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Volume 25 No. 65
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NFL Owners Feel Meeting With Players Over Protests Was Very Productive, Beneficial

One potential "side benefit" to President Trump's attack on the NFL over the anthem is that one owner at yesterday's meeting with players over the issue called it the "best dialog he'd ever experienced with players," according to Peter King of THE MMQB. Falcons Owner Arthur Blank said, "I thought this was one of the most open and productive meetings I’ve been in, maybe ever, in any business I’ve been involved with. And I’m 75 years old. The players we met with today were deeply emotional and knowledgeable about the issues they’re passionate about. The owners listened, and I thought the owners responded with the same kind of passion." King noted the owners "made it clear on the first day of the two-day meeting that there won’t be an anthem policy set forth by the league." Blank: "The owners were very clear about the platforms we’re discussing with the players. This is not doing three media events and we’re finished. This is a long-term commitment that we have to make. These issues have to pass from one generation to the next. It’s hard work and it will take time" (, 10/17). ESPN's Dan Graziano noted the players in attendance yesterday left "very encouraged by that meeting and the way they were received and heard by their bosses." They will "continue to have these conversations" and they are "encouraged by that as well." Graziano: "A big day for the players and the NFLPA to be able to facilitate this kind of conversation in a forum where in the players, who feel strongly about these social issues and causes, can come together and express those opinions” (“NFL Live,” ESPN, 10/17). NFL Network's Judy Battista said a person in the room called it the "best communication there has ever been between owners and players." NFL Network's Ian Rapoport: "It certainly sounds like, for the first time, players and owners (were) on the same page, and the players really sounded like they were encouraged just that the owners were listening" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 10/17).

York (c) said the NFL needs to be above petty attacks that have been levied against it
TIME TO RISE ABOVE: 49ers CEO Jed York said people understand "we're going to get baited, whether it's from the President or whether it's from other detractors." York: "We need to be above petty attacks from anybody, because racial and socioeconomic inequality has existed in this country for too long. We need to get the focus on that, and we need to make sure that we make progress there." York also had a "message for fans who have turned off the sport because of the protests." He said, "If the message gets distorted, then I understand why there is controversy and I understand why people are upset. But if we can work together, we will get back to football but we will also make our country a better place, and I hope everybody is for both of those things." York, who spoke the most at the end of the day yesterday, said, "Honestly, this is one of the proudest days I've ever felt being part of the National Football League" (, 10/18). York said that the owners should "resist forcing players to stand for the anthem even if there are economic repercussions for the league and teams." York: "Our country is more important than a slight economic impact. And I think if we can come together and we can work together in this front, you’re going to bypass any economic downturn that you can possibly see because this issue is more important than economics" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/18). NFL Network's Steve Wyche said it was a "very profound statement” with York stating “they could withstand a slight economic impact.” The owners are "more unified in making this country better and that the NFL needs to lead that way” ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 10/17). Bills Owner Terry Pegula said of the meeting, "We agreed to work on some social issues that the players have brought up. It's something we're working on. Very good meeting, very amicable. A lot got done between us" (BUFFALO NEWS, 10/18). 

TACKLING THE ISSUE: noted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith were in the same room for hours yesterday, the commissioner having "conveyed a sufficiently open league mind on the topic du jour and Smith having positioned his union as a consolidating force for getting and holding the attention of the league and its owners in a way players might find productive." A source said that it was "more than symbolic" that Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones was "not among the 11 owners in attendance at the midtown morning meeting." York said, "Jerry's name wasn't brought up." He added, "It's important that we understand and that people understand that our players are not trying to be disrespectful to the flag or disrespectful to their country. They're trying to bring awareness to issues that people who look like me don't understand. And I hope people will give the owners the benefit of the doubt that it takes time to get up to speed on these issues. We aren't there yet" (, 10/18). In Dallas, David Moore writes Jones "wasn't part of that group" because his comments last week where he threatened to bench players who did not stand for the anthem would have "made for an awkward gathering" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/18).

Jenkins (c) said that Colin Kaepernick was invited to the meeting but did not attend
CONFLICTING REPORT: SNY’s Willie Colon said he spoke with several people who attended yesterday's ’ meeting and they "flat out said nothing got done." Colon: "It was pretty much a waste of a Tuesday. ... They felt like nothing was accomplished.” He said, "The owners just want this to go away, but they don't know how to … put out this fire, so the players are sitting back and right now it's a standstill. Even when they brought up the topic of Colin Kaepernick, I was told it went straight to a bathroom break and it wasn’t even talked about." He added Goodell was "actually reading" the Boston Globe on his computer (“Daily News Live,” SNY, 10/17). Meanwhile, in DC, Mark Maske notes Kaepernick was "asked by fellow players to attend" the meeting. Eagles S Malcolm Jenkins said, "He was invited, actually. He was invited." Asked why Kaepernick did not attend, Jenkins said, "I can’t answer that question" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/18). 49ers S Eric Reid said of Kaepernick's absence, "Even though he wasn't in the room, his influence was definitely present" (USA TODAY, 10/18).

JUST THE BEGINNING: In N.Y., Gary Myers notes the league and the players will "continue to have discussions about implementing programs for social change." The owners are "not expected to take a vote of strengthening the language in the policy that players 'should' stand for the anthem to they 'must' stand. The "unspoken gentleman’s agreement is it appears there ultimately will be a tradeoff: The players will stand for the anthem in exchange for the league and the owners taking an active role with the players in jointly using their platform to promote equality and positive social change." Part of the agreement could be something along the lines of a "social awareness week or month and public service announcements." Giants Chair & Exec VP Steve Tisch said, "Roger’s report to full ownership was very positive and very optimistic. There are a lot of proposals and ideas that were discussed, all of them addressing the issue quickly, which it needs to be addressed sooner than later" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/18).

WHERE IS EVERYONE AT? In Boston, Ron Borges notes only "about a dozen of over 2,100 players under contract to NFL teams" showed up to yesterday's meeting even though "this was their day off." Borges: "All this Sunday afternoon angst and presidential prevaricating (not to mention fulminating) and barely 25 people show up? What would the owners’ reaction have been if 2,500 showed up?" NFL players now have to "find a way to get their movement back on message." If 2,100 of them had shown up to the meeting instead of 12, it "would have been a start" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/18).

SPEAKING LOUD: Seahawks CB Richard Sherman said the meeting "says a lot about [owners] caring about their players. ... They are looking for solutions and we can appreciate that and that’s a big step by them." In Seattle, Bob Condotta notes Sherman also had "strong words" for Jones. Sherman said Jones' threat to bench players "wasn’t necessarily the best way to put anything or the best way to say anything or the best way to get your message across" (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/18). Sherman when asked if he is surprised that Kaepernick remains unemployed said, "No, I’m not that surprised. This league is odd in that way. They had a point to make. And they made it" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 10/18).

DIVISION IN THE AIR: In DC, Cindy Boren writes, "Although the controversy is rooted partly in the divisiveness that roils the county, there’s also a power struggle going on here." Of course, owners "own the league and will be there long after individual players have gone, but there’s a new awareness among players in the NFL that they have a platform and a voice." They are taking the "first halting steps toward using both and, in the process, hoping to be recognized at least as partners in the business of football." That "doesn’t sit well with all owners" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/18). Also in DC, Jennifer Harper notes a national poll from CBS reveals that only 26% of the nation is "'comfortable' witnessing or participating in discussions about politics, race or religion come up in the middle of a sports broadcast." The poll also found that only 16% of Republicans, 27% of independents and 38% of Democrats are "at ease when sports, entertainment and politics are tumbled together with 'complex issues'" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/18).