If Mike Brown really did ask free agent safety Eric Reid about kneeling during the national anthem (as reported), the Cincinnati Bengals owner was merely being prudent — and acknowledging a reality that seems to be ignored most of the time.
The act has obscured the message since Colin Kaepernick, Reid’s former teammate with the 49ers, first sat during the anthem two years ago and Reid soon joined him.
If Kaepernick, a well-known quarterback with easy access to multiple media members at pretty much any time, had gone a more traditional route to deliver his message (press conference, media campaign, etc.) fewer people might have heard it, but I bet more would have actually listened in the long run, too.
Brown probably knows this, and it is fair to assume Reid does, too, since he has already said he doesn’t intend to kneel this season but will remain active on social issues.
Of course, forging a business relationship should probably be done with more than an assumption, so it makes sense Brown would want to talk about it rather than guess what was on Reid’s mind.
Like it or not, plenty of people are turned off by involving the flag and the anthem. We can debate if that is more the fault of the messenger or the public, but it is reality nonetheless.
The choice is then to continue telling the offended they are wrong to feel the way they do (spoiler: that never works) or try something else to get the message across
Players such as former Ohio State star Malcolm Jenkins have done this, and of course it should be pointed out Kaepernick has been very active in charity work since beginning his protest.
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“Let's have this conversation, but can you still stand for those two minutes because it means something different to me than it does to you?” is probably not the answer Kaepernick, Reid, et al were hoping for, but it is a reasonable one nonetheless.
And to his credit, Kaepernick acknowledged early on potentially disrespecting the military is a relevant concern when he chose to kneel instead of sit after talking to a former Green Beret who also played in the NFL.
As for Brown, he like all the owners is a businessman who understands the need to satisfy customers (well, at least some of the time).
Since there is ample evidence the protests upset at least some customers, this is a valid concern of his.
If you want to tie this to his (also business-driven) fondness for bringing in players with off-the-field baggage at a bargain, go ahead, but it is disingenuous to suggest (as ProFootballTalk did in its report) the checkered pasts of players such as Adam Jones, Vontaze Burfict and Joe Mixon don’t also receive scrutiny before they are signed.
Last summer, Brown discussed at length drafting Mixon and retaining Jones after the cornerback’s most recent run-in with the law, so it’s clear he is involved in weighing the pros and cons of such moves when they are made.
But that’s just another inconvenient truth I guess.