The anti-American anthem protests continue to be a pox on the NFL.
Ringleader Colin Kaepernick remains a thorn in the league’s side despite the fact owners caved to the protesters and pledged $89 million to activist causes.
Now one owner could’ve relit the spark that drove away millions of viewers due to an ill-advised comment.
The Philadelphia Eagles won Super Bowl LII and will soon embark on the victors’ customary visit to the White House.
The team has an eclectic mix of players including prominent anthem protester Malcolm Jenkins, and devout Christians Nick Foles, Zach Ertz, Carson Wentz, and head coach Doug Pederson.
While Jenkins and other anti-Trump players Chris Long and Torrey Smith have no interest in visiting the White House, some players may feel differently.
But that visit could potentially be in flux after Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie made derogatory comments about Donald Trump in a New York Times piece.
It’s not often that the New York Times buries a quote of someone using vulgarity to disparage President Trump, but they did just that in a recent column about the Eagles upcoming trip to the White House.
Towards the end of an article which speculated about when the Philadelphia Eagles may choose to visit the White House, writers Ken Belson and Michael D. Shear tell of an audio recording of an exchange in September between a player, and Eagles Owner Jeffrey Lurie.
According to the Times:
“Weeks after Mr. Trump attacked the league, several dozen owners, players and league executives met to discuss a plan to donate money to an array of groups fighting social injustice. At one point, a player said that it was difficult to trust the owners because they supported Mr. Trump.
Mr. Lurie took exception.
‘Another fact I want to throw out there: Many of us have no interest in supporting President Trump,’ Mr. Lurie said, according to a recording of the meeting obtained by The New York Times. ‘Yes, there are some. There are some players who do, too.
‘But this is not where you brandish a group of people because they own assets in a sport we love, supporting what many of us perceive as, you know, one disastrous presidency,’ he said, using a vulgarity to emphasize ‘disastrous,’ then adding: ‘Don’t quote me.’”
The revelation of Lurie’s comments comes at an interesting time, since the Eagles are in fact planning a trip to the White House. Philadelphia had several prominent anthem protesters last year, among them, safety Malcolm Jenkins who led the players coalition in their meetings with the league.
Lurie supported Jenkins and other Eagles in their protest, and is also widely known to be one of the more liberal owners in the NFL. Jenkins, wide receiver Torrey Smith, and defensive end Chris Long, have already said that they will not attend the White House visit.
How many more Eagles might decline the trip is an open question. However, after these comments from Lurie, whether the invite to the White House still stands will become a question as well.
While some owners understand that a considerable portion of its viewing constituency is right-leaning or at least comfortable with respecting the flag and the anthem, other owners like Lurie may not have fully grasped that concept.
Alienating fans is what got the NFL in trouble in 2016 and 2017. The league needs to reverse that trend or else the significant drop in advertising revenue will only get worse.