Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports

NFL accomplishes absolutely nothing with national anthem meetings

Alex Reimer
October 18, 2017 - 3:56 pm

The NFL has made a decision regarding its national anthem policy. It wants players to stand for the national anthem, but won’t punish those who kneel or sit. In other words, after two days of meetings between owners and players, absolutely nothing has changed. 

League owners met with socially active players Tuesday and huddled amongst themselves Wednesday before announcing the existing policy, or lack thereof, would remain in place. Giants owner John Mara said a vote had not even taken place.

Commissioner Roger Goodell, who was present for the proceedings, reiterated his desire Wednesday to see players stand up during the “Star-Spangled Banner.” But he stopped short of issuing a direct edict. 

President Donald Trump condemned the NFL Wednesday, saying it is allowing “total disrespect for our country!” Then he went back to denying he told the pregnant widow of a Green Beret killed in Niger that her husband “knew what he signed up for.” 

While Trump expressed anger about the NFL’s decision to keep its policy intact, he’s still managed to influence the league’s approach to the player protests. Last week, Goodell issued a memo to teams about the importance of respecting the anthem. Owners Jerry Jones and Stephen Ross have also said they expect their players to stand during the anthem, with Jones threatening to bench those who disobey. 

The conversation, meanwhile, has entirely shifted to the physical protests instead of the causes of racial injustice and police brutality.

The characterization of the owners-players meeting on Tuesday depends on who’s presenting the account. Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who’s been socially active throughout his career, said he thinks it went “really well.” Goodell called the players’ commitment to their causes “admirable.” In an unprecedented move, Goodell also expressed support for a bill with Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin for a bipartisan bill that would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

Former Steelers offensive lineman Willie Colon, however, offered a less rosy picture on SNY Tuesday. He called the meeting a failure, saying players told him the owners weren’t paying attention and Goodell was reading the Boston Globe. 

With only seven players opting to kneel or sit during the anthem last week, this should be a moot issue. But as long as President Trump continues to use the NFL as a tool to rile up his base, expect the circuitous conversation to continue. 

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