After the better part of a year, the roiling anthem debate has been “solved.” The NFL owners did so Wednesday at their spring meeting, arriving at what shall forever be known as The Atlanta Compromise.
I don’t know why we would look to a league that has such trouble defining what a catch is to lay out the perimeters for a complex subject like patriotism. But here we are.
It’s a solution that could’ve been arrived at with a five-minute conference call rather than full-blown gathering of the moguls in our fair town. All this hand-wringing over something that ultimately was addressed so simply: Just make the national anthem voluntary, like OTAs and any serviceable block laid out by a wide receiver.
Those players who wish to participate in the pregame national anthem may do so, in an upright and locked position, as is tradition.
Those who don’t may remain out of sight, somewhere beneath the stands, presumably on the phone to their agents, tracking the loss of their endorsement accounts.
Players are free to kneel, raise a fist, sit on their helmets or dance The Floss – so long as no one can see it. Maybe they can get an image out on Instagram later, saving such comments for a more appropriate forum.
In other words, they are fine so long as they remain as invisible now on the sidelines as Colin Kaepernick.
It would be easy to say that the NFL took the most expedient way out of this mess Wednesday – easy to say because that’s absolutely what it did. And the only fault I can find with that is that it didn’t do so sooner.
There is no way to definitively solve this issue. The NFL is stuck between the right of self-expression and the reaction of a fan base that does not spend its money to be irritated before the kickoff. This decision was a thoroughly reasonable one, in a business sense. And, yes, the NFL field is a place of business, not a town forum.
Just about any action would have been preferable to the flailing that went on last season.
So, players can make their point by their absence, without taking that point and poking the customer in the eye with it.
We’ll see how long it will take before someone challenges this compromise – it is bound to happen. And how the league will react.
And we’ll see if there will come a new stat, to be a part of every future game – NPOA. Number of Players Outside for Anthem.
But in the meantime, I’ll use the Atlanta Compromise as an opportunity to take a knee and take a needed break from this topic.
The owners, too, can now move on to other pressing issues. Like in the light of recent court developments, to begin plotting where to install the betting windows inside their stadiums and to determine how many additional Brink’s trucks will be required on game days to haul off the profits.
Because no matter how the anthem issue may have been a drag on the popularity of the NFL – the affect overstated, perhaps – its country remains a great and bountiful one.