SALT LAKE CITY — Two NFL owners emailed me last week, each expressing a similar sentiment: They’re not at all happy about the way many players are behaving during the playing of the national anthem, and they’re particularly not happy about the conduct of the players on the team they own.
Both men, coincidentally, are named Chuck, and although they’ve never personally met, both own the same team: the Green Bay Packers.
They are among the 360,760 stockholders who collectively own the National Football League’s only public company, incorporated in 1923, long before the league adopted private-owner requirements.
I’ve known both men for years. Back in the day, when I was writing sports, Chuck Schell was general manager of the Golden Eagles and later the Grizzlies, Salt Lake’s professional hockey teams, the right-hand man of the late Art Teece, who formerly owned the franchises.
In the 1990s, I helped Chuck Coonradt write “Scorekeeping for Success,” a sequel to his best-selling and groundbreaking “The Game of Work,” the book that launched his successful motivational company and earned Chuck the nickname “The Grandfather of Gamification” from Forbes Magazine.
Growing up in the Midwest (which helps explain their Green Bay Packers affinity), each man played plenty of team sports. They’ve stood through their fair share of national anthems.
A Wisconsin native, Schell played linebacker on the freshman football team at the University of Wisconsin and was a catcher on the Badgers’ varsity baseball team. A Minnesotan, Coonradt was a punter for the Sioux Falls college football team and later walked on at Michigan State.
Each retired a few years ago, leaving them to pursue activities of their own choosing. Coonradt supports a variety of charitable causes, including the Ronald McDonald House, and likes to ski a lot. As past president and current board member of the Utah Sports Hall of Fame Foundation, Schell spends a lot of time helping the hall of fame and its various causes.
Of course, both watch a lot of sports.
And they can’t quite believe what they’re seeing at NFL games: players sitting down or kneeling during the playing of the national anthem; players, and sometimes owners, locking arms; players holding their fists in the air — silent protests of the flag and what it stands for.
“Boy, I’ll tell you, they just lose me,” said Schell.
“I see four players kneeling and 70,000 people standing,” said Coonradt. “What is that?”
Beyond their disgruntlement, however, each man, independent of the other, sees a similar way around the problem.
As Green Bay Packers owners, this is what they’d say to their team members given the chance:
“I would tell them we can solve this thing with two decisions: 'One, everybody gives Colin (Kaepernick, the original anthem protester who has started a charitable foundation to fight injustice and racism) a game check. We’re important and we’re influential and we’re rich, so every player donates a game check for the causes Colin is pressing forward on. That is a huge number, and you could let Colin take a little to live on and then go out and do some good things with it.'
“Two, we get (NFL Commissioner) Roger Goodell to agree that the league will match the money.
“And I’d tell them, ‘You stand for the national anthem because incidentally that flag represents your right to do the stupid stuff you’re doing, but the way you’ve been doing it is inappropriate and offensive — and you’re not going to solve anything kneeling in a stadium.'"
“This is what I’d tell the players: ‘If you’re as sincere as you want me to believe you are, don’t pick the game to protest. Protest tonight, protest on your off day, protest on the steps of Congress, not when it’s convenient for a few seconds before a football game where you’ll be paid tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"'Quit picking on people and spitting in everybody’s face because the vast majority of us are patriotic and believe in that symbol you’re disrespecting. We’ve been fighting for that symbol for 300 years. It’s what we’re all about. It’s bigger than all of you. It’s bigger than all of us.'"
The silent majority have spoken up.