National Football League owners are planning to review a policy that requires all players to stand for the United States national anthem during their fall meeting next week.
On Tuesday, Adam Schefter of ESPN reported the "owners will consider a rule change" amid a polarized debate surrounding those who've knelt during the anthem to make a statement about social injustice. Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post passed along comments about the issue from NFL spokesperson Joe Lockhart:
Ahiza Garcia of CNN Money provided a letter from Roger Goodell to NFL owners sent Tuesday:
"We live in a country that can feel very divided. Sports, and especially the NFL, brings people together and lets them set aside those divisions, at least for a few hours. 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.
"I'm very proud of our players and owners who have done the hard work over the past year to listen, understand and attempt to address the underlying issues within their communities. At our September committee meetings, we heard directly from several players about why these issues are so important to them and how we can support their work. And last week, we met with the leadership of the NFLPA and more players to advance the dialogue.
"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. 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.
"Building on many discussions with clubs and players, we have worked to develop a plan that we will review with you at next week's league meeting. This 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. We want to ensure that any work at the league level is consistent with the work that each club is doing in its own community, and that we dedicate a platform that can enable these initiatives to succeed. Additionally, we will continue the unprecedented dialogue with our players.
"I expect and look forward to a full and open discussion of these issues when we meet 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. 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."
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Sunday players who don't stand for the anthem won't play. He referenced the NFL's operations manual, which notes players "should stand at attention" during the song but doesn't provide specific penalties for failure to comply with the rule, per Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com.
"The game ops manual has an ambiguity being used for those who don't want to enforce it—the word 'should' stand for anthem is their ambiguity—but how can it be ambiguous when it cites the potential penalties of fines, suspension or loss of draft picks for failing to adhere?" Jones asked.
Jones' stance received praise Monday from U.S. President Donald Trump, who previously suggested NFL owners should fire players who chose to kneel during the anthem:
The practice started to receive national attention during the 2016 preseason when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat while the anthem played. He explained the decision to Steve Wyche of NFL.com at the time.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," he said. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
Kaepernick was later joined by athletes from every level of sports in the silent protest.
Trump's comments on the matter have reignited the debate. A CNN poll released last month showed a divide on the issue among Americans, with 49 percent of respondents calling the anthem protests the "wrong thing" and 43 percent saying it's the "right thing."