Goodell doesn’t ask players to stand for anthem at NFL meeting, pledges to work on ‘social justice’
Meeting described by former player Willie Colon as ‘waste of a Tuesday’
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday that the league agreed at its Tuesday meeting to work with players on “issues of social justice,” but that he didn’t ask them for a commitment to stand for the national anthem.
His comments followed a two-hour session with 11 owners, union officials and players at the NFL fall meeting in New York City, where the league had been expected to discuss a policy change forbidding kneeling or sitting during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Apparently, that didn’t happen.
“We did not ask for that,” Mr. Goodell said in a statement. “We spent today talking about the issues that players have been trying to bring attention to — issues to make our communities better. I think we all agree there’s nothing more important than trying to give back to our communities and make them better. That was the entire focus of today.”
He said the discussion was “very productive and very important. It reflected our commitment to work together with our players on the issues of social justice.”
Former NFL lineman Willie Colon, now an analyst for SportsNet New York, said players told him that “nothing got done.”
“I talked to multiple sources that [were] in the meeting, and they flat-out said that nothing got done,” Mr. Colon said on the air. “It was pretty much a waste of a Tuesday.”
Mr. Colon also said that he was told the subject of free-agent Colin Kaepernick came up, but that “they went straight to a bathroom break.”
Mr. Kaepernick, who became the face of the take-a-knee protests last season, has filed a grievance under the collective-bargaining agreement accusing NFL owners of collusion.
Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who has raised his fist during the anthem since last season, said the meeting was focused on “talking about solutions.”
“Very little of the meeting was about the actual anthem,” Mr. Jenkins told the Associated Press. “We were really more talking about solutions and how we get the results that we want to get.”
The absence of an agreement on the national anthem means that players may continue to take a knee even as the NFL grapples with declining television ratings and fan outrage over the protests.
It’s possible the issue will resolve itself without league action. The number of players refusing to stand has fallen off dramatically since peaking shortly after President Trump suggested at a Sept. 22 speech that owners should fire any “son of a bitch” who refuses to stand.
Nearly 200 players sat or knelt during the Sept. 24-25 games, while only about a dozen did so last weekend in what has been a show of protest against racism and social injustice.
“We heard what they had to say and they heard us,” Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said. “It’s open talks, and that’s a good thing.”
The Miami Dolphins have said that players may remain in the tunnel or locker room if they object to standing for the national anthem, while Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has said he will bench any player who refuses to stand.
“The players were very clear about how they felt about these issues and how deeply they felt about these issues in our communities,” said Mr. Goodell.
Mr. Goodell and Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin Jr. signed a Monday letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017, which would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders.
The bipartisan bill, sponsored by chairman Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, would also enact mandatory minimum sentences for domestic violence offenders.
“The bill seeks to improve public safety, increase rehabilitation, and strengthen families,” said the letter. “If enacted, it would be a positive next step in our collective efforts to move our nation forward.”
• This article was based in part on Associated Press reports.