Wednesday, December 6, 2017

NFL National Anthem Controversy (2017)


The NFL has been in the news a lot more than usual lately and I am sure if you have looked at a screen in the last six months you have heard at least something about the National Anthem Protests. With all the Presidents tweets, the misunderstood players, and all the media outlets with the latest story of who said what, it really has been a hard story to follow but I will do my best to straighten out the facts. The controversy first started when Colin Kaepernick (then backup Quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers) sat on the bench instead of standing for the Anthem for the third preseason game and first 2 regular season games of the 2016 season. Colin was silent on his protest until an image of him sitting during the national anthem surfaced and his response to why he was sitting was because he disagreed with the oppression of people of color and ongoing issues with police brutality. Colin then reiterated that he wanted to be the voice for people that didn't have one and eventually started to kneel instead of sit. Fast forward a few months and Kaepernick is making National news while male and female athletes of many different nationalities from a variety of different sports at the professional, collegiate, high school, and youth levels all following in his footsteps and standing up (or kneeling down) for what they think is right. You may be thinking this happened over a year ago, why is it becoming a real controversy that needs to be dealt with now? Well that's where it starts to get a little confusing. Before, this all started the NFL did not have a rule regarding standing for the anthem. No one ever protested it before so it never was an issue. When the new season came around players started to protest again but this time President Trump condemned them for it. The president called them SOBs and said they should be fired if they protest. The President then told the public to boycott the NFL games if the protests continued. This is when the issue started to become national news again. On October 8th of this year, VP Mike Pence attended a colts and 49ers game and left after the anthem because of the protests. The president claimed that it was not about race but about disrespect towards our country and flag. A poll was taken and showed that two thirds of the NFL fan base agreed that the Players should stand for the anthem. When the NFL commissioner and team owners realized they could actually start to lose money because of this they decided something needed to be done. The owners and commissioner decided to schedule a meeting to resolve this issue and the players union was recently invited to attend. This meeting took place on October 17th, in downtown Manhattan. On hand at this meeting were Roger Goodell (the leagues commissioner), the league’s football operations chief, 2 former players, 10 team owners, the NFL players’ association executive director and president as well as 11 current NFL players. Colin Kaepernick was not invited to this meeting but his lawyer has said that he would like to attend meetings in the future. The outcome of this meeting was that there will be no change to the policy regarding the National Anthem as of now. However, the commissioner, owners, and players referred to the meeting as “positive”, “constructive”, and “a step in the right direction.” This is a very positive outcome for the NFL because it starts to mend the broken ties between the commissioner and owners and the players. This also shows the general public that the NFL is working with these players to create a positive change in their communities and can shed some positive light on the league.
In the center is Colin Kaepernick (#7) the man who was the first to protest the National Anthem.


In the case of the national anthem protests in the NFL there are many stakeholders. The stakeholders would include the entire NFL (owners, coaches, players, employees), fans of the NFL, NFL sponsors, and President Trump. President Trump is a stakeholder in this because many people believe this is a feud between the NFL and the President himself. Many people believe that the President is attacking the NFL not because of racial issues or disrespecting the flag but because he has a personal vendetta against the NFL. In the 80s President Trump was an investor and part owner in the United States Football league and filed a lawsuit against the NFL. In 2014 Trump tried to purchase an NFL team (Buffalo Bills) but was unsuccessful. Although it is not too far-fetched for our president to do something like this for personal reasons it is also not too far-fetched for a president to demand that everyone respect the anthem and the flag of the country they are currently trying to run. Regardless of his intentions the President is anxiously awaiting the results of the upcoming meeting. The NFL owners are large stakeholders in this controversy and probably in the toughest position. They have to decide on a solution that can fix the situation and not cause any harm. The owners have to contemplate influences from their coaches, players, and families as well as the NFL shareholders, fans, the president and his or her own personal values. The owners have to try and make all these people happy in addition to making a profitable decision. The players are important stakeholders in this matter because they are the ones that started the protest and are looking to get something out of it. I am not sure exactly what the players wanted to get out of the protests but they probably wanted to get a platform where they can inform people on the problems of police brutality as well as the oppression of colored people in our society and the meetings with the commissioner and owners may be exactly that. The NFL fans are stakeholders in this situation because they are the consumers that drive the business of the NFL and keep it profitable. If the NFL makes the fans unhappy this could be detrimental to the league. Ratings could start to fall, sales could start to plummet and worst case scenario fans start boycotting games and stop watching on Sunday. The NFL can get a new commissioner, new owners, and new players but it cannot get a new fan base and that is why these meetings have been made, because fans are becoming unhappy.


Individualism is a theory that states that an ethical business decision is one that will maximize the profits for the owners but without breaking any laws. For the owners to make an individualistic approach to what they hope to resolve in the upcoming meetings they would do what will in turn maximize their profits and I think they can achieve that if they focus on making the fans happy. The fans are the ones buying tickets to games and tuning in on Sunday so if you want to maximize profit you need to make them happy. Before this controversy, the NFL fan base was not upset with the NFL however, ratings had slightly dipped from the year before. That being said the NFL was still very well off financially. If the NFL wanted to take this approach they should choose to force the players to stand for the anthem because that is what the majority of fans believe should be done.


Players on the same team choosing different forms of protest.
Utilitarianism is the theory that states that the moral or right thing to do is the option that produces happiness in the greatest number of people. In other words according to Utilitarian’s the ethical thing to do is the action that promotes all around happiness to all parties affected. The 3 main stake holders in this dilemma are the Owners, players and fans and they all have many possible costs and benefits. The possible costs for the owners is that they will start to lose revenue and the possible benefit is that they will make their players and fans happy. The possible cost for the players is that they can be fired and the possible benefit is that they will improve quality of living in America for people of color as well as decreasing police brutality. The benefit for the fans would be that they don’t feel anyone is disrespecting flag and anthem and a possible cost would be not being able to watch football on Sunday because of declining revenues or a player strike. The utilitarian choice for this specific controversy is hard to distinguish because there are so many differing opinions and possible outcomes that can happen. Since two thirds of the NFL fan base is against protesting the national anthem I think the most utilitarian approach would be to force the players to stand for the anthem because that would produce happiness for the majority of people.


Kant’s formula of humanity states Humanity as an end in itself. Basically, Kantianism is a theory that states that people should respect others when making decisions and never do something that will benefit themselves at the cost of someone else. If someone with a Kantian approach were to make a decision on this controversy they would decide to let the players do whatever protest they wanted during the anthem. A Kantian would chose this approach because if they did the opposite it would harm the player’s efforts to have their voices be heard and issues dealt with. Also, if they chose to not take the Kantian approach and let the players protest than they might harming other people’s future protest efforts by taking away their freedom of speech.

Virtue Theory

Seattle Seahawks chose to stand with linked arms to show unity.
Virtue theory is a theory that states a person is making moral decisions when acting with good character traits and is immoral when acting with bad character traits. If the NFL wanted to show they are understanding they would let the players protest because they would understand where the players are coming from. If the NFL wanted to show they are open they would not change the policy and invite the players to discuss the issues which is what they are currently doing. If the NFL wanted to show they are compassionate they would let the players protest as well as starting a foundation to combat these issues that are being protested because this would show that the NFL wants to help people in need. Virtue theory can also work for negative traits. If the NFL put a stop to the protesting and did nothing to support the cause of the protesters they would be showing that they are immoral by acting on inconsiderate and selfish character traits.

Futterman, Matthew, and Andrew Beaton. “NFL Owners to Discuss Policy on Standing for Anthem.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 10 Oct. 2017,

Held, Amy. “NFL's Roger Goodell Says Players 'Should Stand' For National Anthem.” NPR, NPR, 11 Oct. 2017,

“NFL: No Mandate for Players to Stand during National Anthe
Futterman, Matthew, and Andrew Beaton. “NFL Owners to Discuss Policy on Standing for Anthem.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 10 Oct. 2017,

Held, Amy. “NFL's Roger Goodell Says Players 'Should Stand' For National Anthem.” NPR, NPR, 11 Oct. 2017,

“NFL: No Mandate for Players to Stand during National Anthem.”,

Wagoner, Nick. “NFL Players Union to Join Owners Meeting to Talk Anthem Controversy.”ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 11 Oct. 2017,

“Roger Goodell: Didn't Ask Players, Owners to Change National Anthem Policy.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 18 Oct. 2017,

King, Peter, et al. “Owners, Players Seek to Resolve Anthem Issue.”,

No comments:

Post a Comment