Regarding the influence of the NFL in America’s culture wars, Pete Carroll was as right as he was hyperbolic.
‘The NFL is as powerful an institution as there is in the country,” he said in an oral waterfall disguised as a Zoom conference Thursday with Seattle reporters. “This frickin’ league needs to stand up for the right stuff, and make things move where we can make things move.
“We have a lot of power. Something happens, and next thing you know the president is commenting on it. We have the platform to do great stuff.”
But apparently he and I disagree on where the power resides. The Seahawks coach went on a long soliloquy contending the power of the NFL rests with players.
“I see it even more so now that this is a league driven by the players,” he said, getting a little emotional. “It’s driven by their love for the game, their willingness to play the game that they love, and the things that they risk to do it . . .
“Way back (in) the history of the league, those guys made this game come to life, because they went out there and played when the freaking equipment was all screwed up, they took all the hits, they endured when they were making four or five thousand dollars a game, and gave their life to it.”
Before I mist up and slap on my leather helmet for a charge into a wall, I will suggest this league is driven by the owners.
Because if it were driven by the players, we sure as hell wouldn’t be having a talk about a blackballed Colin Kaepernick, or players having to swallow being called sons of bitches by the president in a speech.
There’s no way players with average career lengths of less than three years have any leverage over billionaires who have called shots for decades. Sopranos-like, owners set policy, terms, conditions and attitudes if you want in on the action.
Fans may love Russell Wilson’s two-minute drives and Odell Beckham’s one-handed catches, but players have zero chance to influence outcomes on social and political issues that inevitably play out on the gridiron crucible.
Until maybe now.
When Commissioner Roger Goodell was intimidated by a players’ video into reciting the players’ requested admission of guilt regarding the league’s woeful disregard of social justice issues, the NFL was upon a watershed moment.
“We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest,” Goodell said in a video response. “We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter.”
As far as I know, Goodell has not caught hell from owners for caving. Maybe they praised him, or at least acknowledged he was in a hostage situation. The point is, we have heard nothing from the citadel of power. Since Goodell is Smeagol to the owners’ collective Sauron, don’t they have the decisive word?
Which is why I tried to get Carroll to answer a question about whether he could enlist his boss, Seahawks owner Jody Allen, to lobby her fellow owners for some individual accountability, instead of hiding behind Goodell’s office.
To hear Jerry Jones or Bob Kraft talk about falling short and failing the players would have signaled the dawn of enlightenment (cue herald trumpets).
“Roger made his comment, he felt it was time to do that, so he did it,” Carroll said, not clear about my question, which was my bad. “I don’t have any thing to add to you about what other owners are going to do.”
Instead he took the ownership question to heap praise on his boss.
“You guys don’t know Jody Allen very well,” he said. “She’s got a extraordinary perspective. She’s got a strength to her. She’s got a toughness to her.”
Well there’s a reason we don’t know her, right?
“She’s has not been available to you yet,” Carroll said about the mysterious inheritor of the Allen family throne. “But when you see where she’s coming from, you’ll see she’s got great power and strength.
“I would welcome the chance for her to be in those discussions with other owners, so that she can represent a perspective that will make us all proud.”
So Pete, ahead of that, can you facilitate a Zoom meeting with Jodi, so we can get to know her? You said you would go to any length to make progress.
“She’s a treasure,” he said. “You know, I’ll say something to her. I’ll help you. I’d like that to happen, but she’s going to do what she wants to do.”
Well. A baby step forward. A commitment to try, on the record.
If Allen is as formidable and as socially conscious as Carroll has advertised, I can’t think of a better time for the franchise to bring such an asset to the public table.
If there ever was a moment to hurl a Baptist-preacher sermon upon NFL owners, raining down hellfire and damnation upon the gilded unwashed for being personally unaccountable, it is now, when they are scared.
Is it asking to too much for Jones, Kraft and cronies to admit personally to their black employees they personally screwed up, and vow to make it right? If the NFL is as powerful an institution as there is in the country, it should be able to handle the truth.
Can’t wait for Allen to help this frickin’ league stand up for the right stuff.