So now, here’s what’s gonna happen in September: The games are going to suck and ratings will go down a bit because of it.
A few players will demonstrate during the anthem, the Eye of Sauron will fall upon them, and then Trump will hammer the NFL day after day, constructing his own reality in which NFL ratings are down because of the anthem and because he willed them to be, and not because of the game’s much more obvious shortcomings. This will be ALL YOU FUCKING HEAR ABOUT all fall.
Whatever brilliant spurts of football happen to occur in between all those flags and all that bloviating will be fleeting…as difficult to recall as your own dreams. The NFL, through its own patriotic machinations, has unwittingly found itself as the main conduit of the culture wars, and it will remain there all season long, with the games themselves serving as an inadequate respite. It’s going to be awful.
And the worst part is that all of this was preventable. The NFL could have a simplified rulebook, and it could have a consistently entertaining on-field product, if it had worked with its players and if it took on SOME liability for the dangers of the sport. And the NFL could have avoided this anthem shit entirely if they had worked with the players to institute an anthem policy everyone could live with (or, better yet, if they ditched the goddamn pageantry altogether).
They have done neither of these things, because the NFL possesses a near-superhuman tone-deafness and because it is terminally incapable of taking away the correct lessons from a PR crisis. And both the players and you, the viewer at home, will bear the brunt of that idiocy. The result is a coming 2018 season that promises to be more divisive and slovenly than any that came before it.