NFL players have asked the league to participate in a meeting before a mediator next week to discuss issues related to players’ protests during the national anthem and player activism, according to multiple people with knowledge of the situation.
It is not yet clear if the league will accept the invitation.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been invited by players to attend the meeting and appears likely to accept.
The players’ invitation was delivered from 49ers safety Eric Reid to NFL executive Troy Vincent, according to one of those people familiar with the development. Reid remains close to Kaepernick after joining the quarterback in kneeling during the anthem before games last season to protest racial inequality.
In Philadelphia, Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith said: “We’ll see what happens. But there’s still conversations going on through our leadership. But they’re positive. It’s all positive.”
Asked what players might accomplish by having a mediator participate in the deliberations between players and the league, Smith said: “Top-secret information. We’re having positive conversations.”
Players and the league have been in conversations in recent weeks about their next face-to-face meeting. Representatives of the two sides met last month in New York. Owners had their regularly scheduled fall meeting immediately afterward and left without enacting a rule requiring players to stand for the anthem.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and some owners said at the time they believe that players should stand. But owners opted against requiring it.
Instead, they said they would continue discussions with the players about league support of players’ community activism, hoping that the two sides could reach a mutually agreeable resolution. Owners said they hoped that players voluntarily would stand for the anthem, although they cautioned that there was no explicit or implied agreement for players to stand in exchange for league support of community activism.
Smith said Sunday he remains hopeful that the players and league can resolve the issues in a manner that satisfies both sides.
“Everyone’s mind and heart is in the right place,” he said. “It’s a matter of seeing what comes out of it. But as players, all we can control is our actions. We’ve been very open to communicating with the league and trying to do the right thing.”
Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, one of the leaders of the players’ talks with the league about issues related to activism, said he was unaware of the invitation for a meeting before a mediator.
“The league and players have been in communication since August,” Jenkins said. “So there’s been an open dialogue. There were going to be meetings that we knew would be scheduled in the future. I just wasn’t aware of that one.”
A meeting between representatives of the league and players last Monday in Washington was postponed. That came after another group of players invited the league to a meeting last Tuesday in Philadelphia in which Kaepernick and Houston Texans owner Robert McNair were invited. McNair angered some players by reportedly saying at last month’s owners’ meeting that the NFL “can’t having the inmates running the prison.” Neither proposed meeting took place last week.
This proposal for a meeting before a mediator could include discussions of Kaepernick’s situation. He has not been signed by a team and has filed a grievance accusing NFL teams of colluding to keep him out of the league.
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