Will players stand for anthem mandate?

The billionaires blinked.

In the wake of weeks of threats and invective from President Trump and the increasing number of fans who are incensed that NFL players are protesting by either kneeling or sitting during the national anthem, league commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to team owners urging them to adopt a mandate that their employees stand during the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner” before games.


“Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the national anthem,” Goodell wrote in his memo. “It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us.”

The issue, though, has never been about disrespect for the flag, the country, or the military. That is how it has been masterfully framed by Trump and used to take a bite out of the wallets of the image-conscious league. The memo shows the corporate side of the league is coming down on the president’s side and overwhelming the original intent of the protests.

As most know, the controversy began last year when now-former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first sat, then knelt during the playing of the national anthem to draw attention to what he said was police mistreatment of blacks and the disproportionate violence against them. A few players joined the protests, including a couple Patriots’ players, and while the actions received some attention, it was a sidebar story to the games.

But that changed this year when Kaepernick, who opted out of his contract to become a free agent, was unable to find a job in the quarterback-hungry league. The little-kept secret was that Kaepernick’s dissing of the song – which, for those unaware, was written by a slaveholder and in the rarely sung third stanza celebrates killing of slaves during the War of 1812 – is what’s keeping him off the sidelines as owners wary of fan backlash refuse to bring him in. Money, apparently, trumps even winning.

A few players picked up on Kaepernick’s protest but that all changed last month when Trump, in a special election rally in Alabama, went off on one of his rhetorical journeys and lit up both NFL owners and players disrespecting the flag and military members. “Fire the son of a bitch,” Trump said of players who kneel.

The statements triggered a massive league-wide protest, initially supported by some owners, of kneeling, arms locked, and general repudiation of the president’s rant. The elephant in the room is that nearly all players who knelt were black and the protest started as a way to call attention to social injustice against blacks. You’d be hard-pressed to find a lot – or any – Trump supporters among those players.

“[People] said it was disrespectful not going to the White House,” Patriots defensive captain Devin McCourty tweeted after Trump’s initial rant. “I’m sure they are quiet about us being called ‘sons of bitches.’”

But once Trump saw the storm he created, he fueled it with taunts and insults, declaring owners were weak and ratings plummeted because of the backlash. The rich guys running the teams are fiscally pragmatic and many are Trump supporters, donating millions to his campaign and, in the case of several, including Pats’ owner Robert Kraft, donating heavily to his inauguration committee.

Trump had suggested rewriting tax laws to punish anyone who allows their employees to sit during the national anthem. It may be a popular notion but in reality, it won’t go far. There’s a little thing called the Constitution, and while it doesn’t prevent businesses from restricting employee free speech on the job, it does stop the government from mandating nationalism.

A Supreme Court ruling in 1943, at the height of World War II, smacked down a West Virginia law requiring everyone to stand and salute the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. The opinion, written by Justice Robert H. Jackson, was clear and unambiguous that no government official can force nationalism down someone’s throat.

“Freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much,” Jackson wrote. “That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order. If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.”



About 60 residents from the Islands turned out for a meeting on Martha’s Vineyard with two of the state’s pot commissioners. Most of the focus was on the jurisdictional problems facing the Islands, as state law (legalizing pot use) prevails on land but federal law (which views pot as an illegal drug) rules on the surrounding ocean and in the air. (CommonWealth)

The Worcester City Council calls for spreading across the city the 15 marijuana retail establishments expected to open next year. (Telegram & Gazette)

Even though voters in Dennis approved a ban in May on retail marijuana sales, the issue will go before a special Town Meeting as a precaution to ensure the decision won’t be overturned. (Cape Cod Times)

Pine Manor College says the town of Brookline violated the state’s open meeting law by hatching a plan in private to pursue an eminent domain taking of college land to build a new elementary school. (Boston Globe)

Boston will launch a pilot program encouraging landlords to rent to homeless families by backstopping them with up to $10,000 in city money if the tenants skip out on rent payments or cause damage to the property. (Boston Herald)

A Stoughton selectman who is one of the targets of a recall changed his mind about resigning.(The Enterprise)

Milton selectmen have approved a study to gauge the costs and issues of establishing a town-run broadband service after many in the community complained about subpar service from the dominant provider, Comcast. (Patriot Ledger)

A Salem News editorial blasts Hamilton for seeking property taxes from a couple restoring a historic home at Bradley Palmer State Park under a program administered by the Department of Conservation and Recreation.


Criminal justice experts say President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are wildly exaggerating the role of the El Salvador-connected street gang MS-13 in violence in US cities as part of their anti-immigrant, border security campaign. (Boston Globe) CommonWealth’s new fall issue looks at the more complicated reality of gang violence — and several Boston initiatives that are trying to help gang members build stable lives.

And now there’s a battle over who’s the real First Lady as Melania Trump rips into the president’s first ex-wife Ivana Trump for jokingly referring to herself during a book promotion as the “first Trump wife” and “first lady” because she still has a direct line to him. (U.S. News & World Report)


Haverhill City Councilor Andy Vargas won the Democratic primary for the House seat vacated by Brian Dempsey and will face Republican School Committeeman Shaun Toohey next month. City officials estimated the turnout for the special election at only 10 to 15 percent of voters. Paul Schimek raised concerns about low special election turnouts in a piece in CommonWealth’s new fall issue titled “Democracy isn’t working in Massachusetts.”

John Barrett III, the former mayor of North Adams, won the Democratic primary special election for the House seat of the late Gailanne Cariddi. Barrett snared 42 percent of the vote, while Stephanie Bosley came in second with 31 percent. (Berkshire Eagle)

The Globe compares schedules for a three-month period of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and his predecessor, Tom Menino, and finds that Walsh isn’t quite keeping up with Menino’s hihowareya pace of hitting multiple events in a day — though he’s close. The Herald’s Joe Battenfeld, meanwhile, says Walsh is managing to fill his days this fall with scads of official events that are more like campaign appearances.

Nadeem Mazen, the Cambridge city councilor and Andover native who has thrown his hat in the ring for the Third Congressional District seat, says he would be Donald Trump’s nightmare — a claim that comes days after Lawrence state Rep. Juana Matias made the same proclamation in her announcement that she was seeking the seat. (Boston Herald)


Tim Sullivan, the head of MassHousing, asks: Are homes only for the middle class?

In an editorial, the Herald News says whatever the outcome in the battle between Mayor Jasiel Correia and the privately funded Fall River Office of Economic Development, the business of making loans by the nonprofit organization to small businesses in the city has to remain in place.

John C. Roche was named president and CEO of Hanover Insurance in Worcester after his predecessor left to take a job at a California health insurer after just two years on the job. (Telegram & Gazette)

The number of American households making charitable donations declined over the last decade from 66 percent to 56 percent, though international causes and environmental nonprofits were exceptions. (Chronicle of Philanthropy)


A Lowell Sun editorial calls out Middlesex Superior Court Judge Garry Inge for taking too long to decide whether the Lowell School Committee or the Lowell City Council can decide where the city’s new high school should go.

A computer scientist from MIT and a historian at Harvard are among those awarded this year’s no-strings-attached “genius grants” from the MacArthur Foundation. (Boston Globe)


Nurses and hospitals tangle over staffing levels in what is likely a precursor to a ballot campaign next year. (CommonWealth)

Beverly Hospital and Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester have both seen an increase in admissions since being acquired by Lahey Health in 2012. (Salem News)

UMass Medical School received a $10 million donation for the study of rare diseases. (MassLive)

A new study says childhood obesity has escalated dramatically worldwide. (Time)


A new attempt in the Legislature would up the fine for not wearing a seatbelt and mandate usage by making it a primary cause for police to pull drivers over. (State House News Service) A Herald editorial pans the idea of a primary-enforcement law.

A woman was killed early Wednesday morning when she was struck by a commuter rail train in Somerville. She was the third person hit by a train since Monday. (MassLive)


Multiple women recount in graphic detail the unwanted sexual advances of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. (The New Yorker)

A Framingham District Court judge has denied prosecutors’ request for access to two years of emails from the Greyhound Friends rescue organization in the trial of the former executive director on animal abuse charges. (MetroWest Daily News)


The share of women and people of color in newsrooms hasn’t budged much since 2001. (Nieman Journalism Lab)

CBS and Entercom Communications are looking to unload a slew of top Boston radio stations. (Boston Globe)