TROUBLES IN THE NFL

Granato's view: A simple solution to the NFL's anthem problems

Roger Goodell needs to step up. NFL.COM

We’ve done it again. I didn’t think we could, but we did. We’ve made one of the simplest things in the world as complex as advanced calculus (another thing I never understood.) Last year we couldn’t decide which bathroom we should use and it became a national issue, one that ended up costing North Carolina hundreds of millions of dollars in event revenues. This year we can’t decide whether to stand or kneel for the national anthem and it’s costing the NFL’s network partners hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising revenues.

Darren Rovell wrote this week that the networks will lose as much as $500 million due to lower ratings for NFL games. Is the kneeling issue completely to blame? No. A boring product, injuries to key stars, oversaturation of the product in the marketplace and other factors are all playing a role. But yet another controversy can’t be ignored. Domestic violence by NFL players and how the league reacted to it dominated the headlines a few years ago. For two long years it was the tedious and idiotic deflategate controversy that deflected the talk from the play on the field. Now it’s the anthem and all that that means.

I can’t tell you how many times over the last couple of years I’ve heard “you don’t understand.” Sure, there are things I can’t understand. I can’t understand what it’s like being African American in 2017. I don’t know what discrimination feels like. I know what it is but I can’t feel it. I just can’t. Thankfully I don’t know what it’s like to be a parent whose son or daughter has fallen defending our country. I don’t know what it feels like to see that casket draped in the American flag. I’ve seen it. I just don’t know the heartache it brings.

What I can understand is how passionate each side must feel about their position on the issue, how badly African Americans want equality, and how much that flag must mean to someone who lost a loved one defending it. The kneelers and those who support them will tell you though that’s it’s not about the flag. It’s a silent protest against racial injustice. As Americans we have the right to peacefully protest however we see fit. The kneelers have that right. By the same token the anti-kneelers have the right to feel that something they believe in and have always defended unwaveringly is being disrespected.

Unfortunately this has sidetracked the issue. Do we spend more time talking about how to cure social injustice or that NFL players are disrespectful. It’s not even close. What is supposed to bring attention to the issue has drowned it. It’s become all about the flag and that’s bad business for the NFL. A recent poll showed that 49% believed that kneeling was a negative. In any business if half the people have a negative opinion of one of your practices you have to change that practice.

That’s where Roger Goodell comes in. Under his leadership the league has become as profitable as ever but it’s also taken its biggest hit public relations-wise. The shield is tarnished. His bungling of the domestic violence issue, his high handedness in the deflategate controversy and now his virtual silence in the anthem protests have been killing the league. A report this week said he refused to demand the players stand even though that’s what the owners told him to do. His inactivity in this wave of controversy speaks volumes about his inability to lead in times of duress.

Demanding they stand is probably not the answer though, not with the makeup of the league. Jesse Jackson and Stephen A. Smith among others have referred to the slave mentality of the league. While many think it’s ridiculous and insulting to those who had to endure real slavery, ordering that they stand would only enhance this belief. So what can possibly be done? How can he stem the tide of negativity that has engulfed the league?

To me it’s a simple answer. Play the national anthem before the players leave the locker room. Being on the field for the anthem is a policy not a rule. It states in the NFL’s game operations that players are strongly encouraged to stand at attention with helmets in hand for the anthem. Until 2009 players in primetime games were not on the field for the anthem due to television timing concerns. If something so mundane could keep the players off the field certainly something that 50% of your audience feels is detrimental to your image can too.  

Instead of a negative approach the league should promote positive initiatives. If the players are adamant about social change then NFL sponsored town hall meetings with players, police and local youth may open a dialogue that could promote change. NFL sponsored after-school activities might keep kids off the streets and out of trouble.

The NFL can pay for police training that would discourage a shoot first attitude. They could sponsor alternative lifestyle programs in our most dangerous areas. Instead of losing hundreds of millions by sitting on their hands they can take a hands-on approach that might win fans back.

I know I’m not the only one who’s sick of this subject. It’s tiresome. Both sides have made their point. It’s time to take action, Roger Goodell. It’s time to play football without political agendas. It’s supposed to be entertainment. Let’s get back to having fun. Here in Houston we understand that time won’t come until Deshaun comes back, but we can wait.

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Houston can win series on Sunday

Timely hitting helps Astros edge out D-backs to even series

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Astros had two losses over the last 24 hours; one a game against the Diamondbacks in the series opener on Friday night, the other the news that their recovering ace, Justin Verlander, announced Saturday afternoon that he is opting to undergo Tommy John surgery. The decision and surgery will likely sideline Verlander through 2021 when his current contract with Houston ends.

With that, the Astros headwinds continued to increase, meaning a win to even the series with Arizona on Saturday would be a much-needed pick-me-up. Here's how they did:

Final Score: Astros 3, Diamondbacks 2.

Record: 26-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Enoli Paredes (3-2, 2.84 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luke Weaver (1-8, 6.51 ERA).

D-backs score two on Javier who is pulled early

Kole Calhoun, who drove in four runs, including a home run in Friday's game, would start the scoring on Saturday with a solo home run off of Cristian Javier in the top of the second, giving Arizona an early 1-0 lead. Javier allowed another run in the top of the third, giving up a leadoff single that would move to third on a groundout then score on a sac fly, doubling the lead to 2-0.

Javier finished the third and tossed a 1-2-3 fourth, but whether it be due to a pre-determined pitch count or other situation, he would not go any further, ending his night there on just 77 pitches. His final line: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR, 77 P.

Astros grab a lead in the sixth

The Astros were able to cut the lead in half in the bottom of the third, getting a leadoff single by Josh Reddick, who would move to third after a walk and fielder's choice before scoring on an RBI-groundout by Jose Altuve, making it 2-1. Enoli Paredes was first out of Houston's bullpen, taking over for Javier in the top of the fifth and retiring six straight batters for two perfect frames.

Houston would get to Luke Weaver in the bottom of the sixth, getting a leadoff single by George Springer, who would score from first on an RBI-double by Altuve to tie the game. Altuve would come around as the go-ahead run later in the inning on an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, knocking Weaver out of the game as the Astros took their first lead of the game, 3-2.

Houston evens the series and moves back up to .500

Josh James was the next reliever for Houston in the top of the seventh, and despite getting into a jam by issuing a one-out walk and hitting the next batter, he was able to get out of it. It was thanks to a great play by Michael Brantley, who started a double play by catching a lineout and throwing a runner out at second to end the inning.

Brooks Raley had the eighth and erased a one-out walk by retiring the next two batters to maintain the one-run lead. After a scoreless bottom of the eighth, the Astros turned to closer Ryan Pressly to get another save and finish the one-run game. Pressly would do so, as Houston would move back up to .500 and even the series 1-1 heading into the rubber game on Sunday.

Up Next: The finale of this series between Houston and Arizona, and Houston's last regular-season home game of 2020, will get underway at 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Madison Bumgarner (0-4, 8.53) ERA will be on the mound for the D-backs, while Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.70 ERA) will start for the Astros.

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