No Anthem Kneelers Are on Remaining NFL Playoff Teams; NBC Hardest Hit?

January 18th, 2018 1:00 PM

On Monday, Valerie Richardson at the Washington Times noted that no teams with players who continued to kneel during the National Anthem before National Football League games until the end of the regular season qualified for the playoffs. A sports psychologist sees a potentially important lesson in this result, while NBC, which has promised to showcase kneeling players during the Anthem before the beginning of this year's Super Bowl, may be destined for disappointment.

Most of the five teams with players who continued kneeling through the end of regular season games this year had successful years in 2016, as four of them made the playoffs. Three of the playoff-qualifying teams (Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins, and New York Giants) lost their "wild-card" games during the first week of the January 2017 playoffs, while the Seattle Seahawks were eliminated by the Atlanta Falcons the following week.

Here are excerpts from Richardson's Washington Times piece (bolds are mine throughout this post):

NFL’s kneeling comes to abrupt halt: Protesters miss playoffs


NBC plans to televise any players who refuse to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl, but there may be nothing to show.

It appears that NFL players are no longer taking a knee during the national anthem, namely because none of the teams with still-active protesters has qualified for the postseason.

... Sports psychologist John F. Murray emphasized that it would be impossible to quantify the impact on individual teams but said it stands to reason that the high-profile protests could have disrupted locker-room unity.

“As a sports psychologist, if my mission is to help a team play better, I see it as a distraction,” said Mr. Murray, who is based in Palm Beach, Florida, and has worked with NFL players.

He said teams should expect problems if players perceive that their teammates are “putting a social agenda above the mission” of winning games.

“I work with athletes, and I’m very sensitive to the impact of even a slight disruption in team unity,” said Mr. Murray. “I think that would certainly be a possibility. If you’ve got some people who are strongly against that and some people who aren’t, you’re putting that issue in the way of going out there and performing well.”

Losses by the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs in 2018 playoff games ended the seasons of several players whose earlier Anthem antics might have caused them to see a Super Bowl appearance as an opportunity to make a high-visibility statement.

In mid-October, Titans' wide receiver Rishard Matthews, when asked on Twitter how he would respond if the NFL banned Anthem protests, responded"I will be done playing football." In late September, he stated that President Trump's comments at an Alabama rally motivated his protest, and that “I plan to kneel until the president apologizes for the comments that he made." In later regular-season weeks, Matthews stayed in the locker room until the Anthem's end. Also in late September, Titans tight end Delanie Walker reacted as follows when asked about alienated fans who might stop attending games: "And the fans that don't want to come to the game? I mean. OK. Bye."

Those who believe that it is unfair to contend that NBC has been looking forward to an Anthem demonstration before the Super Bowl will not be able to explain away this portion of the network's related statement as reported at AdWeek (HT CNS News):

NBC Will Cover Any National Anthem Protests During the Super Bowl
Kneeling players ‘will be shown live'

“The Super Bowl is a live event … and when you’re covering a live event, you’re covering what’s happening. So if there are players that choose to kneel, they will be shown live,” Super Bowl LII executive producer Fred Gaudelli said at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour.

... If it does, he continued, “we could cover it the same way we would cover it on a Sunday night game or a Thursday night game.” NBC would show it, identify the athlete, explain “in a very concise way” why they are kneeling “and then get on with the game.”

Does NBC plan to explain why some players salute the flag or beam with pride over being present at and participating in one of sport's greatest spectacles in such a great country?

With no known kneelers on the remaining teams, one can imagine how disappointed certain folks at NBC are that their opportunity to "explain 'in a very concise way'" why a player is kneeling — in other words, to take a free shot at the President and/or this country before a worldwide audience — may not occur. Should it occur, they will only be able to carry out their "explain why" plan if they are tipped off by the kneeler or kneelers or their friends or associates in advance.

Cross-posted at