The NFL has been heavily politicized by the players over the past few seasons. Now, many of those National Anthem-protesting players and their supporters are angry – because an owner got political as well.
The critics are not upset because the owner voiced a political opinion, but because he voiced an opinion supportive of President Donald Trump’s selection for the Supreme Court. And he used the team website and Twitter account to announce it.
Michael Bidwell, whose family owns the Arizona Cardinals and he serves as team president, crafted a letter which he sent to congressional leaders of both parties. In it, he urges they support Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination by President Trump to the Supreme Court.
Bidwell went to high school with Kavanaugh, and has known him for almost 40 years. He decided to get many of his classmates who knew Kavanaugh, including New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, to voice their support of him. They also signed the letter of endorsement.
After taking criticism for using the Arizona Cardinals website to promote Brett Kavanugh’s nomination for the United States Supreme Court, team president Michel Bidwill told a conservative radio show that he’s OK with players making similar political statements – just not on game days.
On a Tuesday morning radio show, Bidwill defended taking a stance, and even though the NFL recently instituted new rules preventing protesting during the national anthem, the former federal prosecutor claimed to support players’ right to protest.
‘I think it’s important to speak up,’ Bidwill said. ‘People are saying stick to sports? You know what? We ask our players 20 days a year – game days – to restrict their statements. The rest of the days, we want our players to get engaged in the community. Just like I am and other owners are.’
‘In fact, I’m working with [an NFL] committee called the Social Justice Committee, where we’re working with players across the league to get them more involved in changing policy and making America a better place for everyone.’
Critics came out in force after Bidwill orchestrated a campaign to endorse President Donald Trump’s second Supreme Court nomination this week.
Here is how the Arizona Cardinals announced the letter by Bidwell.
“I’ve known him for more than 37 years.”
Cardinals President Michael Bidwill attended high school with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.https://t.co/LotJ1xqSWp
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) July 10, 2018
As you might expect, some people are suddenly upset with the mix of sports and politics.
Bidwill, who went to high school with Kavanaugh, was the impetus behind an endorsement letter signed by himself, New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and more than 150 classmates of Kavanaugh from his time at Georgetown Prep.
The letter was sent to Senators Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein and encouraged them to ‘rise above the passions and examine who Kavanaugh is and whether his juridical ability, extensive experience and many accomplishments in public service qualify him to the position of an Associate Justice.’
Cardinals spokespeople and Bidwill were both asked by the Daily Mail if players would have the opportunity to use the NFL platform to promote their political causes, but neither responded to the emails.
The primary issue his critics had wasn’t with Bidwill’s decision to support his longtime friend, Kavanaugh, but rather that he did so using the team’s website and Twitter account.
‘So are we doing politics in the NFL or not?’ asked former NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz on Twitter.
In another tweet, Schwartz clarified that he has no problem with the endorsement itself, but does take issue with the fact that it was pushed on the team’s website: ‘Bidwill should be allowed to endorse anything and anyone he wants. It shouldn’t be tweeted from the team account tho.’
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was a HS classmate of Cardinals’ owner Michael Bidwill at Georgetown Prep, class of '83. Bidwill organized their classmates for a letter of support that will be sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The letter: pic.twitter.com/3m6gmXAN4J
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 10, 2018
The Kavanaugh pick has been contentious for varied reasons politically, but critics lashed out at Bidwill and the Cardinals for making a political statement at the same time the NFL has cracked down on players protesting during the national anthem before games.
The NFL Players Association announced Tuesday the filing of a non-injury grievance challenging the NFL’s recently imposed national anthem policy.
The union contends ‘this new policy, imposed by the NFL’s governing body without consultation with the NFLPA, is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement and infringes on player rights.’
The anthem policy, approved by NFL owners in May, requires players, coaches and personnel on the field to stand when the anthem is played. The policy permits teams to choose to stay in the locker room during the national anthem, but calls for fines and punishment for any mode of disrespect.
The White House has not responded to the letter.