NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, owners of each team, representatives of the players’ union and players themselves recently met to discuss ways to “move from protest to progress.”
Among the topics they discussed: enhancing their platforms for speaking out on social issues, and the league’s policy that suggests but does not mandate players standing for the national anthem.
There is a quiet mandate, though, for those discussions: figuring out how to get the attention back on those social issues, not how they are being publicized. And getting the attention back on football.
“We are proud to be able to work with our players to highlight these issues to really put focus on the issues and how the game and the NFL and our players bring communities together when we are divided,” NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said.
Goodell emphasized the need for productive dialogue among the owners and players when he sent a memo to the teams. He also invited players’ union chief DeMaurice Smith and a group of players to attend the regularly scheduled meetings.
Kneeling during the anthem was a high-priority topic.
“Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the national anthem,” Goodell wrote recently. “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.”
“Owners across the league have spoken out on where they stand,” Lockhart said. “The important thing now will be coming together as an ownership group to try to have a common position — a position that either affirms where we are now, or perhaps adjusts where we are now.”
The league also supports a bipartisan legislative bill in Congress that seeks reforms and targets enhanced mandatory minimums for prior drug felons; increases judicial discretion for sentencing; and reforms enhanced mandatory minimums and sentences.
“We felt that this was an issue over the last months as we have continued to work with our players on issues of equality and on issues of criminal justice reform that was surfaced for us,” Lockhart said. And we thought it was appropriate to lend our support to it.”