They’re gathering in New York for two days of meetings, with the league convulsed by player protests during the National Anthem — and by opposition to the protests, led by President Trump himself.
Team owners are expected to discuss the protests. But an NFL spokesman says the league does not expect to change its policy, which says only that players should stand during the Anthem, not that they must.
The Joint NFL-NFLPA released the following statement about the meetings:
Today owners and players had a productive meeting focused on how we can work together to promote positive social change and address inequality in our communities. NFL executives and owners joined NFLPA executives and player leaders to review and discuss plans to utilize our platform to promote equality and effectuate positive change. We agreed that these are common issues and pledged to meet again to continue this work together.
As we said last week, everyone who is part of our NFL community has a tremendous respect for our country, our flag, our anthem and our military. In the best American tradition, we are coming together to find common ground and commit to the hard work required for positive change.
Beginning with Colin Kaepernick last year, dozens of players have taken a knee during the Anthem to protest racial injustice. Kaepernick is now a free agent, and has filed a grievance against the owners, alleging they colluded to keep him from being signed.
Last week, Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league needs to “move past this controversy” over the anthem. But he said, “Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem.”
The protests got even more attention after President Trump denounced them during a campaign-style rally in Alabama in September. He said that any players who refused to stand should be fired.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired,'” he said.
After Trump’s attack, hundreds of players joined the protest, and the NFL promoted the message that it was unified.
Several owners released statements criticizing the president’s comments and some locked arms with their players during the anthem.
Since that show of solidarity, the strain has only grown. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said any player who “disrespects the flag” will not play.