Less than three weeks after President Trump told an Alabama crowd that NFL team owners should bench players who protest during the National Anthem, the league may be caving under the pressure.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent out an official memo to all 32 team owners on Tuesday indicating that the league office will not continue their pretense of supporting the player's continued protests against police brutality and racial inequality.
The current dispute over the National Anthem is threatening to erode the unifying power of our game, and is now dividing us, and our players, from many fans across the country.
Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem. It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us. We also care deeply about our players and respect their opinions and concerns about critical social issues. The controversy over the Anthem is a barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues. We need to move past this controversy, and we want to do that together with our players.
After Trump's initial outburst, league owners bristled at the president publicly putting them on the spot and trying to tell them how to run their business. They responded with outraged press releases, and some even joined their players on the field to take a knee before or during the anthem. But with his consistently shrinking approval ratings stuck below 40% all summer, Trump saw his first polling increase after his carefully constructed controversy caught fire.
Since then he has spent his weekends on Twitter hammering protesting players for being unpatriotic and disrespectful to veterans. His faux-patriotism even extended to some political theater this last Sunday with Vice President Pence's staged walkout of an Indianapolis Colts game that cost taxpayers more than $250,000.
But it wasn't until after President Trump issued a threat to repeal tax breaks for the NFL in the face of continued protests that the team owners began to fold. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones went so far as to demand his players stand for the anthem.
NFL team owners are now considering making it official policy to stand for the national anthem at their fall meeting in New York next week, possibly giving Trump a much-needed win after failing to deliver on his campaign promises to jail Hillary Clinton, repeal Obamacare, or fix the tax code.