NFL Says Trump "Not Accurate" About League's Stance On Anthem Controversy
The NFL this morning claims President Trump’s assertion that Commissioner Roger Goodell is “demanding” players stand during the national anthem is “not accurate,” according to Jacqueline Thomsen of THE HILL. Trump tweeted this morning, “It is about time that Roger Goodell of the NFL is finally demanding that all players STAND for our great National Anthem-RESPECT OUR COUNTRY.” The tweet “appeared to be in response to a report that the NFL is considering a rule that would require players to stand during the national anthem.” The NFL in a statement said, “Commentary this morning about the Commissioner’s position on the Anthem is not accurate” (THEHILL.com, 10/11). The issue was brought up at the White House press briefing yesterday, with Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying, “We would certainly support the NFL coming out and asking players to stand just as the president has done. ... Our position hasn't changed on that front. We're glad to see the NFL taking positive steps in that direction” (MSNBC, 10/10). NBC's Peter Alexander said Trump is "trying to capitalize on what he sees as a political winner" ("Nightly News," NBC, 10/10). CNBC's Eamon Javers said the White House "would feel very much that that's a win for them" is the rule was changed ("Fast Money Halftime Report," CNBC, 10/10).
GOODELL GIVING IN? It is unclear whether changing the rule in the game operations manual that states players should stand for the anthem falls under the CBA. PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio noted should a change occur without the input of the union, the league, as in other instances of "going too far and then forcing the NFLPA to push back via the court system," could tell Trump that the league has "done everything it can to force the players to stand." Along the way, the NFLPA and the players "will potentially become the villains" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 10/10). In N.Y., Denis Slattery writes under the header, "NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Caves To Trump's Fury On Kneeling" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/11). In St. Louis, Jose de Jesus Ortiz writes Goodell is "clearly moving to quash the national anthem protests." Goodell in a memo sent to all 32 teams yesterday said, "I'm very proud of our players and owners who have done the hard work over the past year to listen, understand and attempt to address the underlying issues within their communities." Ortiz: "How proud could Goodell be if he wants players to stop bringing attention to these important issues?" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/11). But CBS’ Tracy Wolfson said, "What they're trying to do is seek a compromise with the players. They want them to speak out but also want them to stand for the anthem and not protest during that time” (“We Need to Talk,” CBSSN, 10/11).
HOW WILL PLAYERS REACT? THE MMQB's Peter King writes the "tenor of the memo was clear: Although the league might feel the anthem controversy has been hijacked" by Trump and Vice President Pence, it is "not going to make progress on the issues the players care about by continuing to protest during the anthem." The NFL has "got to stand for the anthem or risk alienating a huge swath" of its fans. King: "The question will be: Will the players buy that?" (MMQB.SI.com, 10/11). USA TODAY's Nancy Armour writes the players "remain skeptical about whether the NFL actually cares or just wants them to stick to sports like good little football players." While only a "small faction of players in the NFL have protested," awareness and support for the cause has "grown this season, and players aren't likely to take too kindly to simply being told to stand up and shut up" (USA TODAY, 10/11). SI.com's Robert Klemko wrote the league "didn't realize how confident you, the players, have become in your voices in the age of social media." Klemko: "We understand now, and we want you to be quiet at the precise moment when your voices can be heard the loudest. Please?" (SI.com, 10/10).
UNION REMAINS MISSING: ESPN’s Sarah Spain said it “might be helpful if the NFLPA releases its own letter” in response to Goodell’s letter. The union's statement could acknowledge what Goodell is attempting to accomplish and “that this isn’t just a cover-up to get the guys that are speaking out to stop” ("Highly Questionable," ESPN, 10/10). THE UNDEFEATED's William Rhoden wrote it is an "abomination and abdication of responsibility that the NFLPA has not stepped in and helped the players articulate a single-minded rationale for the protest and a way forward" (THEUNDEFEATED.com, 10/10).