Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian

A week after a new policy on anthem protests was announced, the NFL is already feeling the heat, with civil rights leaders and protesters gathering outside NFL headquarters to demand the league reverse its decision to fine teams if their players kneel in protest.

Roughly 50 people showed up at the NFL’s Manhattan offices to demand the decision be changed and to call for a boycott if the league doesn’t listen. The meeting was sponsored and organized by the National Action Network, a group that has been vocal in its support of protesting players.

NAN northeast regional director Kirsten John Foy kicked off the protest as the first of at least 10 speakers who castigated both the NFL and President Trump, demanding that “the NFL reverse that immoral and unconstitutional decision …”

NAN spokesman Alex Butcher-Nesbitt told members of the media that his group planned to hold multiple similar demonstrations in other cities, including Los Angeles and Detroit.

Other speakers said team owners who supported the change should be ashamed to be “standing with racism.” Some invoked Colin Kaepernick, the ex-49ers quarterback who has essentially been pushed out of the league due to his protests, and the subsequent controversial press conferences. Many others cheered these protests and offered their support on social media … But not all. In fact, many NFL fans expressed anger at the protesters and disbelief that they wanted to make this issue about the First Amendment. Some question whether the protesters understood the difference between government infringement on free speech and speech guidelines at a place of business.

Others swore that if the NFL “caved to the protesters” they would never watch another game. And that’s where we are. The NFL knew, when it made the decision to announce the new stipulations that it would create some backlash. Those who supported the protesting players cheered the NFL for not making this kind of decision last season.

Still, the league lost a lot of money, viewers and fans last season by allowing the public protests. They had to do something if they wanted to win back their fan base. As it turns out, protesters and their supporters believe that “something” is the wrong move.

So, now, the NFL is back in the middle, neither willing to bend or to listen to the messages coming from the other side. And there may be more backlash to come … this time from fans who don’t think the league went far enough.


Ronn Torossian is CEO of PR Firm 5WPR.