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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says anthem statements can be ‘positive’ shows of unity

Seahawks players joined arms during the anthem Sunday. (Troy Wayrynen/USA Today Sports)

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell expressed support Monday for the growing movement by players league-wide to have demonstrations of unity or protest during the playing of the national anthem, adding that he does not believe that the players intend to be disrespectful of the U.S. flag or the military.

“We encourage our players to be active in their communities and to speak out when they see things that should be changed,” Goodell said at FedEx Field, where he attended the game between the Washington Redskins and Pittsburgh Steelers. “And they’re reactive in doing that. They have that voice. Some of those with the Seahawks, a number of those players spoke very eloquently about that and very powerfully about how they want to be part of making changes in their communities. That’s a good thing. It’s a positive thing. Yes, we want them to respect the flag. We want them to respect the military personnel. And I think that they do. But they’re all working to try to see how they can have a positive impact in their communities.”

NFL players mark Sept. 11 anniversary with mixture of patriotism, protest

Seattle Seahawks players locked arms during the anthem Sunday, on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, in a show of unity.

Other players recently have followed the lead of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in refusing to stand for the anthem. Kaepernick has said he is protesting the treatment of African Americans.

Goodell’s comments Monday were his most extensive thus far on the topic.

“As I said before, and I think this is another aspect that was powerful in Seattle, is seeing the unity and the fact that they felt: ‘We want to do this together. We want to make a difference together in the community,’ ” Goodell said. “I think that’s a very positive thing. We obviously believe in patriotism. We believe in our military personnel that fight for our freedoms. And we also believe in law enforcement and making sure that we do what is necessary to respect them and support them. We’re not a perfect society. And when there are things that are wrong, we all want to try to make them better. That’s what made our country great.”