NFL Will Continue To Let Players Kneel During National Anthem Without Repercussion
The NFL for now will "continue to let players kneel or sit during the national anthem without a penalty, capitulating to demands by the athletes for free expression but potentially further alienating fans who object to the protests and feel they are disrespectful to the flag and the military," according to Belson & Draper of the N.Y. TIMES. After a meeting yesterday with union reps and players, the league "did promise to help support some of the causes targeted by the protesting players, including reform of the criminal justice system." Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross said that the league had "made no changes to its policy and that players would be free to protest again this weekend." But Ross said, "I can’t really tell you what people are going to do." Belson & Draper note by leaving the rule alone, the NFL has "chosen to avoid more internal strife with its players and to potentially weather more criticism from fans and President Trump" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/18). Trump this morning wrote, "The NFL has decided that it will not force players to stand for the playing of our National Anthem. Total disrespect for our great country!" (TWITTER.com, 10/18). But SI's Albert Breer writes, "So the hope of many here at the league meetings is that tweets like this have lost their shock value, and teams/players can ignore them" (TWITTER.com, 10/18).
PLAYERS NOT ASKED TO STAND: ESPN's Sal Paolantonio reported NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league "did not ask" that players commit to stand for the anthem. Goodell said the meeting was spent "talking about the issues that our players have been trying to bring attention to, about issues in our communities to make our communities better." Goodell: "We all agree there’s nothing more important than getting back into our communities and trying to make our communities better. That was the entire focus" (ESPN, 10/17). Eagles S Malcolm Jenkins, on whether players kneeling during the anthem will continue, said, "None of that was talked about" (PHILLY.com, 10/17). ESPN's Dan Graziano noted players at the meeting "didn't want to talk about if they're going to continue to kneel for the anthem." Jenkins indicated that the anthem was a "very small part of what was discussed." Graziano: "They want to talk about those important causes that are the root of what the anthem demonstrations have been about" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 10/17). USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell reports the anthem protests "did not drive the dialogue." Instead, the conversation "revolved around ways the NFL can support players, in a league where more than 70% of them are African-American, and their social concerns, which include police brutality, social injustice and racial inequality" (USA TODAY, 10/18). NFL Network's Steve Wyche noted there was "progress toward a solution, but maybe not necessarily in the direction a lot of people thought" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 10/17).
GOOD FIRST STEPS TAKEN: USA TODAY's Lorenzo Reyes writes upon the conclusion of the meeting, the reaction "was positive" across the board. 49ers S Eric Reid, who has been protesting since the start of the '16 season, said, "What we hope is that we execute a plan moving forward that is done well enough so that the players protesting don’t feel the need to protest anymore" (USA TODAY, 10/18). Ross said, "We heard what they had to say and they heard us. It’s open talks and that’s a good thing." Ross said the NFL’s policy on the anthem “did not come up” (AJC.com, 10/17). The AP's Barry Wilner reports from the way NFL owners, Goodell and players reacted, the discussions were "informative, enlightening and potentially impactful." Jenkins: "We felt like the meeting went really well." Goodell said that the owners "basically were all-in on any such initiatives." Just how they will get "involved is uncertain." Goodell was also "extremely vocal in praising the players' advocacy, if not how they have gone about it" (AP, 10/18).
STILL MORE WORK TO BE DONE: USA TODAY's Reyes writes the outcome of yesterday's meeting was "progress but no resolution" regarding player protests. Jenkins said that Goodell "unveiled a plan to address social issues." Reid said a subsequent meeting had been "tentatively scheduled" within the next couple weeks (USA TODAY, 10/18). Colts S Darius Butler said, "It's ongoing, it's not going to be a resolution overnight. ... I'm happy about it and I think it will be even more positive going forward." Butler said that the "most important thing was for the league and owners to hear the players' perspective." ESPN's Paolantonio cited a source as saying that after yesterday's players meeting, Goodell and his staff "made a presentation at the NFL owners meeting similar to the one made earlier to the players in an attempt to resolve the national anthem demonstration issue." The source said that the players and owners have "agreed to meet again soon to hammer out specific steps and actions that can be taken jointly to resolve the issue" (ESPN.com, 10/17).