After the NFL changed their policy, requiring players to stand and “show respect” for the national anthem, the conventional wisdom held that fear of a strong reaction from President Trump was a major factor in forcing the NFL to enact the new rule.
While conventional wisdom is often wrong, in this case it wasn’t.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, NFL owners actually considered doing nothing about anthem policy, given how few players were protesting at the end of the year. However, the owners feared that if they did nothing they would be vulnerable if Trump targeted the league in another fiery speech. Similar to the speech Trump gave last fall, when he called NFL protesters “sons of bitches.”
When Breer asked Packers President Mark Murphy if the subject of Trump came up, Murphy was direct.
“Oh yeah,” Murphy said. “It was more how [Trump] might react, anticipating that. Also, how the fans will react, how the media will react. That’s what we tried to think through. … No matter what we did, [Trump] would probably try to get involved one way or the other—either criticizing us or taking credit for the change.”
According to Breer, “The point, though, wasn’t belabored. One owner recalled Trump’s name coming up three times, and never for any extended time.”
Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones told Breer, ‘[Trump] certainly initiated some of the thinking, and was a part of the entire picture. But all of that was given consideration.”
While Trump may have not dominated the conversation, it’s clear that he was a significant factor in the process. Perhaps more interesting than anything actually said about Trump, is the fact that the president appears to have been a deciding factor in going ahead with the rule change in the first place.
If fear of being targeted by Trump pushed owners to act on an anthem policy change, as Breer reports that it did, then Trump impacted these talks more than any other factor, even if they never said his name at all.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn