NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday wrote a letter to all 32 league owners regarding the protests that have taken place during the national anthem, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.
In the letter, which Schefter shared on his Facebook page, Goodell wrote that the “current dispute over the National Anthem is threatening to erode the unifying power of our game, and is now dividing us, and our players, from many fans across the country.”
Last year, former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat down and later took a knee during the playing of the national anthem as protest against racial injustice. More players have joined the protests and President Donald Trump spoke out against the activity in September and has continued to do so.
Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters has sat during the playing of the national anthem at every game this season.
Goodell would like players to stand, but the national anthem is not mentioned in the NFL rulebook. However, players “should” stand for the anthem, according to the league’s game operation manual.
“Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem,” Goodell wrote. “It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us. We also care deeply about our players and respect their opinions and concerns about critical social issues. The controversy over the Anthem is a barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues. We need to move past this controversy, and we want to do that together with our players.”
Could the NFL change the language in the operations manual to require players to stand without consent of the players?
“I don’t believe that the anthem per se is an issue that’s collective bargained,” NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said Tuesday a conference call, per ProFootballTalk.com.
The Goodell letter notes that during NFL committee meetings in September, the league heard from players about issues that are essential to them, and the the league met with NFL Players Association leaders last week about the protests.
The NFL, Goodell wrote, “would include such elements as an in-season platform to promote the work of our players on these core issues, and that will help to promote positive change in our country.”
Goodell said in the letter that the issue will be a topic of discussion at league meetings next week in New York.
“Everyone involved in the game needs to come together on a path forward to continue to be a force for good within our communities, protect the game, and preserve our relationship with fans throughout the country,” Goodell wrote. “The NFL is at its best when we ourselves are unified. In that spirit, let’s resolve that next week we will meet this challenge in a unified and positive way.”
Here is the entire letter: