Editorial: NFL anthem furor is missing the point

The NFL is a mess and we’re not talking about the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth quarter or the hapless Jacksonville – or is that London? – Jaguars.

We could take a stand on this stand or don’t stand for the anthem controversy, but where do the NFL brass stand? One minute they’re kneeling with the players and the next they’re threatening to bench them for protesting. And the commissioner, Roger Goodell? Is he for it, agin’ it, or just up against it?

Mix in some politics, where the president of the United States stands up in Alabama and makes some easy campaign cash via cheap-seat political theater and, voila, you’ve got a cable TV topic with boffo ratings and hours of pointless grandstanding. Where’s the remote?

Oh, and somewhere in there, they play football and we watch.

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The idea that players who kneel during the national anthem are disrespecting the flag is a debatable point in itself. If you’ve ever looked up in the stands while the anthem is being played, there’s plenty of disrespect going on – talking, texting, drinking, yelling and whatnot. To say nothing of teams that hire – sometimes on purpose, more often by accident – singers who can’t handle our notoriously difficult national song.

By comparison, the protesting players who kneel while some off-key vocalizer mangles The Star-Spangled Banner are pretty polite.

Here’s a thought. The NFL is a marketing juggernaut. It sold multi-million dollar ads to pets.com for cat’s sake and made the Black Eyed Peas look interesting during a mess of a halftime show.

Why doesn’t the NFL use its marketing juggernautness and start a conversation about the issues that provoked this anthem protest flap in the first place – American values, social justice and race relations? Sure, most fans will blitz for a beer run, but if even a small percentage of the massive NFL audience would take notice it could make a huge difference in this country.

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It could happen. But it’s probably just fantasy football.