Well it only took a year and two months, but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has now officially announced a plan to “move past” national anthem protests.
The issue first flared up before a 49ers preseason game Aug. 26, 2016, when quarterback Colin Kaepernick stayed seated during the anthem, saying afterward, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
The protests picked up steam this season after President Donald Trump said during a Sept. 22 speech, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b—- off the field right now, out, he’s fired’?”
While Goodell has voiced support for the protesters in the past and condemned what he called Trump’s “divisive comments,” he takes a different position in a letter sent to all 32 teams Tuesday.
The commissioner now makes it clear he thinks players should stand during the anthem.
“The current dispute over the National Anthem is threatening to erode the unifying power of our game,” Goodell wrote, “and is now dividing us, and our players, from many fans across the country. …
“Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem. It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us.”
The NFL hopes to end the ongoing anthem controversy by working out a uniform approach to the protests before it suffers further declines in its TV ratings.
Goodell told team owners the NFL office has “worked to develop a plan that we will review with you at next week’s League meeting.” The NFL meets for its annual fall meetings Oct. 17-18 in New York.
The letter does not indicate whether the league will take action against players who don’t stand for the anthem.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver recently sent a memo to teams making it clear all are expected to stand during the anthem, as instructed in the league’s rulebook. The NFL currently has no such rule.
The league does have policy in place that states players “should” stand, but it lacks directive or discipline on what happens if they don’t.
Goodell wrote, “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.”
He said one element of the plan to be presented next week is 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.”
The new policy was born out of many “discussions with clubs and players,” Goodell said.
The move comes in response to some NFL owners taking a stance against the anthem protests.
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