Bell: Anthem Policy Adds "Fuel To The Flame"

The NFL has spoken, but this issue is far from over, Jarrett Bell says

May 24, 2018 - 8:34 am

USA Today Sports


NFL owners have unanimously approved a new rule requiring players to either stand for the national anthem or remain in the locker room while it is played. 

“I really didn’t think it was going to get done this quickly,” USA Today NFL writer Jarrett Bell said on Ferrall on the Bench. “I thought they’d take a little bit more time and come up with something down the road. But sometimes the NFL feels like it has to do something, I think, for whatever reason on their calendar. I didn’t think that they really needed to come with this heavy-handed policy right now and (would) maybe see how things went organically moving forward on the heels of some of the other stuff that they’ve done supporting the players. So now I think they’ve added some fuel to the flame, if you will.”

Colin Kaepernick, of course, ignited the protest in 2016. It spread throughout the NFL and to other sports and became one of the most polarizing topics in America.

“There’s a segment of fans that don’t like the protests, but there’s also a segment of fans that doesn’t like the way the NFL’s handled this,” Bell said. “(ACLU legal director Jeffery) Robinson basically said that the whole idea of players who don’t want to stand for the anthem staying in the locker room is akin to get in the back of the bus or go sit in a quiet room and don’t come out and express yourself. I think that’s the way it resonates with some people. This, against the backdrop of Kaepernick and Eric Reid not having jobs and pursuing collusion cases against the NFL, I wonder if this actually strengthens their cases. I think it does to a degree. When you talk about guys not being in the league because of their political views and because of their peaceful protest, it’s really a shame that the NFL has gotten to this point.”

Kaepernick probably had no idea that taking a knee would become so controversial.

“I think Kaepernick was genuine in his initial reasons – and all of his reasons,” Bell said. “He did it the way he felt like he should have. Maybe he didn't strategize it to the nth degree or whatever and he’s made some mistakes. There’s a lot of things you can look at him and poke holes (in terms of) why he did this and why he did that. But the bottom line is, the guy is really a historic figure now because he has ignited this debate that has really gone far beyond the NFL. For him to not have  job is just a shame. . . . I just don't like how the NFL has handled (this).”

Neither do many of the players – and Bell expects them to do something about it.

“I expect something is going to happen,” he said. “You’ve got players who have security with years in the league and money in the bank and they can pretty much do what they want to do. This is just a hunch, but you could get a situation where there are scores of players who won’t leave the locker room and come out for the national anthem. There’s going to be pressure from their teams and from their owners and their coaches. I think there’s going to be that, but I also think it almost might reflect the economics of the individual players. So if half the league consists of guys who are three years or less in the league and they need that paycheck dearly, you may not see them taking the stand that they might really want to take on this issue just because of the economics. 

“So I think it’s really going to be incumbent on the players’ union to embolden their ranks or not,” Bell continued. “ With the labor deal coming around the corner in a couple years, you could add this to the issues that they’ll have to contend with. But I think there’s going to be some guys who may go on the field and raise a fist or take a knee or whatever. The protests really had dwindled to just a handful early last season until Trump came out and (made his remarks). That just kind of took it to another level. We’re all going to have to wait and see how players react, but I don’t expect it’s going to go as smoothly as the NFL would like it to.”