If you've ever wanted a crystal-clear window into the minds behind the NFL, you just got your sick wish. The New York Times obtained audio from last fall's meeting between NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, various owners, executives, and players shortly after President Trump criticized the league's handling of player protests against racist police brutality. And the owners—surprise, surprise—all sounded like a bunch of hand-wringing wusses when it came to all things Donald Trump.
When the season kicked off back in September, Colin Kaepernick was nowhere to be found on a roster, but he still showed up in spirit as players around the league continued the anthem protest that owners quite obviously find to be radioactive. Presumably bored one weekend with nothing to do, United States President Donald Trump rattled off a bunch of statements—on Twitter and at rallies—that called protestors "son[s] of bitch[es]," chastised the NFL for not punishing protestors, and encouraged an NFL boycott.
Sensing an emerging crisis, NFL owners and executives agreed to meet with players to try to figure out how to proceed.
The tapes—headed with Goodell saying "let's make sure that we keep this confidential"—elaborate on the inner thoughts of a league concerned about public relations in the face of a social movement much larger than itself. The room, of course, was disproportionately white, which is in no way surprising when you look at ownership of NFL franchises.
Kaepernick's status was obviously a huge issue, and the players wanted to know why he still wasn't on a roster, as they all said he clearly had the talent to find a spot somewhere in the NFL. The closest tie he had in the room was Eric Reid, Kaepernick's former teammate on the San Francisco 49ers, who wore a Kaepernick shirt to the meeting.
“I feel like he was hung out to dry,” Reid said of Kaepernick. “Everyone in here is talking about how much they support us.” The room fell quiet. “Nobody stepped up and said we support Colin’s right to do this. We all let him become Public Enemy No. 1 in this country, and he still doesn’t have a job.”
The meeting was a tour de force for out of touch white dudes. Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula wanted to control the narrative by emulating the NRA's use of Charlton Heston as spokesman. Houston Texans owners Bob McNair foreshadowed his later "inmates running the asylum" comments by telling the players, regarding the protests, “You fellas need to ask your compadres, fellas, stop that other business."
But the overwhelming feeling in the room was that Trump was going to singlehandedly dismantle the league, and that the owners were scared shitless. Pegula, for example, made the claim that the NFL was "under assault."
“All Donald needs to do is to start to do this again,” Pegula said, per the Times. “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."
Yes, because all racism needs is a bandaid and a Charlton-Heston-NRA-like spokesman to calm people down.
But the most weasel-y and ridiculous comment of course had to be saved for New England Patriots owner, and friend of the President, Robert Kraft:
“The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interests of America,” said Kraft, who is a longtime supporter of Mr. Trump’s. “It’s divisive and it’s horrible.”
I wonder if Trump wants to give his No. 45 Pats jersey back now.