The NFL took two vastly different stances last week on controversial issues and people, in the process once more showing what really matters to its ownership and management. Letting NFL commissioner Roger Goodell act as the voice of the league in both matters, the NFL stood tall against criticism on one matter and seemed to bow to it on the other, though they tried to use the crux of behavior as justifications for their decision in the latter case.
Despite a trio of nationwide online petitions with 1.2 million signatures, Goodell said the NFL wasn’t changing its mind regarding former QB Michael Vick being a ceremonial Pro Bowl captain for the 2020 game. Though it’s not a playing position, the title carries public weight because it’s the centennial Pro Bowl observation. The game will be held in Orlando Jan. 26 and Goodell said at the NFL meetings the league was standing behind its decision.
“I have supported Michael, and I think his recognition of a mistake that he made,” Goodell said. “He’s paid a heavy price for that. He has been accountable for it. He’s worked aggressively with the Humane Society and other institutions to deal with animal rights and to make sure people don’t make the same mistake he made. And I admire that,” the NFL commissioner said. “I know that there are people out there who will never forgive him. He knows that. But I think this is a young man that has really taken his life in a positive direction, and we support that. So I don’t anticipate any change, no.”
There’s also another dicey NFL situation where there’s not going to be any change. Goodell also said the league has “moved on” in regards to former San Francisco 49er QB Colin Kaepernick. He addressed the Keapernick situation last Sunday, saying “This (the NFL arranged workout) was about creating an opportunity, which Colin’s representatives came out in early October and we created that opportunity. It was a unique opportunity — an incredible opportunity and he chose not to take it. I understand that. And we’ve moved on here.”
Kaepernick and his supporters maintain his reasons for changing the original workout location, which was the Atlanta Falcons training site in Flowery Branch, Georgia, to a high school in Riverdale south of Atlanta, was because he wanted the session open to the media at large and he wanted his own film crew to record it. In addition he said the NFL wanted him to sign a waiver they deemed “unusual,” one that his camp said “addresses employment issues.” They said the NFL rejected the standard waiver they proposed. About 300 fans and six scouts eventually attended the Kaepernick workout.
With this action, the NFL reaffirmed that it has less of a problem with people who’ve committed crimes than those who express political sentiments. Even if you feel (as I do) that Vick has served his time and deserves the opportunity to do whatever he chooses, including be a ceremonial captain for the Pro Bowl, it’s quite odd the league is willing to ignore the voices of 1.2 million opposing him being a Pro Bowl captain, but is uncomfortable with far fewer disgruntled right-wing types in a few cities claiming they would boycott their team if Kaepernick were signed.
Certainly the fact that the President weighed in on the negative had some impact as well, even though he’s had very little to say about it in recent weeks. You don’t have to either understand or endorse everything Kaepernick’s done in the last few days and weeks to see just how hypocritical the NFL looks in this situation.
It seems that in the eyes of NFL ownership, expressing a political stance that many of them don’t agree with ranks as the ultimate sin. Anything else can eventually be forgotten and forgiven.