Going the exact opposite direction, the NFL on Monday got even more political, endorsing criminal justice reform legislation on Capitol Hill.
The proposed legislation would cut mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders, give judges and courts more discretion in sentencing and establish rehabilitation programs to prepare low-level offenders to re-enter society.
“We felt that this was an issue over the last months, as we have continued to work with our players on issues of equality and on issues of criminal justice reform, that was surfaced for us, and we thought it was appropriate to lend our support to it,” NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart told The Daily Caller.
The endorsement – pure politics – comes in a whirlwind of national debate over NFL players kneeling and protesting during the pregame national anthem. Presumably, they are protesting police racism and misconduct.
This was all started by former San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who took a knee during a game in last year’s pre-season. Several teams have followed suit this year, leading to widespread condemnation, including from President Donald Trump.
The legislation is bi-partisan, introduced by Republican Sen. Charles Grassley and Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin.
In Congress, it is not clear whether the NFL’s endorsement will help the bill’s chances of passing. The legislation already enjoys a wide base of support from organizations like the Charles Koch Institute, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Americans for Tax Reform. As a result, the NFL’s endorsement is unlikely to make a difference in the bill’s future.
Grassley and Durbin have nevertheless welcomed the NFL’s support, despite the organization’s divisive climate.
The owners appear to be seeking middle ground between football players and their critics during a heated national debate over the growing phenomenon of players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality, The Washington Post reports. It is not clear what effect the NFL’s effort will have on that debate — or on President Trump, who has fueled much of the vitriol against kneeling players through his personal and official Twitter accounts.
A spokesman for Grassley added that the NFL had not coordinated with the bill’s congressional sponsors in advance of its decision. In the meantime, no other sports league has signed on. A spokesman for the NFL Players Association did not immediately return a call for comment about whether the football players’ union would also endorse the bill.
Trump has accused specific players of insulting the American flag and the service of troops and called their demonstration “disgraceful.” Several veterans have come forward to defend the players, and others have condemned them, but public opinion on the subject is divided.
The subject of whether the NFL should require players to stand during the playing of the national anthem is expected to come up for debate at a meeting this week of owners, who are caught between the president’s tweets and players determined to continue their demonstrations.
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