The National Football League is not changing its policy, but the commissioner is insisting that all players should stand for the US national anthem. President Donald Trump has blasted players who refused to stand as disrespectful.
The controversy, which began in 2016 with a protest over police brutality, escalated following Trump’s remarks at a rally in September, when he criticized those who “took a knee” during the anthem as insulting the flag and the country it represents.
The league and its 32 clubs “believe everyone should stand for the national anthem. It’s an important part of our policy and the game. It’s important to honor the flag and our country and I think our fans expect that,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday.
Goodell added, however, that there was no talk of changing the language from “should stand” to “must stand,” at the fall meeting of 11 owners and more than a dozen players at the NFL headquarters in New York, according to AP.
This did not seem to impress Trump, who tweeted to the NFL: “Too much talk, not enough action.”
.@NFL: Too much talk, not enough action. Stand for the National Anthem.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2017
New York Giants owner John Mara said that the Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones “spoke at length” to the other owners about the anthem issue. Jones said any Dallas player who doesn’t stand for the “Star-Spangled Banner” would not be playing.
Goodell told reporters that he hasn’t discussed disciplining players who continued to protest.
“It wasn’t necessary,” he said.
“We had a real focus on making sure all of our teams understood the kind of dialogue that took place and the kind of things that they were interested in getting support,” he said.
Goodell said there was nothing unpatriotic about the NFL, and that only six or seven players are still kneeling or are involved in protests.
“I understand the way they feel about these issues,” Goodell said, referring to Trump. “We feel the same about patriotism and the flag and I believe our players feel that way. We have a great deal of support for the efforts of our players.”
“What we are trying to stay out of is politics,” he added.
The controversial protests began in 2016, when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick gained nationwide attention by not standing while the anthem played before the start of the games.
Kaepernick said he was motivated by what he viewed as the oppression of people of color in the US. His action prompted a wide variety of responses, including other NFL athletes and in other sports leagues protesting in various ways during the anthem. He is currently suing Trump and the NFL for allegedly colluding to keep him unemployed, after none of the clubs offered him a contract when he became a free agent last year.