NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the media today to discuss the where the league stands on the National Anthem controversy. Goodell made it clear that he and the owners believe that the players should stand for the anthem. They feel that the protests are not about disrespecting the flag and the focus needs to be on the concerns of the players protesting. He pointed out that there are only 6 or 7 players currently protesting and the league plans to continue working on making that zero by addressing the underlying issues of the protest. He said the owners expressed support for the efforts that players have identified and recognize these are important issues in our communities.
We want to make sure we are understanding what the players are talking about. And that's complex.
The league and players will have a follow up meeting on October 31st to continue discussing ways of supporting the issues and causes important to the players. These meeting are likely to continue for the foreseeable future. There was no discussion of the possibility of individual teams punishing players for protests. It was deemed unnecessary. Goodell didn't want to address what he would do if a team did punish a player for protesting as it would be addressing a hypothetical. He acknowledged that some fans have lodged complaints about protests, but he reiterated that those protesting aren't doing it out of disrespect for the flag.
The commissioner says he has not talked with Donald Trump about the issue, even though the President is continuing to Tweet his feelings about the protests as recently as this morning: "The NFL has decided that it will not force players to stand for the playing of our National Anthem. Total disrespect for our great country!"
When asked if he understood what it was the players wanted to address, Goodell listed criminal justice reform, bail reform and mandatory sentencing as some of those issues. He spoke of what the league can do to address the issues of equality through both education and economics.
We're not afraid of the tough conversations. That's what we are having with our players. That's what we had [Tuesday] to understand one another. Out of those discussions, they understand the owners and the NFL really care about their issues. That's what dialogue is all about. To get that understanding between different parties. That's where real change really happens. That's the opportunity for us in our communities.
The NFL owners appear to be making a concentrated effort to address the protests through open discussion and working with the players to make change in the communities most affected. By working towards addressing the issues that are causing the protest, they also work towards ending those protest without having to do so by rule change or financial punishment.
He did not appear to address the issue of Colin Kaepernick not being at the meetings or his collusion lawsuit.