The NFL and representatives of its players continued discussions Tuesday about the issues surrounding protests by players during the national anthem.
There remains no formal plan between the league and players for handling players’ anthem protests moving forward, according to several people familiar with the deliberations. But there has been some progress made toward an accord on the request made by some player leaders for the league’s support on initiatives related to player activism, those people said.
Several people familiar with the talks between the league and players termed the discussions positive and constructive. A meeting Tuesday included NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell; owners John Mara of the New York Giants, Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots and Art Rooney II of the Pittsburgh Steelers; DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association; and Eric Winston, the veteran offensive lineman who is the union’s president.
The league and players’ union said in a joint written statement: “The NFL and NFLPA met today to discuss the important issue of social activism by NFL players. Roger Goodell, DeMaurice Smith, Eric Winston, Robert Kraft, John Mara, Art Rooney and other player leaders engaged in a productive conversation. We are all committed to an ongoing dialogue.”
The NFL has played two weekends of games since President Trump said at a campaign rally in Alabama that owners should fire any player who protests by refusing to stand for the national anthem. Trump called such a player a “son of a bitch.”
Many players responded to Trump’s remarks by kneeling for the anthem the following Sunday, and owners issued statements expressing support for players. Some owners stood arm in arm with players before games that weekend in what were termed displays of unity. Three teams declined to participate in the anthem entirely.
Fewer players refused to stand for the anthem this past weekend. Owners took a far lower profile, and no teams skipped the anthem entirely.
The league so far has allowed players and teams to determine their own approaches to dealing with the anthem protests. The NFL did not discipline players or teams that declined to participate in the anthem on the weekend after Trump’s remarks; the league’s game operations manual says that players are required to be on the sideline for the anthem and failure to comply may result in discipline.
The discussions between Goodell, owners, the NFLPA and other player leaders so far have yielded no clear plan for dealing with the anthem issue and the protests in the future.
Goodell also has remained in contact with players who have urged the league to formally support player activism. That request was made in a letter to Goodell sent by four players: Malcolm Jenkins, Michael Bennett, Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith. The players asked for, among other things, a month to be designated for awareness and recognition of player activism.
No understanding has been reached yet. But those talks have continued and people close to the situation said progress is being made.
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