NEW YORK - After a series of meetings devoted to social injustice protests that have swept the league, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell doubled down on his stance regarding players' demonstrations during the pregame playing of the national anthem.
The league wants players to stand for the anthem, Goodell said, but it won’t be forcing them with any rule change.
“We just had two days of conversations with our owners of which this was a fair amount of the conversation and I think our clubs all see this the same way,” Goodell said Wednesday at the conclusion of the league’s fall meetings. “We want our players to stand. We’re going to continue to encourage them to stand. And we’re going to continue to work on these issues within the community.
"I can’t deal with hypotheticals right now. We’ll deal with these issues as they come up, but for right now, that’s our focus.”
Goodell's statement came one week after Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that he would bench a player who was seen “being disrespectful to the flag."
New York Giants co-owner John Mara said that there was no vote regarding a policy change to anthem procedure.
“There was conversation,” Mara said, “but the policy is not going to change.”
On Tuesday, the NFL hosted a meeting featuring league executives, NFL Players Association representatives, players and franchise owners in which all sides had a platform to express their viewpoints regarding the social issues affecting communities, as well as the measures players are taking to raise awareness.
Goodell later said that he wants the league “to stay out of politics” and that the league’s goal was “to put that at zero” in terms of the number of protesters.
“But we want to make sure we are understanding what the players are talking about, and that’s complex,” Goodell added, before acknowledging that the NFL has been in contact with the league’s sponsors over the protests.
Goodell also said that he has not directly communicated with President Trump, who has repeatedly pushed the league to mandate all players to stand during the anthem.
When asked if teams left the meeting with the understanding that players wouldn’t be disciplined for any protest, Goodell deflected.
“We didn’t discuss that,” he said. “It wasn’t necessary. 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. And they were seeking support for the NFL, each club supporting its players and continuing the dialogue that they have had at the club level. I would tell you this, it’s unprecedented conversations and dialogue going on between our players and our owners, between our club officials and between our league, and that is a really positive change for us.”
Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.
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