There was a time, not so long ago, when one of the biggest stories in the news was about some professional football players who didn’t stand with a hand over their hearts during the national anthem as a political statement. President Donald Trump made a big deal about it, and with public opinion mostly on his side he persuaded the National Football League to issue a policy against the practice and effectively blackball the player who had started the protests.
Public opinion is prone to change, though, and with hundreds of thousands of Americans taking to the streets all across the country to peacefully protest the same racism and police brutality that those football players were protesting, and numerous televised instances of the police brutalizing them, the NFL has changed course. League commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement Friday saying that “We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.” Star quarterback Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints was one of the few players willing to publicly criticize players “taking a knee” during the national anthem, but the next day he was offering an apology for his comments.
Trump responded with predictable anger, “tweeting” that Goodell was endorsing “disrespecting our Country & our flag,” and that Brees should not have apologized, but he seems to understand that public opinion has shifted. On Sunday he ordered the withdrawal of National Guard troops from the District of Columbia, and although he claimed it was because “everything is under perfect control” and “far fewer protesters showed up last night than anticipated,” we think it might have more to do with the criticism that came from all corners after he dispersed a peaceful protest with pepper spray and rubber bullets to have a photo opportunity at a nearby church that had been damaged by vandals during one of the many riots that have also occurred around the country.
The vast majority of Americans still approve of Trump’s get-tough policy about rioting and looting and arson, but they have a different attitude about the peaceful protests that have popped up everywhere, and there’s a growing consensus that the protesters have a point. Utah’s Republican Sen. Mitt Romney was among the marchers over the weekend, a number of retired high-ranking admirals and generals have publicly expressed their disapproval of Trump’s response to the protests, and most of the Trump loyalists in the Republican party are doing their best to stay quiet about it.
When you’ve lost the National Football League, you’ve lost the country.
— Bud Norman