The NFL won’t force players to stand for the National Anthem, it announced Tuesday, but will find ways to help players get positive results with their political activism.
“We spent today talking about the issues that our players are trying to bring attention to,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said to reporters following the league’s Fall meeting. “Issues in our communities to make our communities better.”
According to Reuters team owners, union leaders and players met in Manhattan at a hotel where two dozen protesters stood outside. Goodell made no mention of halting protests, instead praising players for their character.
“Today’s discussion ... was very productive,” Goodell said. “It reflected our commitment to work together with our players on issues of social justice. Our players are men of great character. They have a very deep understanding ... of the issues that are going on in all of our communities and their commitment to addressing these issues is admirable.”
The league will meet with players again within the next two weeks. NFL meetings will end Wednesday.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback started protesting police shootings of black men during the the 2016 preseason. Other players in the NFL, college, high school and younger leagues began protesting throughout the year.
Protests continued into the 2017 season, but the issue had quieted until President Donald Trump blasted players during a speech on Sept. 22 in support of then Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Luther Strange, saying the NFL should fire any player not standing for the anthem and referring to the players using an expletive.
Players and teams have reacted differently to Trump’s criticisms. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said last week he would bench any player that took a knee during the anthem. CBS Sports reported Sunday players were frustrated and angry with Jones for becoming the face of the anti-protest side.