ESPN.com’s Seth Wickersham dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Tuesday to discuss his recent piece about the activism that defined Week 3 of the NFL season.
“There’s a couple things that I took away,” Wickersham said on Reiter Than You. “I think that all the owners wanted the players to stop kneeling. Some of them, though, were more effusive in it than the others, and others understood and were willing to tolerate it. The owners took (the approach) of what can we do to make the kneeling stop? I think that line of questioning initially frustrated a lot of players and some of the fellow owners – because the players felt like, ‘Look, this is bigger than the NFL.’ To them, it was almost an offensive line of questioning because it felt like another attack on a civil liberty.”
President Donald Trump, of course, criticized the protesting players, called them a derogatory term, and insisting that owners fire them on the spot.
The owners didn’t like that.
“They were all irritated with the president, even the ones who supported him,” Wickersham said. “There’s a lot of owners who donated a million dollars to his inaugural fund. I think that by and large they thought that with the exception of Kaepernick not having a team, they thought that they had gotten the protest during the national anthem under control, and Trump went and shined a huge light on it and it would not let up. That was a position that a lot of owners just did not want. They didn’t want to do anything to antagonize him and I think they felt like there were some missteps that did or that politicized it unnecessarily. The last thing they wanted was a war with the White House, even though a lot of owners were really mad at the President for doing that.”
Owners already have a lot on their plate: ratings issues, player safety, battles with the union. A national controversy wasn’t something they wanted.
“This was a big spotlight put on them by the President of the United States, and they did not want that,” Wickersham said. “Did they really think that it might end football? I’m not quite sure about that, but it was definitely a headache that nobody wanted.”