Entries in NFL (5)


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.


RealClearSports: Sports: People on Court, Not in Court

By Art Spander

On the front sports page of Thursday's USA Today, three headlines: "NBA Suspends Heat's Haslem for Game 6,'' "The Problem of Slow Play'' and "Players Sue NFL, Claim Collusion Over Cap."

This is the toy department of life?

Read the full story here.

© RealClearSports 2012


RealClearSports: I Told You So: NFL Back in Business

By Art Spander

The New York tabloids gave it that, "This is the most miraculous thing ever,'' approach, but, hey, understatement is not their style.

"Christmas in July,'' was the headline fromon the Daily News. Be interesting to see their assessment of Christmas in December.

Look. I don't want to say I told you, but ...

Read the full story here.

© RealClearSports 2011

RealClearSports: Guaranteed: There Will Be an NFL Season

By Art Spander

So that's settled. There will be an NFL season. Guaranteed.

What, you were worried, unhinged by the rhetoric? It's going the way it was supposed to go, to the 11th hour, to the edge. A long-ago Secretary of State named John Foster Dulles described the tactic as brinksmanship.

Read the full story here.

© RealClearSports 2011

RealClearSports: John Madden: Great Announcer, Better Man

By Art Spander

He was the voice, whose love both of his sport and his work was open and infectious. John Madden didn't just make us understand football, he made us understand ourselves.

The NFL and its television broadcasts will go on because institutions inevitably outlast the people who bring them to popularity and prominence.

Yet, cliché as the phrase may be, things never will be the same.

Madden truly was the guy on the next chair in the restaurant, or the next stool in the bar, the guy who had to get into the conversation. Then, unpretentiously, unlike so many others because he knew what he was talking about, John simply took over.

Or to borrow a Madden observation, "Boom!''

At age 73, John on Thursday announced he was retiring from the broadcast booth, a property he seemingly had held in perpetuity for four different networks, the last being NBC on Sunday nights. It was there he and Al Michaels kept us informed and entertained.

Now as Kipling would have said, like all captains and kings, John Madden departs, with his class, to our sorrow. We're not only losing a football mind, we're losing a friend.

His family had something to do with the decision. He'll be married to the wonderful Virginia 50 years in December, and they have two sons and six grandchildren, whom, from August to January, were virtual strangers to John.

The two Northern California teams, the Oakland Raiders, which Madden coached to a Super Bowl win more than 30 years ago, and the San Francisco 49ers, also had something to do with the retirement. They have slipped so far from their championship years they're not considered worthy of Sunday night TV. Madden thus never was able to get back to his Bay Area home during the NFL season.


"I'm not tired of anything," said Madden, "but I'm going away."

So, this fall, for the first time since he was a freshman at Jefferson High in Daly City, the working class community dead south of San Francisco, John Madden will not be involved in football.

"What made it hard," he said during his morning radio spot on San Francisco's KCBS, "is I enjoyed everything so much. I always felt I was the luckiest guy in the world."

John Madden was everyman, with a sharper intellect. He liked to make us believe that on his cross-country bus journeys he only ate at places named "Joes," or slept in his clothes.

He is a closet intellectual who always made you feel good. Even when he was berating you, as he did now and then when he was Raiders coach and I was covering the team for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Some sporting leaders, coaches, managers, general managers, insist they never read the papers. Madden wasn't at all that disingenuous.

He'd come jogging and yelling across the Raiders old practice field in Alameda, waving the sports page and telling me in a few unsavory phrases I didn't have a clue what was going on. Then, when the workout ended, he would give me a clue and an explanation. Boom.

A few years back I was driving from Oakland to San Francisco, sitting in the line of traffic waiting to pass through the toll booths on the east end of the Bay Bridge. A horn sounded. And sounded again. Three lanes to my right, it was Madden, honking and waving - his arm, not a sports story he didn't appreciate.

John's pal from the time they were kids has been John Robinson, who went on to a successful coaching career himself, leading USC to Rose Bowl wins. "We were just a couple of doofuses from Daly City," Madden reminded of the pairing.

Part of their ritual among the group with which they ran was buying ice cream cones. "Another kid would yell 'First dibs,'" said Madden, "and he got to lick your cone. So we all would immediately lick our own cones to keep anyone else from getting some of yours. John Robinson would still eat my cone after I licked it."

Along the way, Madden has licked the world. He coached. He became a TV analyst. He did commercials for seemingly every product from Lite Beer - "Tastes great; less filling." - to Ace Hardware. He has a weekend home on the Monterey Peninsula. He owns huge hunks of the Diablo Valley beyond the hills east of Oakland. He was voted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He has an eponymous EA video game.

And arguably, he's the biggest star ever connected to the NFL.

"There's nothing wrong with me," Madden said about leaving, repelling in advance any stories that he has a medical problem. "I'm not tired of traveling. It's just this is the right time, the right thing."

We'll miss you, John.

As a reporter since 1960, Art Spander is a living treasure of sports history. A recipient of the Dick McCann Memorial Award -- given for his long and distinguished career covering professional football -- he has earned himself a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And he has recently been honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the PGA of America for 2009.

© RealClearSports 2009