Just like that, NFL owners showed Thursday night they are more terrified by a bunch of angry players than an avalanche of presidential tweets.
What took them so long?
They finally stumbled into the truth, which is: Pacifying whoever they have at left offensive tackle is more important to the health of their franchise than keeping Donald Trump away from his smart phone. You can tell those owners realized as much after they released their joint announcement Thursday night with the NFL Players Association that said the owners will put an indefinite hold (translated: It will never happen) on that new national anthem policy they concocted in May during their spring meetings in Atlanta.
Under the new policy, the owners said players could sit, kneel or do somersaults in their locker room during "The Star Spangled Banner," but if they brought their protests for social injustice to the field, their teams could be fined an unspecified amount of money. In case you didn't know, fines mean nothing to NFL owners worth billions of dollars, but there also was this poison pill in the midst of it all: Under the new policy, each of the 32 teams had the right to establish its own forms of punishment for anybody who did anything less than stand at attention during the national anthem.
Not coincidentally, the NFL decided to make nice with the players association Thursday night a few hours after the Associated Press announced the Miami Dolphins had became the first team to submit its penalties under the "Proper Anthem Conduct" section of its nine-page discipline document. According to the Dolphins' document, violating players could be suspended up to four games.
Let's see . . . violating players . . .
Could such a punishment apply to somebody just quietly raising a fist to the air? Or how about if a guy refused to put his hand over his heart or blinks too much between "O say can you see" and "the home of the brave?" Yep, yep and yep, because it was all subjective.
Without the suspension of the NFL's new policy, goodness knows what punishment other teams would have devised beyond those of the Dolphins, and the owners weren't in the mood to find out. Not with the players filing a grievance earlier this month with an independent arbitrator to say the NFL's new national anthem policy infringed on player rights and was inconsistent with the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
You know, the same CBA that has the owners fretting since it expires after the 2020 season.
Even before the national anthem controversy, the NFL Players Association told its members to start saving money for the likelihood of the league's "Mother of All Strikes" three years from now. The owners don't want that, because they like their billions too much, and I hear what you're saying: Those billions are why the owners gave into Trump saying protesting NFL players were SOB's while telling fans to boycott the league. Courtesy of the president's huffing, puffing and tweeting over those players exercising their constitutional rights, the league's overall television ratings last season dropped nearly 10 percent.
Guess what, though? When NFL owners did what they always do at the end of every season by dividing their TV revenue in equal shares, each team still got a record $255 million out of the $8.1 billion overall.
So much for those tweets.
Hello, compromise with those players.