That is consistent with what others close to the situation said in recent weeks. A person familiar with the owners’ thinking said there would be discussions on the national anthem policy at this meeting aimed toward a possible resolution at the May owners’ meeting in Atlanta.
That person said that all possibilities remain under consideration, from making no change to the policy to keeping players in the locker rooms until after the anthem is played before games to requiring players to stand for the anthem.
The NFL’s policy, outlined in its game operations manual, requires players to be on the sideline for the anthem and suggests but does not require that they stand. The league did not discipline teams last season for instances in which players were not on the sideline for the anthem.
The league, Commissioner Roger Goodell, owners and players received sharp criticism by President Trump and some fans last season for protests by some players during the national anthem.
The agenda for next week’s meeting includes a discussion by the owners of social responsibility issues. That topic will include discussion of both the anthem policy and the social justice accord that the league and owners struck late last year with representatives of the players.
In October, with the national controversy over the players’ protests at or near its height, owners met with players in New York, then held their regularly scheduled owners’ meeting. Owners declined at that meeting to enact a rule requiring players to stand for the anthem.
Goodell and some owners said they wanted players to stand but they were not prepared to require it. They instead were focused, they said then, on their discussions with the players about a social justice accord by which the league and teams would provide funding to support players’ community activism.
Owners said in October there was no requirement, expressed or implied, that completing the social justice deal would mean that all players necessarily would stand for the anthem. But it was clear that some owners hoped the deal would lead players to stand voluntarily.
The players’ protests continued last season with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick out of the league. Kaepernick began the protest movement during the 2016 season, refusing to stand for the anthem prior to games to protest racial inequality and police treatment of African Americans. He still has not been signed by a team and filed a grievance accusing the league and teams of colluding to keep him out of the NFL.