The NFL does not plan to force players to stand during the national anthem, an NFL spokesperson confirmed to reporters Friday.
The league said Goodell will present team owners with a plan to “use our platform to both raise awareness and make progress on issues of social justice and equality in this country,” but not to outright ban kneeling or other forms of protest.
“What we don’t have is a proposal that changes our policy, we don’t have something that mandates anything. That’s clear,” NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said. “These are issues that are important to our clubs, issues that are important to our players, issues that are important to the communities in which we play.”
Earlier reports had suggested that such a mandate could be on the table at a meeting with team owners next week, and President Donald Trump declared pre-emptive victory in his culture war against protesting athletes on Wednesday, thanking commissioner Roger Goodell for “demanding” players stand.
Of course, Goodell had not made any such demands of players in his memo to team owners last Tuesday.
“We believe everyone should stand for the national anthem,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in the memo. “We also care deeply about our players and respect their opinions and concerns about critical social issues.”
On Wednesday, the NFL and the NFL Players’ Association released a joint statement announcing that “there has been no change in the current policy regarding the anthem” and that player leadership will be present at the league meeting next week.
“The agenda will be a continuation of how to make progress on the important social issues that players have vocalized,” the NFL and NFLPA said in the joint statement. “Everyone who is part of our NFL community has a tremendous respect for our country, our flag, our anthem and our military, and we are coming together to deal with these issues in a civil and constructive way.”
Since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began the protests last season, players across the league and beyond have been taking a knee for racial justice during the pre-game national anthem.
Trump said during an Alabama rally in September that players who participate in the protests 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,” Trump said. “You know, some owner is gonna do that ... They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in this country.”