NFLPA Will Attend Next Week's Owners' Meeting With Players To Address Protests
NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith and some players will attend next week’s owners’ meeting in N.Y., and both the league and the union have "pledged to work cooperatively to address the issue of players’ protests during the national anthem," according to Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. The owners appear "likely to consider the possibility during the meeting of requiring players to stand for the anthem" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/12). NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, "What we plan to do is have a very in-depth discussion with the players and owners next week to make sure we truly understand the issues and also understand the approach we want to take together with the players to address these issues in our communities." He said the "real dialogue and the real issues have been overtaken by the controversy" surrounding the anthem." Goodell: "What we want 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 things done" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 10/11).
ISSUE "DRAINING" THE LEAGUE: The Undefeated's Jason Reid said the anthem issue is "really draining everyone in the league.” The league office wants to "try to move on from this, and the only way they’re going to be able to move on from this is if they come together in some form or fashion that gives the players the belief that the league is behind (them)” (“OTL,” ESPN, 10/11). ESPN's Adam Schefter notes Tuesday's meeting will include a "lot of people with a lot of desires" that the league and the owners will "have to sit down and address." Schefter: "It’s a critical issue. There are so many differences of opinion. ... It is a very volatile, dangerous time for the league to be in the position it is in, because it is very sensitive. It is chipping away at the popularity of the sport and people are turned off and people canceling DirecTV subscriptions. It is a big deal” (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 10/12). But FS1's Jason Whitlock said, "You should have known this was coming and implemented these types of rules and had this argument and debate during the offseason. We're in the middle of the season and people are meeting with the commissioner and owners are meeting, talking about the national anthem. I blame ownership and a lack of leadership” ("Speak For Yourself," FS1, 10/11).
PLAYERS SPEAK OUT: Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy said there is "going to be an angry reaction" around the league if it is mandated that players stand during the anthem. He predicted there will be "an uproar if that is to happen, because you're basically taking away a Constitutional right of freedom of speech." McCoy said the NFL "did right by allowing guys to be free" and protest initially. McCoy: "If they want to switch the rule ... it's going to be a negative reaction" ("Know Them From Adam," ESPN.com, 10/11). Eagles DE Chris Long said an anthem mandate would open a "whole other can of worms." Long: "Potentially, you’re gonna see another wave of protest of people that might say, 'You know what, the hell with this, I’m not gonna be told what to do.' The owners are certainly able to lay down the law if they choose. It’s their workplace ultimately, but, the players are gonna have a lot to say about it." He added, "I don’t think mandating that players can’t kneel is gonna be the answer. I think you’ll see a messier situation" ("Off The Board with Jimmy Traina," SI.com, 10/11). Lions WR Golden Tate said that he is "opposed to a rule that would somehow penalize players who choose not to stand for the anthem." Tate: "I want to do something because I want to do it, not because I feel like I’m being made to do it" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 10/12). Ravens WR Mike Wallace: "We’re starting to let the president get into it and make his personal views be the law of our league, which is a privately owned league. So I feel like our views, they don’t want to hear our views" (Baltimore SUN, 10/12). Pro Football HOFer Eric Dickerson: "You can't make players stand. ... If I don't stand, then what? All the players could say, 'If you're making us stand, all of us are leaving the field. We're not going to play.' Now nobody is going to play. Then what happens?" ("Speak For Yourself," FS1, 10/11).
YORK GIVES 49ERS ASSURANCES: 49ers S and player rep Eric Reid said that he has "received assurance" from team CEO Jed York that he and teammates "won’t be forced to stand." Reid said York "expressed very clearly that he wants to support us." Reid: "He’s not going to force us to do anything. Speaking for our team, that’s what he’s told me explicitly" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 10/12). Meanwhile, Dolphins S Michael Thomas said that the team’s "newly-implemented policy of requiring players to stand for the national anthem or stay in the locker room or tunnel is a good thing because it leaves no room for ambiguity." Thomas, one of three Dolphins who had knelt during the anthem this season, said, "Now players aren’t wondering, ‘OK, who is going to do what?’ or what not" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 10/12).
WHATEVER WORKS: THE UNDEFEATED's Reid wrote the owners' new pushback against the protests actually could "help players move the conversation in a more productive direction and inch closer to effecting the positive change they seek." A "hard-line stance by ownership would end the false narrative that players have demonstrated specifically to disrespect the flag, the military and the government and its institutions, rather than what they’ve truly done." Thomas said, "At this point, it’s not even about protesting and taking a knee anymore. We did that to raise awareness. ... But at this point, there has been a lot of talk. There’s more awareness now. And that’s great. But the next step is, ‘OK. What do we do to fix it?’" (THEUNDEFEATED.com, 10/11).
COME TOGETHER: In West Palm Beach, Jason Lieser noted Goodell joined Thomas and Dolphins teammates TE Julius Thomas and WR Kenny Stills for an event with the North Miami Police Department on Tuesday, where he had "good dialogue with three players who have been kneeling." Stills said that Goodell "made no demands about the anthem." The sense from both Thomases was that Goodell is "interested in helping lead a joint initiative with players, owners and the league to work toward the societal changes for which the players have been pushing." Michael Thomas "declined to give specifics on what that program would entail, but it is likely to be discussed at next week’s league meeting" (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 10/11). In Denver, Mark Kiszla writes, "Here is the NFL’s chance to be better than Washington politicians. ... By shining a light on social issues with the same power it uses to fight cancer, maybe league owners and players can bring some meaningful resolution to the anthem tiff" (DENVER POST, 10/12).