The NFL has not had a great run recently in terms of allowing things said at owners meetings to remain bottled up. The comment about Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie .into the public stratosphere and recently we heard about
The meeting in question occurred last October with both NFL owners and players, and took place at the league office in New York. This was not a "league meeting," per se, but rather a scramble by both players and owners to try and grab ahold of the kneeling situation that was unfolding, amid President Trump blasting the NFL repeatedly for allowing players to kneel.
At the meeting, according to the Times, multiple owners commented on the President, including Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who questioned Trump's "divisive" agenda with his approach to the NFL.
"The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don't feel is in the best interests of America," Kraft said, according to the New York Times. "It's divisive and it's horrible."
Lurie said the owners needed to "be careful" and not be divided.
"We've got to be careful not to be baited by Trump or whomever else," Lurie said. "We have to find a way to not be divided and not get baited."
Bills owner Terry Pegula got very seafaring on the whole situation, dropping a bunch of ocean metaphors.
"To me, this is like a glacier moving into the ocean," Pegula said via the Times. "We're getting hit with a tsunami."
And Pegula didn't also apparently said he didn't want the NFL to become "a glacier crawling into the ocean."
Texans owner Bob McNair, who has been under fire for months over comments he's made about the kneeling and protests, had words for players at the meeting.
"You fellas need to ask your compadres, fellas, stop that other business, let's go out and do something that really produces positive results, and we'll help you," McNair said via the Times.
At one point, per the Times, former 49ers safety Eric Reid, who is currently unemployed after kneeling during the national anthem in solidarity with former teammate Colin Kaepernick, suggested the owners do a better job of supporting the former 49ers quarterback.
It was at this point that Pegula apparently likened the NFL's situation to the National Rifle Association, suggesting the league get a spokesman in the same vein of Charlton Heston.
"For years we've watched the National Rifle Association use Charlton Heston as a figurehead," Pegula said. "We need a spokesman."
Pegula's approach isn't out of control here; the idea of finding a popular figure to front for the NFL isn't insane. And in the private quarters of a secret meeting, say what you need. But this leaking out is not an ideal look. Pegula also apparently suggested the spokesman be African-American.
"For us to have a face, as an African-American, at least a face that could be in the media," Pegula said. "We could fall in behind that."
All of it really suggests a situation where the owners were just overwhelmed by what was going on with President Trump lashing out at the league on social media and the general vitriol of everyday life seeping into the football arena.
The league clearly did not have a good public-relations approach for 2018. It doesn't make the NFL unique in that respect; these days are a weird time to be handling a PR crisis. Things move quickly and spiral out of control. But it's clear now that the league never found a real way to handle things outside of "head in sand and ride it out." We'll see how that works once the 2018 season gets closer.