Owners have been hopeful that an agreement with the players on activism would lead all players to voluntarily stand for the anthem. But divisions on the players’ side that became evident earlier Wednesday could lead to the protests continuing even with the deal in place.
The tentative agreement is subject to approval by NFL owners. The owners are scheduled to meet in December in Dallas but might not take up the issue until the annual league meeting in March.
The league and teams are to provide approximately $90 million between the onset of the arrangement and 2023 to social causes deemed important by the players, focused in particular on African American communities, a person familiar with the talks confirmed earlier Wednesday. The terms of the league’s proposal were first reported Wednesday morning by ESPN.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been active in the discussions and has been dealing directly with players, especially those in a group known as the Players Coalition led by Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and former NFL wide receiver Anquan Boldin. Earlier Wednesday, San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid and Miami Dolphins safety Michael Thomas announced they were withdrawing from the Players Coalition, citing differences with Jenkins and Boldin about how discussions with the league were proceeding.
Reid is closely associated with former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began the protest movement last season. Kaepernick refused to stand for the anthem before games to protest the treatment of African Americans by police in the United States.
Reid joined Kaepernick in those protests and is among the players who have continued to protest during the anthem this season, drawing harsh criticism by President Trump and some fans. The defections of Reid and Thomas from the group of players dealing with the league seem to greatly reduce or eliminate the chances that the agreement will end the players’ protests entirely.
Representatives of the players met with owners and NFL leaders in October at the NFL’s offices in New York. The owners then held their regularly scheduled fall meeting and left without enacting a rule requiring players to stand for the anthem.
Goodell and owners said then that they want players to stand for the anthem. But they said that most owners were not ready to take action to require it. Goodell and the owners said they were focused instead on their discussions with the players about activism. They cautioned, however, that there was no explicit or implied agreement that league support of players’ activism necessarily would lead to all players standing for the anthem.
Some owners believe that, if the protests last through season’s end, owners will act during the offseason to revert next season to the league’s pre-2009 policy of players remaining in the locker room before games until after the anthem is played, according to multiple people close to the situation.
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