The NFL’s Thursday night product still featured the mistake-riddled game that fans have come to expect from the midweek contests, but not one player protested the national anthem.
The New England Patriots pulled out a 19-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, in a slog of a game that witnessed multiple missed field goals and a slew of head-scratching penalties. But league executives will be pleased to note that it was devoid of the national anthem protests that had the potential to alienate half of its fan base.
Neither team had many players that were known to protest, as no Patriot player had protested before President Trump called out NFL anthem kneelers at a rally in Alabama last month. Some NFL players, such as Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, will most likely sit for the anthem for the rest of the season.
But the game still represented a comforting return to normalcy for league officials, as the talk stuck staunchly to football-related matters. Executives know they walk a fine line between alienating players, on one hand, and alienating fans on the other. But with protests dying down, it appears the secret meeting, held between league officials and select owners and players, addressing the best way to move forward–while not losing out financially due to the protests–has had a marked effect.
“We’re in a trying time right now with all the racial situations, the kneeling, the disrespecting of the flag and also fans pulling away from the greatest professional sports (league) in the country,” said Casillas, whom the Giants players chose as their representative to the meeting in response to a Mara invite. “And that’s been considered. That’s being felt by owners and players. So, it’s something that moving forward we have to address.”
“At the end of the day, we’re talking about losing money. Nobody likes losing money, especially not any of these owners,” Casillas concluded.
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