The National Football League, amid the controversy over whether players should take a knee during the national anthem, is throwing its weight behind another cause in the debate over racial inequality: criminal justice reform. An NFL spokesman said that the league is endorsing a bill to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenders, eliminate “three-strike” provisions that require life sentences and give judges more latitude to reduce sentences for low-level crimes, the Washington Post reports. Team 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. 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.
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, but public opinion is divided. Trump has gone after owners as well, suggesting that they are “afraid of their players” and unwilling to discipline those who have taken a knee. He has called for a general boycott of the NFL “until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country,” as well as for changing the tax law to rescind the NFL’s tax breaks if the protests continue. 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. It is not clear whether the NFL’s endorsement will help the bill’s chances of passing.