The discussion around the NFL, the national anthem and player protests isn’t dying down anytime soon. While Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones has stated that players on his team will stand, at the moment the league won’t be mandating the same.
The anthem and how the league will approach it going forward will be a significant topic of conversation at next week’s owners meetings in New York, and despite what President Donald Trump tweeted this week, commissioner Roger Goodell has not demanded players to stand. Currently, NFL rules say teams must be on the sideline for the anthem, and players “should” stand.
On Wednesday night, the NFL and NFL Players Association released a joint statement saying that NFLPA representatives as well as players will be part of next week’s meetings, and implied that there will not be a change to the rule, rather more discussions on how players and team management can move forward.
“There has been no change in the current policy regarding the anthem,” the statement read in part. “The agenda will be a continuation of how to make progress on the important social issues that players have vocalized. Everyone who is part of our NFL community has a tremendous respect for our country, our flag, our anthem and our military, and we are coming together to deal with these issues in a civil and constructive way.”
On Thursday, the NFL posted an interview with Goodell and NFL Network analyst Nate Burleson.
In it, Goodell says there has been “unprecedented dialogue over the last year with our players, our owners, community leaders, law enforcement, and what we plan to do is to have in-depth discussion with our players and our owners next week, and make sure we truly understand the issues and the approach that we want to take together to address these issues in our communities.”
Goodell highlighted some of the things that players have done and continue to do to help bring attention to and help foster change in their communities in terms of racial injustice and inequality. He also acknowledged that he’s learned quite a bit over the last several months as well.
“I think the most important thing I’ve learned is how important this is to our players and how much work they’ve done in their communities to identify those issues and identify solutions, more importantly,” Goodell said. “And by sharing that with us and by sharing that with our ownership, I think there’s a deeper understanding of each other and how we can go about making our communities better collectively.
“We want to support one another in that effort, and I think that’s what makes me proudest of our players and of our league.”
Though he still won’t mention the specific causes players want to bring attention to – police brutality and criminal justice reform among them – Goodell noted that the sound and fury over how players are protesting is drowning out the why.
“That’s part of the issue here; the real dialogue and the real issues have been overtaken by the controversy,” Goodell said. “And I think what we really want to try to do is get back to focusing on the actions that we want to take to really improve our communities and support our players to get those things done and get beyond the current situation into where we’re really making an impact in the community.”
As reported by ESPN’s Jim Trotter on Wednesday, one of the moves for the NFL and owners is funding a social advocacy and activism boot camp at Morehouse College in February. The program will give professional athletes, not just NFL players, year-round access to experts in the fields of social activism and advocacy.
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