NFL Sponsors Punt on Anthem Controversy Despite Fan Outrage

Roger Goodell/PHOTO: WEBN-TV via Creative Commons

Following in the footsteps of cowardice exhibited by the NFL’s owners, coaches, and media partners, the league’s corporate sponsors remained mostly mute following the offensive display by players who disrespected the symbols of American freedom by kneeling during the Star Spangled Banner.

Friday night’s remarks in Huntsville, Ala. by President Trump, who called upon team owners to “fire” the “SOB” players who refused to stand during the anthem, was met with a firestorm of resistance. Depending on the team, the league-wide response by more than 200 of its players was for some players – and sometimes entire squads – to stay in locker rooms, sit on benches, interlock arms in unity or otherwise go missing during the flag-honoring ceremonies of games.

Besides showing condemnation towards Trump and his remarks in every way imaginable, the media has gone into its typical “what do you think” mode as it shoves microphones in the faces of nearly every notable figure with a connection to the president or to the league.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told Peter King of Sports Illustrated that he supported the players’ actions.

“The way we reacted today, and this weekend, made me proud,” he said. “I’m proud of our league. The [players] really care about our league. I just think we need more understanding….The [demonstrations] reflected the frustration, the disappointment, of the players over the divisive rhetoric we heard [from Trump].”

So the commissioner made the protests a “we” thing, projecting the image that the NFL is officially unified with the players who reject respect for the symbol and song that stand for American freedom, and the sacrifice that goes with preserving it. But what do the corporate sponsors, responsible for $1.25 billion in revenues last year, think?

According to the league and media reports, not much.

“We’ve talked to them, we keep them informed,” said NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart, a former press secretary for President Clinton. “I haven’t heard of a single issue of a sponsor that is worried or has raised particular issue about the weekend.”

Unsurprisingly, liberal agenda sympathizer Lockhart saw no cause for concern with regard to potential sponsor objections after the weekend, or should the protests continue.

“I’ve never seen an event that has more forcefully pulled together and united a group in support and defense of the game than I saw this weekend,” Lockhart told reporters on Monday. “To the extent that has a business positive, that’s great,”

But the former Clinton mouthpiece appeared to miss a few indicators. Television ratings, already in free-fall, were the lowest since 2006 for the NFL’s weekly marquee matchup on Sunday night. Jersey sales of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger who was the only player on the team to honor the flag, surpassed those of the league’s star quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Villanueva is an offensive lineman, the equivalent of a grunt in military terms, so the explosion of jersey sales bearing his name is significant. And as just one example, a Denver-area auto dealership pulled its advertisements featuring former Super Bowl hero Von Miller of the Broncos.

But the few major corporate sponsors who weighed in – those that are typically the most cowardly for fear of stirring the ire of millions of customers and influential shareholders – were the squishiest in their statements, yet leaned in support of the players’ behavior.

“Nike supports athletes and their right to freedom of expression on issues that are of great importance to our society,” the company said.

Ford Motor Company said it would “respect individuals’ rights to express their views, even if they are not ones we share. That’s part of what makes America great.”

Hyundai Motor Co. said, “We stand for and respect individuals’ freedoms to express their First Amendment rights in any peaceful manner in which they choose. We also stand for inclusion, freedom and all that represents those values.”

And Under Armour, trying to have it both ways, tweeted that it “stands for the flag and by our athletes for free speech, expression and a unified America.”

But the protests were initiated last year by now-sidelined former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started sitting out the anthem because of the fraudulent Black Lives Matter cause that pushed the phony narrative that police officers were disproportionately targeting and shooting black suspects. This led to a rash of attacks and shootings of officers in retaliation.

It was this false foundation upon which Kaepernick began the disrespectful actions that led to his ultimate unemployment, and now have grown into similar demonstrations touching nearly every city affiliated with the league. This fraud is what the protests truly stand for – not “freedom of speech” or expression.

The league’s top sponsors include include corporations like Visa, Anheuser-Busch InBev, PepsiCo, Bridgestone, Microsoft, and McDonald’s. Hundreds of others finance the league to varying degrees as well.

And besides the league itself, the NFL Players Association – their labor union – has its own set of sponsors, many of which overlap with the league’s.

Some of the sponsors of the NFL and/or the NFLPA that are reticent to say anything about the protests were unafraid last year to speak out on another controversial issue – allowing so-called “transgenders” to use public and business restrooms based upon whatever sex they “identify” with on a given day. Marriott, Microsoft and Visa were among the corporations to chastise lawmakers in the State of North Carolina for a law that protected women’s and children’s privacy from the threat of the presence of men in their bathroom facilities.

But when it comes to taking a stand on behalf of America’s symbols of freedom – and by extension the law enforcement, public servants, and military that defend it – these corporate cowards run and hide, or worse, stand with the traitors.