In case you haven’t noticed, NFL owners aren’t afraid of Donald Trump anymore, and this is huge.
Not only for the league, but for the nation.
Listen closely on how to handle the White House bully, because this whole thing has evolved for NFL owners, and here’s a spoiler alert: They've been liberated from Trump by a combination of guts, discipline and money. OK, it’s all about money, which is to say that contrary to popular belief, Trump’s tweeting hasn’t kept NFL owners from stuffing pennies into their pockets at an unprecedented rate.
Let’s start with guts, though. Those NFL owners were spineless through last season and slightly beyond, when their knees buckled over just the thought of a presidential tweet. They've now spent nearly a month demonstrating the best way to deal with craziness from the President of the United States.
You ignore the guy, and NFL owners show zero signs of returning to their brutal days as Donald's Dopes.
Did I say this was huge? More than a few NFL owners made at least $1 million donation to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, but they’ve gotten amnesia this summer, and their timing is perfect.
With things getting uglier around the Oval Office, both legally and politically, you just knew Trump would tweet more nonsense Friday morning about NFL players exercising their constitutional right Thursday night before exhibition games to protest social injustice. They did so by kneeling, sitting or leaving during the national anthem.
Trump rolled out of bed, grabbed his smart phone and did his version of waving a shiny object in the air for his tiny yet significant base.
Actually, Trump's hard-core supporters of maybe 38 percent only become significant when the bulk of the country follows one of those shiny objects, the ones that NFL owners suddenly couldn't care less about.
Consider this, and then you may applaud.
No NFL owners reacted to Trump’s Friday tweets that called players protesting during the national anthem an “outrage.” The President wrote: “The NFL players are at it again – taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem.” He also wrote: “Be happy, be cool! A football game, that fans are paying soooo much money to watch and enjoy, is no place to protest. Most of that money goes to the players anyway. Find another way to protest. Stand proudly for your National Anthem or be Suspended Without Pay!”
Hear that silence? It’s from those same NFL owners who were terrified last season after Trump called protesting players “SOBs” before he said they should be fined, suspended or fired. Those NFL owners remembered Trump's tirade along the way to a 10 percent drop in the league's TV ratings, and then they panicked last May in Atlanta during their yearly spring meetings.
Those NFL owners didn't take a vote (you know, to give each of them plausible denial), but they sort of agreed that all players should stand during the national anthem or have their teams face a possible fine. They also gave individual teams the right to discipline players, and they said players could stay in their locker room for "The Star-Spangled Banner" if they wished.
The president was pleased, and then he wasn't a couple of months later, when NFL owners began developing a spine out of nowhere. They put their new national anthem policy "on hold" after they consulted with the NFL Players Association. Not coincidentally, they sought that huddle a few hours after it was leaked that the Miami Dolphins planned to suspend players up to four games for not standing during the national anthem.
Soon after that, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones announced during the opening of his training camp in Oxnard, Calif., that all of his players had to resemble toy soldiers or something during the national anthem with "toes on the line." Trump praised Jones, but he blasted the others for giving into the players.
Which brings us to discipline.
Well, this is mostly about a gag order.
Courtesy of Jones' edict, the NFL ordered all owners to shut up regarding the national anthem controversy, and they've done just that, even with players protesting as frequently during this preseason as they did during last year's regular season.
It's been easy for NFL owners to keep quiet, because they realize their fears were unfounded last season after Trump's anti-NFL tweets contributed to those sinking TV ratings. I know, I know. It's always about the bottom line for those owners who add billions to their billions courtesy of the league's socialistic system that splits television revenue equally between its 32 teams after each season. But guess what? Despite those tweets in general and Trump in particular, the NFL still made a record $8.1 billion in television revenue, and each team received $255 million.
Suddenly, NFL owners viewed Trump's words and his tweets along the lines of the sound of grownups during a Charlie Brown cartoon show.
Wah, wah, wah.
Translated . . . Who cares?