Entries in Harry Edwards (1)


Harry Edwards: ‘NFL owners own the franchise, they don’t own the players’

By Art Spander

So there are people in the NFL hierarchy who confuse praying with protesting. But of course. In the modern world, it’s perception that counts, instead of actuality.

Get off your knees, guys, or Papa John’s sales will never rebound.

The league deals with the actual game, banning certain tactics on kicks, wedge blocking or running starts by the kicking team, with the idea of improving safety.

Then it turns to political football, trying to placate the demands of a one-time wannabe NFL owner named Donald Trump

Trump is president of the United States. He wishes he were commissioner of the NFL, which on Sundays from September to February may be a more important position, if not a more enviable one.

Yes, the commish, Roger Goodell, earns something around $40 million a year, but many of his employers are deeper-pocketed, short-sighted individuals more worried about first downs than the First Amendment.

That particular item states that Congress will make no law prohibiting free speech or press or the right of people to assemble peaceably. Presumably that includes those in uniform on the sidelines.

But because Trump contends that certain maneuvers, such as kneeling during the National Anthem, displease him, and because the owners are his wealthy pals, the league recently voted that players either must stand during the anthem or stay hidden, in the locker room.

Not very intelligent, says our old friend Harry Edwards, the Cal professor emeritus in sociology who helped lead the revolt of the black athlete in the 1960s.

“Some of the owners, including Jerry Jones (of the Cowboys), are confused,” said Edwards. “They own the franchise. They don’t own the players.”

And the players, in a league that is mostly African-American, have taken it upon themselves to use their status to call attention to what they feel are injustices against blacks in America.   

Colin Kaepernick, then with the 49ers, took a stand by not standing for the Star Spangled Banner. Other players followed, Trump screamed and the owners caved, in a typically incongruous manner.

Either you stand or you stay out of sight.  

“We want to honor the flag,” Edwards said, speaking for the protestors. “We just want to show we’re better than the 147 black men being shot down.”

Edwards doesn’t blame Goodell, who he says is more observer — ever try to tell a billionaire anything? — than director. Some in charge are wiser than others. When Bill Walsh coached the 49ers to their championships, he brought in Edwards to ease problems, racial or otherwise, between players and management.

Edwards looks at the NBA as a league far ahead of the NFL. “The Warriors,” he said, “that’s the way to run a team.”

The Warriors, certainly, made it clear after winning the 2017 NBA title that they didn’t want to go to the White House and meet Trump. Now it’s the Philadelphia Eagles, as Super Bowl champions, who made it clear that they similarly did not feel comfortable visiting with the president.

Trump then withdrew the invitation.

“They disagree with their President,” said Trump of his dis-invite to the Eagles, “because he insists they proudly stand for the national anthem.”

After that, Trump added a tweet: “Honoring America, no escaping to Locker Rooms.” 

Interestingly, no Eagles player last season went to his knees during the anthem. And receiver Torrey Smith, denying that the Philly players wouldn’t show at the White House, tweeted: “So many lies. Here are the facts. No one refused to go simply because Trump insists folks stand for the anthem.”

The players, he said, countering a misconception, are not anti-military. They are just opposed to those who restrict their rights and ignore law enforcement brutality.

“The league handled the issues very poorly,” said Edwards. “To players, little things matter where the differences among teams is so slim. One player stays in the locker room, another doesn’t — that could split a team.

“Athletes now have a bigger stage than ever.”

And more to say from that stage.