“I expect he will be invited to this meeting,” Lockhart said. “We look forward to him joining the conversation.”
The meeting will be part of the ongoing dialogue between the league, owners of teams, players and the NFL Players Association about support by the league and owners for players’ community activism endeavors.
Representatives of players and owners met on Tuesday of last week at the NFL’s offices in New York. The owners held their regularly scheduled fall meeting later that day and last Wednesday at a Manhattan hotel, and emerged without a requirement for players to stand for the national anthem before games. The NFL has been under intense pressure from the White House and some fans to require players to do so.
Instead, owners and NFL officials spoke of cooperating with the players to provide a platform for the players’ social activism. Owners said they hope that players voluntarily will stand for the anthem, although they added there was no stated or implied agreement with the players that supporting their activism would lead to all players standing. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and some owners reiterated their belief that players should stand for the anthem.
Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said after the players’ meeting with the owners last week that Kaepernick had been invited to participate.
“He was invited, actually,” Jenkins said. “He was invited.”
Asked why Kaepernick didn’t attend, Jenkins said then: “I don’t know. I can’t answer that question.”
Kaepernick’s legal representatives issued a written statement later that day saying that Kaepernick had been asked by players to attend but had received no formal invitation from the league. They left open the possibility of Kaepernick participating in future meetings.
League officials have said it is up to the players to decide who will attend the meetings on their side.
Kaepernick began the players’ protest movement last season, while with the San Francisco 49ers, by refusing to stand for the anthem before games to bring attention to racial inequality in the U.S. He has not been signed since opting out of his contract with the 49ers following last season. He has filed a grievance accusing NFL teams of colluding against him.
Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said after his team’s victory over the New York Giants on Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J., that Kaepernick’s unemployment should be discussed at the next meeting with the owners.
“I think we should go meet and talk about that issue and talk about the other issues and bring it up,” Bennett said Sunday. “I don’t really care for the word owner. But I like the word employer. So when you get a chance to talk to your employer and get the opportunity to bring up what you want to make a change in, I think one of the changes should be bringing Kaepernick in.”
Bennett said he has remained in touch with Kaepernick on a weekly basis and wants to see Kaepernick signed by an NFL team.
“I’m hoping he has an opportunity to play,” Bennett said. “Obviously I believe that he’s had an impact in the country. You see what he started, taking a knee, and how he’s affected the communities from young children to even older Americans and finding a way to have an impact. I believe that if this conversation is happening with the commissioner and happening with our employers, his job situation should be brought up and it should have some kind of resolution.”
Bennett was among a group of eight Seahawks players in uniform who sat on the bench on the team’s sideline during the anthem Sunday. He said the status of Kaepernick is not the only issue of concern for the players.
“It’s always been broader than that,” Bennett said. “It’s always been about justice and discrimination in America, police brutality, women’s rights, all these different issues — clean water; Flint, Michigan — issues that are pertaining to America that we all need to pay attention to because it’s not that it happens to one of us that [makes it] important. It’s important every single day regardless of what we’ve got going on.”