Roger Goodell, NFL Owners Switch Stance On National Anthem After Trump Threats
Roger Goodell Letter to NFL Teams On National Anthem Protests
Goodell sent a letter to all 32 teams Tuesday to say players should stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
According to ESPN, the issue will be discussed during the league’s regularly-scheduled fall meetings on Oct. 17-18.
“Like many of our fans,” Goodell wrote, “we believe that everyone should stand for the national anthem. It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us.
“We also care deeply about our players and respect their opinions and concerns about critical social issues. The controversy over the Anthem is a barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues. We need to move past this controversy, and we want to do that together with our players.”
The move comes after President Donald Trump demanded players stand for the anthem or face punishments like being fired. He also threatened to impose a tax penalty on the NFL’s front office should protests continue.
Goodell had initially slammed Trump’s comments, saying they demonstrated a “lack of respect for the NFL.”
It is about time that Roger Goodell of the NFL is finally demanding that all players STAND for our great National Anthem-RESPECT OUR COUNTRY
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2017
Thus far, two NFL team owners have warned their players they will be benched if they sit during the anthem: the Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones and the Miami Dolphins’ Stephen Ross, the latter of whom initially supported players’ reasons for kneeling or sitting during the anthem, which mainly revolved around racial injustice and police brutality against minorities. Ross even set up a nonprofit group last year to promote positive race relations.
“If we are disrespecting the flag, then we won’t play. Period,” Jones told The Dallas Morning News.
Ross, meanwhile, said his players are hurting their own cause by protesting the anthem.
Trump commended Jones for his remarks on Twitter:
A big salute to Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, who will BENCH players who disrespect our Flag.”Stand for Anthem or sit for game!”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 10, 2017
Green Bay Packers tight end Martellus Bennett was among the players to quickly lambaste Goodell on Twitter for flip-flopping:
@nflcommish really bruh? It’s hard trying to play both sides of the fence when it comes down to injustice and your money huh?
— Martellus Bennett (@MartysaurusRex) October 10, 2017
Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York has both backed his players’ protests and made a $1 million donation to the team’s community fund to express his support for Colin Kaepernick, who remains jobless after launching the initial protest in August 2016.
Some former NFL members have also spoken out about the issue. Hall of Fame player and Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka also said on Monday that he was opposed to players protesting the anthem, saying he did not believe that there had been any oppression in the United States in the last century. “All of a sudden, it’s become a big deal now, about oppression,” he said.
Other former players, including wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., quickly reminded Ditka of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. “Great coach, clueless person,” Smith tweeted.
League spokesman Joe Lockhart stated no fines had been dealt for players not on the sidelines.
HOUSTON, TX – FEBRUARY 01: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks with the media during a press conference for Super Bowl 51 at the George R. Brown Convention Center on February 1, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)