hands up.
NFL players have become a vehicle for discussion, awareness and collective action, which surprised some teams six years ago. I remember talking to a coach who was worried about players protesting during the national anthem, not because of an ideological difference, but because he couldn’t do anything to protect the players if the owner of that team wanted them to leave. The temperature in the team facilities was higher than we thought at the time.
If we remember correctly, there was so much awkwardness. Before teams became reluctant corporate-style partners for various progressive causes, they ranged from outright obstruction to strategically ignoring any potentially divisive action.
Pointing out that President Joe Biden and former President Trump are stylistically different shouldn’t be controversial. Indeed, Biden pinned his campaign hopes on a presidency that would cut the noise instead of amplify it. His only brief nudge with the NFL so far came in a joke about Aaron Rodgers’ vaccination status, which Rodgers sharply chastised in a pre-playoff interview with ESPN. Nor should it be controversial to point out that Trump, more than any other president in recent history, draws from the realm of pop culture in an effort to help him craft more relevant points. That’s how Kaepernick’s silent protest against racial inequality and police brutality became a national flashpoint, with Trump using the protest as a way to promote a campaign that would frame your opinion on enforcement tactics and practices. of law as a matter of right and wrong, pro-country and anti-country.
While Kaepernick’s efforts have largely softened the stance of society — athletes protesting, speaking out or raising awareness of the issues are now commonplace — they have also represented a modicum of success for Trump. The owners were reportedly buried under mountains of fan mail. Kaepernick has become insignia. The idea of remove politics from sport– which really meant remove the kind of politics i disagree with sport– has become a popular battle cry.
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Although not a direct parallel, the tactic seems to be the norm politically now (and probably, in a lesser sense, always has been). Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is battling the Disney Corporation (firmly in bed with the NFL as content partner and owner of ESPN) over its opposition to the Parental Rights in Education Bill. state, or “Don’t Say Gay,” in which is largely a culture war designed to appease voters in Trumpian style.
What could Trump be holding on to now?
Sport occupies an important place in the daily life and consumption habits of the former president. Despite pleas from families of 9/11 victims, Trump has spent the past week praising LIV Golf, a Saudi-backed company that seeks to dismantle the PGA and steal all of its top talent, and urging players to the PGA Tour to take money from the startup ahead of an inevitable merger.
The rhetoric will become more heated as we get closer to November 8 and Trump gets closer to returning to mainstream social media and taking over the daily news cycle, especially if he decides to run for president in 24 Over the past few months, the congressional investigation into Commanders owner Daniel Snyder has devolved into outright political theater, with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell being questioned by Republican senators about his fine. the team of defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio for referring to the attack on the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as “dust,” and about the NFL banning of the founder of Barstool Sports, Dave Portnoy, to cover his events. (Goodell said he was unfamiliar with the latter issue).
The NFL is an extraordinarily popular microcosm of society, which means our problems within those walls are a version of the problems facing the country as a whole. There are high-profile issues of racial inequality making their way through the courts when it comes to the NFL, via the Brian Flores lawsuit. Trump may find sympathy for the equally raw Jon Gruden, who saw his coaching career come to an end over leaked documents exposing racist, anti-LGBTQ and misogynistic language. (Trump repeatedly made an issue of leaked documents and statements in meetings during his presidency, apparently believing that the leaks and not the content of the leaked material were the problem.) The NFL is investigating credible accusations of tanking in the middle of a gambling bonanza, and we each know how much the former president takes pleasure in pointing the finger at an institution that he finds “rigged”.
In 2020, Falcons owner Arthur Blank topped all other owners with more than $1.1 million in donations to Democratic causes. Financial support for Trump has declined noticeably from the 2016 election cycle, with retired Raiders guard Richie Incognito personally giving nearly as much to the incumbent president directly ($11,549) as most other NFL staffers combined ($14). $738).
That certainly doesn’t shield the NFL from criticism. Trump was, and always will be, a businessman of conflicting tendencies. If he considers the league against him, he won’t hesitate to drag it into this culture war.
We often wonder if the NFL is evil, incompetent, or, perhaps, still shockingly surprised and unable to grasp its gigantic reach within society. The last of the three might be true, given the league’s consistent inability to see past the financial recourse of its actions. The NFL rarely heeds warnings. However, the rise of Trumpism is another real speed bump (others being player concussions and domestic violence) for the league amid its massive rise to American Sports Monolith. What happens after two years of strategizing with a larger political network, a dominant party backing its every move, and a political war chest superior to the Republican and Democratic parties?
The NFL will be fine, eventually. It’s too big to really fail. But that doesn’t mean the league will enjoy sweating it out when that status is, even momentarily, in jeopardy. Maybe it’s time to make a plan.
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