- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 10, 2017

President Trump ramped up Tuesday his criticism of the NFL by calling for eliminating the league’s “massive tax breaks” as team owners scramble to stop players from protesting during the national anthem.

“Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country?” said Mr. Trump in an early morning tweet. “Change tax laws!”

The president’s threat came the same day the NFL announced a plan to “move past” the controversy dogging the league.

According to ESPN, commissioner Roger Goodell has told team owners in a Tuesday letter that he wants all players to stand during the anthem and that a proposed rule change would be discussed at next week’s league meeting.

He added that, “Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem.” 

“Sports, and especially the NFL, brings people together and lets them set aside those divisions, at least for a few hours,” Mr. Goodell said in the letter posted by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. “The current dispute over the national anthem is threatening to erode the unifying power of our game, and is now dividing us, and our players, from many fans across the country.”

The owners of the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins have already said they will forbid sitting or taking a knee during “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the league battles with fan outrage, declining ticket prices and faltering television ratings.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told reporters Sunday that anyone who refuses to stand will not play, while Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said, “I think it’s incumbent upon the players today, because of how the public is looking at it, to stand and salute the flag.”

Dolphins players who object to standing for the national anthem may remain in the locker room or tunnel during the ceremony, Dolphins coach Adam Gase said later at a press briefing.

The NFL’s fall league meeting begins Oct. 17.

Former NFL tight end Tony Gonzalez said Tuesday that the take-a-knee protests have become a distraction and that as far as he’s concerned, “it’s over.”

“It made a point, and it was a great point. It served its purpose, but I think when it starts to become a distraction and it’s dominating, I think it’s over,” Gonzalez said on Fox Sports’s “The Herd.”

Nearly 200 players across the league sat or took a knee over the Sept. 24-25 games after the president suggested that any “son of a bitch” who refuses to stand should be fired.

That number dwindled the following week to about 50, and again on Sunday to about 30 players who sat or knelt in what began last season as a protest against racism and social injustice.

“I think everything has a shelf life. Everything plays itself out,” Gonzalez said, adding, “There’s plenty of examples out there. ‘Happy Days,’ you know, jump the shark. You’ve heard that expression before … I just feel like this whole protest right now, it’s kind of running its course because it’s becoming such a distraction for the teams.”

Host Colin Cowherd said that the message behind the protests has become muddled.

“It’s had so many generations of different protesting,” Cowherd said. “It is now — this weekend it became about the vice president.”

Vice President Mike Pence, the former governor of Indiana, walked out of a game Sunday in Indianapolis after 23 players for the visiting San Francisco 49ers took a knee on the sideline during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, currently out of the league, initially sat for the anthem during the 2016 preseason, then began taking a knee after meeting with former NFL player and Green Beret Nate Boyer, according to CBS Sports.

“And so — it literally started with a knee with a Green Beret and Kaepernick, it’s now moved to, ‘Was it doctored by our president and vice president?’” asked Cowherd. “And so it’s like, are we protesting a protest about a protest?”

He added, “I mean seriously, there are times now I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be happy with, angry with, supporting and not supporting.”

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